Dear midterms, please fuck off so I can write reviews instead of studying for you. Ksweet.

Review done by: Alyssa "Cuntlove"
Julian and I set out to the Horseshoe Tavern last Friday night to see Shonen Knife, and it ended up being a pretty interesting night. We went to Sushi on Bloor (***highly recommended***), and then decided to walk from there to the Horseshoe. We just so happened to have a bottle of Blueberry Grower’s cider (***also highly recommended***), which we stopped in a park to drink. With about four sips left in the bottle, cap on, we proceeded to continue our walk to the venue…then the fuzz came. Luckily, Julian sweet-talked our way out of it, and they didn’t write us up…but we did miss the first opening band. Although, after listening to Fantasy Defender’s myspace…I’d have rather just dealt with the pigs.
We got to the venue while The Weirdies were setting up. As they took the stage, I immediately noticed that they were using a pretty contrived-costumed 50s look. Singer/Bassist, Minx, in particular was wearing a fire engine red fifties housewife dress, complete with an ‘M’ on her chest. She even had the over-the top, cat-eye glasses and flapper bob haircut. Not gonna lie, I kind of liked it. The recordings I’d heard on their myspace earlier sounded pretty cool, as my friend Susan describes them, kind of like if The White Stripes married Spiral Beach and were fifteen years old, grew up down the street from Bikini Kill, and watched Rocky Horror on repeat. I was stoked, left-handed drummer Space Weirdie had his drums set up out front, over on stage left, which was pretty cool, and they each had a lot of attitude even as they set up for their set.
Then they started playing. I was SO disappointed. The drumming was…well..just crappy. Despite Space Weirdie making it look as though he was working his ass off, it was an absolute mess. And his singing was ridiculously flat. There was a lot of cringing going on whenever we saw him lean towards the mic. Bad Weirdie was also true to his name: pretty friggin’ bad. He did play a couple pretty cool guitar solos (and some not-so good ones), but again, he sang, and I was seriously disappointed. The contrast of his low, gruff, 50s rock-n-roller style of singing is interesting, and very compatible with Minx’s super high-pitched shriek of a voice, but when he wasn’t singing with her, his voice lacked any kind of real conviction, and I felt like he was really throwing away his performance. He was also very flat a lot of the time. Minx was the most on key of the three, and overall, the most musically talented. Her piercing, cutesey voice was distinct, and definitely made you take notice of the band, and she played her bass with a lot of attitude and was quite fun to watch. That being said, I could feel myself growing vocal nodes just watching her sing…She was putting a fuckload of strain on her voice, which makes me worry about the longevity of the skill that she does have.
Here’s the bone I have to pick with The Weirdies: the banter. Minx was pretty clearly the front woman, receiving the most attention, doing most of the singing…but she didn’t speak much, and when she did, it was nowhere near the empowering voice you might expect a frontwoman to take. Women are pretty scarce in the punk scene. There not a lot of women in bands, and women who go to shows very often get accused of being groupies. Just think about it: me telling a guy in a band that I enjoyed his set is perceived a lot differently than Julian telling a guy in a band that he enjoyed his set. It’s sad, but true. For this reason, I really think that it’s important for the women who ARE involved in the punk scene to act as positive role models and to remember that they are representing women in the scene, since we live in a society(and, subsequently, a scene) that takes note of your gender and treats you certain ways because of it. Minx did not, in my opinion, represent a very empowering model of women in the punk scene. She acted super ditsy, saying things like “every song’s about me going on a date with a boy…and then it ends…and then I write sad, sad songs about it”. Really? That’s all you have to write about? She also said, at one point, that she’d be selling kisses at the merch table after the band’s set. Yeah.

After a well-needed smoke break, we went back in just as Shonen Knife was starting. From their recordings, they sounded more or less like any other riot grrrl style band, and it was really easy to see why they would have worked beautifully on a tour with Nirvana back in the day. The Horseshoe was absolutely packed at this point, and getting to the front of take pictures of no easy feat. They’re cute, upbeat, and played a remarkably tight set that gave me a huge amount of respect for them. Musically, they basically followed the usual pop-punk formula of simplicity and attitude, including simple spaghetti-string style guitar solos that get the job done without being to flashy. Very clearly 50s rock-n-roll influenced with a lot of Ramones undertones and a bunch of riot grrrl thrown in the mix as well, it isn’t hard to love this band. They sound a little bit like the Cumshot Hookers, although they lack the melodic vocal lines. The one thing that would have made me love them more definitely would have been that more melodic vocal line, which would add a little more depth to the songs, but live, they did appear to embrace the concept of melody a little more than on their recordings.
Each member of the band was outstanding in her own way. Only original member of the band, singer/guitarest Naoko Yamano was a great guitar player, pulling off the solos and vocals like it was nobody’s business. Her voice was a little more shrill than that of bassist, Ritsuko Taneda, with whom she shared vocals, but together, their voices blended perfectly, along with drummer Emi Morimoto, creating perfect harmonies that were on key perfectly almost every time. Ritsuko, who joined the band in 1996, was a firecracker on stage, sending her long hair flying around her head, and striking punk-as-fuck poses between her prances across the stage. Brand new addition, Emi was also captivating behind the drum kit, smiling radiantly the entire time and looking like she was fourteen.
Since Shonen Knife barely speak English, it’s not surprising that they didn’t have much in the way of on-stage banter, mostly moving cleanly from song to song. The banter they did have was simple, like when they introduced songs (ie: “next, we’re going to play a song about delicious snack…banana chips!”) and introduced themselves and talked very briefly about how much they enjoyed being in and playing in Toronto and that they were ready to rock. Most of the songs were about things like snacks and candy, and it was obvious that these awesome girls were there to have fun and be happy. I’d describe the overall atmosphere during their set was something along the lines of rainbows, candy, bubbles and kittens, sparkles, etc. Each song sounded more of less like a hit, and towards the end of the set they played a new song that isn’t yet on an album (but can be downloaded from their website) that is best described as beautiful. Around that time, Emi stood up on her stool and swung around on the lighting, which was super badass. Then, with a few yells of “arigatooooo”, they ran backstage to get their soccer-fan style banners and waved them around for a while to the huge cheers coming from the audience before bowing and going off stage. Of course, the fans wanted more, and before coming out to do their encore, the girls went backstage, each changed into a Shonen Knife t-shirt and proceeded to pass out candy. Upon putting their instruments back on, they looked kinda of confused about what to play…and after asking the audience for suggestions, Naoko said “we’re really happy…so we’re gonna play ‘On Top of the World” at which time they broke into a badass, punk rock cover of the Carpenter’s song.
I left the show majorly impressed with Shonen Knife, and super disappointed with The Weirdies, who I hope to never again have to see live…though I do enjoy their recordings every now and then!