Shonen Knife / The Mungo Fungo Band / The Glycereens – Vinnies Dive Bar Gold Coast [Live Review]

Review and photography: Justin Gittins

The 1994 tribute album called “If I were a Carpenter” included Sonic Youth (covering “Superstar”), Sheryl Crow (Covering “Solitaire”), The Cranberries (covering “Close to You”) and a Japanese pop-punk band covering “Top of the World”.

This was how I first heard of Shonen Knife with zero thought of photographing / reviewing them thirty years later.

It’s a Wednesday night and the band is visiting Vinnie’s Dive Bar in Southport for an intimate performance. The venue lives up to its name as a dive bar. The former mobile phone store and neighbouring newsagent have been transformed into an interesting Gold Coast venue. It is rough around the edges with graffiti and gig posters adorning the walls and offers a unique venue for international and Aussie bands.

Joining Shonen Knife would be Brisbane band The Glycereens and The Mungo Fungo Band with Ben Ely from Regurgitator.

The Glycereens describe themselves as “Dirty bubblegum aesthetics with garage punk tones”. (Thankyou Insta Bio) The four piece have travelled down from Brisvegas to bring their noisy and energetic punk rock inspired sound to the Goldy.

Based on what I had read I was looking forward to driving guitars, pulsating drums and infectious melodies. They didn’t disappoint as the warmed up the crowd.

They kicked off with last year’s single “Jane Street” which gave us an explosion of drums, guitars and vocals from lead singer Heli Puhakka. Sol M Robinson (Guitar), Nathan Smith (Bass Guitar) and Chrissy Langham (drums) made up the four piece.

We got a look at the 2021 release” Atomic Army” with the tracks “Rewind” and “Neon City Lights”. Another 2023 single called “Get Off” appeared on the set list along with lots more guitar, drum and vocal fueled angst to liven up a Wednesday night on the Goldy.

In November last year I was standing out the back of Vinnies chatting to the manager of Regurgitator. It was The Gurg’s first night playing “The Downtown Sounds” festival. During the conversation Paul alluded to Ben Ely returning.

Three months later here we are again, and Ben’s band “Mungo Fungo” take the stage, starting of with a psychedelic sounding tune called “Severed Memories”.

Regurgitator (Ben’s other band, in case you live under a rock) are known for their awesome tunes based around lyrics that get stuck in your head.
My impression of The Mungo Fungo Band was that there was a focus on the music and building from that base. “James Bong” would give us a surf vibe as we chilled along to it. “Mungo Fungo” kept the lyrics to a minimum focusing on the guitars, drums and maybe the sound of a visiting alien. The lyrics appeared to consist of “Mungo Fungo” and some random screaming.

There was some awesome talent on display throughout the set. It definitely was a cool bit of music exploration.

Shonen Knife have been on my music radar for thirty years now. They formed in Osaka Japan in the 80’s and have had quite an interesting music career.
While researching the band for this article, I find this awesome link to grunge royalty in the Guardian’s article from 2021.

“Then, at the personal request of Kurt Cobain, Shonen Knife toured with Nirvana in late 1991 – just as they were becoming the biggest band in the world.

‘I didn’t know who Nirvana were before that, but they looked wild, and I was so scared, so I didn’t want to tour with them at first,’ laughs Naoko. ‘But by the end of the tour we became friends. Kurt Cobain gave it everything he had every night, screaming and playing guitar so hard, so I respected Nirvana’s attitude towards playing music a lot.’”

We find ourselves on a Wednesday night in a Gold Coast Dive Bar being treated to Shonen Knife’s unique blend of super cheerful pop-punk.

On lead vocals and guitar is Naoko Yamano. Her sister Atsuko Yamano is on bass guitar. Risa Kawano is on drums.

The girls love of food became very apparent during the set. It wouldn’t be long before we heard of their love for Banana Chips. I feel like they could do a whole set based on food and drink with the inclusion of “Spicy Veggie Curry”, “Chocbars”, “Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches”, “Flying Jelly Attack” and a “Peppermint Attack” from various albums over the years.

We did get to hear about such culinary delights as “Wasabi”, “Sweet Candy Power”, “Afternoon Tea” and “Vamos Taquitos”. (and I feel like I missed another one)
With a career spanning four decades, the crowd was a mix of young and old from various parts of the world. The cheerful pop music and awesome attitude of the band made a lot of the crowd leave with a smile on their face.

I did grab a photo of the set list quickly before the band started their set. A lot of the titles of the 18 songs we would be treated to were in Japanese and I am not sure Google translate was my friend today.

Among the songs we got to hear were “Twist Barbie”, “Pop Tune”, “Bad Luck Song”, “Cycling is Fun”, “E.S.P.” and “Jump in the new world”.

The “In Our Best Place” tour is named after the 2023 album, so we were treated to four songs from this album including “Mujinto Rock”, “Afternoon Tea”, “Vamos Taquitos” and another which got lost in translation. (Well, the set list had it written in Japanese, and a guitar cord was covering part of the Japanese lettering)

After a brief break to change into the awesome new tour shirts the band returned for the last couple of songs. Part of my brain was thinking “maybe they don’t play that song anymore” as the penultimate song was being played.

The super familiar intro of “Top of the World” kicks in and the crowd cheers. Such an awesome was to finish a fun night with these Japanese pop-punk legends.

Thank you for visiting our little part of the world. Arigatou.

SHONEN KNIFE in Australia 

Our Best Place 2024


FRI 23 FEB – Canberra/Ngunnawal Land, BASEMENT
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SUN 25 FEB – Hobart/Muwinina, MONA FOMA
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WED 28 FEB – Melbourne/Naarm, CORNER
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THUR 29 FEB – Adelaide/Kaurna, THE GOV
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FRI 1 MAR – Margaret River/Wadandi Boodja, THE RIVER
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SAT 2 MAR – Perth/Whadjuk Noongar, MILK BAR
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