“There’s just a lot of love in this room. I don’t know how to explain it,” said guitarist Kid Shreddi, aka Maniak Mike. He didn’t have to. His words lingered in the air like smoke as nearly a dozen of us conversed in noisy circles in the Knitting Factory’s tiny backstage room. In between the scramble of autographs on the mirrors, it looked more like two dozen of us – and, at times, four of Mike, if you glanced too quickly at his twin brother, drummer Terminator Dave. The show hadn’t even started and Shinobi Ninja had us dizzy with warmth.
That revelation came about when Mike was describing all the mutual respect across the night’s lineup, which included powerhouse openers Footwerk and Of Clocks and Clouds. Washington D.C.’s Footwerk packed the stage and fired things up with a danceable explosion of hard rock, neo-soul and hip-hop that really couldn’t be labeled – not to mention a slick Fugees cover of “Killing Me Softly.” Soon after, Brooklyn duo Of Clocks and Clouds was building layers of dark and heavy electronic rock and a cool connection to the crowd, even letting them choose a name for one of their new songs by scribbling suggestions at the bar (one couple submitted “Time Warp.” Not bad!).
Shinobi Ninja was right at home in the building excitement, as well as the Brooklyn venue. Their long hair burst like fireworks at the drop of the first beat, with Kid Shreddi, Alien Lex, and frontchick Baby G jumping and headbanging from the start. As she swapped rap verses with her badass counterpart, Duke Sims, who threw down with his eyes closed, the group sliced up their shredding with authentic scratching from DJ Axis Powers. But elements of every genre poured out with their unbottled creative energy, coming together in a way that seemed to shout, “just TRY to categorize us.”
They’re as old school as their stage names, with a DIY vibe that bleeds into every object they own via superhero stickers, stencils, spray paint, and tape. “We are Shinobi Ninja, and we are an evolving thing,” preached Duke as the audience screamed. “We gotta try things! Sometimes you jump off the mountain, and sometimes you fly! And sometimes you jump off the mountain, and you just go to 7-11 and get Slurpees. But it’s all good, it’s all good!” he proclaimed. Though they’re no doubt evolving, it’s clear that Shinobi Ninja have remained the scrappy, cool kids on the block, even as widespread recognition catches up to them. And you know they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley