Brighton: A slice of Shonen Knife

Shonen Knife - L-R - Bass: Atsuko, Drums: Risa, Guitar: Naoko
Shonen Knife – L-R – Bass: Atsuko, Drums: Risa, Guitar: Naoko

A cold and chilly April evening I set out with my camera etc and headed off into Brighton, destination The Haunt.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard of Shonen Knife – a Japanese, 3 female, bubblegum punk outfit. The trio have to date released 19 albums of punk-pop and their latest album Adventure has just been released to coincide with this tour. You have just got to love the idea of this all-women punk band first formed in 1981 hailing from Osaka, Japan. And, wait for it, they are celebrating Shonen Knifes’ 35th year!

Shonan Knife: Guitar - Naoko
Shonen Knife: Guitar – Naoko

Shonen Knife took to the stage dressed in identical metallic looking outfits – I think I read somewhere that they had been made for the tour by the bass player Atsuko. Naoko and Atsuko took slots stage left and right and drummer Risa, with a huge smile and a wave settled herself into her kit at the back of the stage,she is the latest member of the Shonen Knife family from over the years. The band are definitely led by Naoko, controlling the stage and the members.

Shonan Knife: Bass - Atsuko
Shonen Knife: Bass – Atsuko

A very busy venue with a mix of ages. Brighton during these months of the year attracts students from all over the world and it was great to see many young Japanese students there to watch the show.

Shonan Knife: Drums - Risa
Shonen Knife: Drums – Risa

Shonen Knife were here to have fun and let rip. And they did. They powered at us with so much energy and fun, it would have been hard not to have a good time!

Naoko and Atsuko delivering great rounds of pop-punk fuelled energy. The bass thumping at us and Naoko doing a lot of the vocals work still managed to give the crowd some guitar shredding goodness, with some solo breaks. Then we move onto Risa, absolutely delightful lady, on drums.


Risa gets her own paragraph here! From the moment she stepped onto the stage she didn’t stop smiling. She was extraordinary and lifted the stage presence of the entire band. She not only supported Atsuko with rhythm, she seemed to do her own thing at the same time. She gave us incredible fills and patterns, I have seen many top drummers, but this lady is seriously good at what she does. She was hypnotic to watch. She took part in the stage chat, gave me a couple beguiling smiles when she spotted the camera, sang backing and lead vocals. She seemed to be permanently smiling, but she never misses that beat – in fact she adds more beats into any space in the song. I tweeted after the gig that she must be the happiest drummer in the world! Risa – you are an extraordinary musician and fit so well into the talent and energy that is Shonen Knife.

Take a minute to watch the slides from their Brighton gig.

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I only know a few of their songs. They clearly have a Ramones influence, they have done two Ramones cover albums. There are traces of many influences such as a hint of Buzzcocks, The Runaways and The Vibrators, with a flavour of grunge/garage. A mix that would give anyone a smile.

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The audience piled forward when the band broke up their set of songs about manga, fruit and cute kittens to give us the brilliantly catchy Bad Luck Song. This was pure punk, reminding me somewhat of the Psychedelic Furs – the riff from Pretty In Pink. Hair flew, arms pumped into the air, stage jumps, rock guitar gestures, Risa standing up and still drumming – all delivered to us to give us this song totally on point. They didn’t put a note out of place! Great job Shonen Knife!

My video – Bear up Bison: at the Haunt Brighton, UK was their encore. Just watch this band and keep an eye out for Risa!

They gave us just over an hour on stage. A set that put a smile on the faces of the band and most of us in the packed audience.

35 years? On the performance and evidence of this set,  Shonen Knife show no signs of giving it up and calling it a day soon. Thank goodness! Shonen Knife remain a tight band and will give you a unique and fun musical experience. Just go see them!

Shonan Knife - The set list
Shonen Knife – The set list


I was asked about a set list – well ok, here it is! And if you can translate please let me know!




Shonen Knife came out for a meet and greet on their super merch desk. Great selection of vinyl, CD’s, T’s, towels and all very reasonably priced. Kicking myself I did not get more.

The Venue: The Haunt, Brighton
I like this venue and it can create a great atmosphere. A fairly intimate venue so you can get up as close as you want, space allowing. The sound was actually pretty good for Shonen Knife. The lighting in the Haunt on the stage can be pretty dark, it was almost impossible to see the support acts and Risa was at times lost in the low lights and smoke!

Thank you Shonan Knife - Enjoyed that!
Thank you Shonen Knife – Enjoyed that!

All words, images and video – copyright Ian Bourn/Mediaworks – please do not copy without permission.


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