LIVE: Shonen Knife @ Mt. Sabattis Pavilion, 7/28/12

Review by Steven Stock

With joyous children dancing and scampering about and a regal black labrador calmly surveying the festivities, Shonen Knife’s outdoor concert at the Mt. Sabattis Pavilion in bucolic Long Lake last Saturday felt more like a particularly hip wedding reception than a punk rock concert.

Chicago-based brother/sister duo White Mystery took the stage first with a brief but intense blast of stripped-down punk/blues boogie, as an intermittently rainy day gave way to bursts of glorious sunshine. The weather had cleared completely by the time Shonen Knife – three effervescent ladies from Osaka, Japan – took over, expressing their appreciation for the beautiful setting before launching into “Riding On The Rocket.”

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While their music falls squarely into a bubblegum-punk paradigm, it’d be foolish to underestimate just how proficient, tight and well-rehearsed this trio is – after 30 years in the music business, Shonen Knife is a well-oiled machine that understands how to command a stage and move an audience.

Guitarist, mastermind and sole remaining original member Naoko Yamano managed to wring an incredibly clean surf-inflected tone from her kitschy-looking guitar, while bassist Ritsuko Taneda (who joined in 2006) and drummer Emi Morimoto (proud member since 2010) never missed a beat. Morimoto’s vocal turn on “Psychedelic Life” was a highlight.

Most of their set was comprised of original material, including a healthy dose of their latest album “Pop Tune.” Last year’s “Osaka Ramones” album-length tribute (produced by Goo Goo Doll Robby Takac, but don’t worry, it’s actually quite good!) was represented by a rollicking stomp through “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and the band finished with a spirited rendition of the Carpenters’ “Top Of The World” that was especially apt given the mountainside setting. All in all, it was a glorious evening in Long Lake.

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