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10 things to know about Shonen Knife and the’s

While it isn’t every day that we get to celebrate milestones like the 20th anniversary of Japan House, a wild component landed right in Urbana for the celebration is the musicians that are performing for it.

Shonen Knife and the’s are certainly not the most well known acts to come out of Japan, but having both acts perform during Matsuri Festival is kind of astonishing. Both acts are performing on Sunday at Japan House, and you can see them for free alongside everything else happening for the annual Matsuri Festival — which is a gem of our community.

While this isn’t supposed to be a comprehensive guide by any means, I thought I’d outline some components of their respective existences to help you along the way leading into the weekend. While both acts share overlap in the realm of alternative rock/grunge/surf rock, they are both unique in their own regard, and hopefully you’ll find your way over to Matsuri to watch.


Shonen Knife formed in Osaka, Japan in the early 1980s, featuring a pair of sisters — Naoko and Atsuko Yamano — in addition to various other artists over the course of their lifespan.

1. Watch this Shonen Knife feature with Nirvana from 1992

Kurt Cobain basically lost his shit when he first learned of Shonen Knife’s existence — just do a general search about this and you’ll find the information you’re needing to confirm the Nirvana frontman’s interest in the band. Here’s a quick snippet of the two bands hanging out and chatting — even Dave Grohl fell to the ground, whether that was in amazement of Shonen Knife or not, I’ll leave to you (it isn’t, but it still makes for a fun teaser).

2. Their discography is simply massive

Shonen Knife have 20 full length records under their belt, and they don’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. You’ll see what I mean when you get a few more notches down this list, but the breadth of their work is pretty remarkable. It wouldn’t be a surprise to me if most of you out there didn’t know the name of any of their records — that’s totally OK. There’s too much to remember, in the best way of course.

3. They did a Ramones tribute album and under the moniker Osaka Ramones in 2011

Back in 2011, the band rang in their 30th anniversary as a band with this release under the moniker Osaka Ramones — fitting, as it was recorded between their time in Osaka and New York. The band recorded a bunch of Ramones covers, which is amazing considering they could’ve just done a Greatest Hits of their own songs — but instead, the Ramones it was. Awesome.

4. Adventure, their 20th album, came out in 2016

Issuing 20(!) records over the course of their lifespan, Shonen Knife’s most recent came out just a few years ago. 2016’s Adventure is actually one of a handful from the 2010s, and one of their heaviest recordings to date. Though those 20 came out under their name, they issued plenty of other recordings over the course of time, this is just a continuation of what I mentioned above about their prolific discography.

5. Shonen Knife remains highly influential

Not only did Shonen Knife claim they were influenced by bands like Thin Lizzy or Blue Oyster Cult from the 70s — they were wildly influential to plenty of groups that had a massive splash in the 1990s grunge era, which, you know, have influenced plenty that still perform today. They were featured on the Sub Pop 1986 compilation record — Sub Pop 100, which included a mere 13 tracks, and Shonen Knife was one of them (alongside the likes of Sonic Youth, Steve Albini, and more).


6. You might remember them performing in Kill Bill Vol. 1

Yes, indeed — that’s the’s performing in the amazing Kill Bill — performing “I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield”, “I’m Blue” (The Ikettes’ cover), and “Woo Hoo”. You probably saw the group and didn’t even realize it. Watch a couple of the songs below to jog your memory.

7. They recorded a full live record straight to tap at Jack White’s Third Man Records in 2010 

I don’t need to elaborate much on Jack White’s resume — you know him from the White Stripes, surely — but his record label Third Man has always taken a liking to skuzzy rock bands like this. As I’m putting this article together, this comes to no surprise that Third Man would issue some of their material, as well as record their live show straight to tape for issuing to fans. Listen to a non-live single, and check out the recording linked above to learn more about their live session, recorded in October 2010.

8. Their song “Barracuda” is the sing-a-long you didn’t expect


Good luck getting that out of your head anytime soon.

9. “Let’s Go Boogaloo” straight up rips

I won’t waste any time with an introduction, just listen.

10. You’re probably not the only one who hasn’t heard of these bands

And that’s OK. The’s will open this show at 5:30 p.m., and Shonen Knife will perform at 7 p.m. You’ll be able to find a lot of things to do at Matsuri before and after these performances, but just know that although somewhat obscure, there’s a lot more to learn about these two acts than what I’ve laid out here in this quick preview. 

Shonen Knife and The’s perform Sunday, September 9th at Matsuri Festival at Japan House, show starts at 5:30 p.m., free of charge and all ages. Japan House is located at 2000 S. Lincoln Avenue in Urbana.

Executive Editor

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