After Scandal’s performance at Japan Nite 2008, I figured the next act would probably be Petty Booka - at least if the staff wanted to avoid a huge drop in energy during the latter half of the show. My instincts were quickly confirmed when crew members set up two ukuleles in front of the two mics on stage.
Petty and Booka made their entrance by walking in hidden behind a banner they were holding, and they finally lowered it, revealing a pair of cute (in fact, too cute) women in blue cowgirl outfits with amazingly high-pitched voices. I’m sure the crowd had no idea of what to make it at first, and when they kicked off the set with their version of Alan Jackson’s “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” (which was significantly slower than their recorded version) the room was full of stunned silence mixed with snickering. Clearly, Petty Booka was out of place at a rock show.
They mostly sang while kind of swaying side to side, patting their ukuleles rather than playing them, all the while never breaking their smiles. They were accompanied by a guy on mandolin and another guy on guitar. At the end of each song, they said “arigatou” in their too-cute voices and gave a small bow. By the end of the second song, I still think the crowd was unsure of what to think.
However, at one point, the two guys left, leaving only Petty and Booka on stage, and that’s when things picked up. Singing and strumming their ukuleles, they finally won the crowd over when they played the best rendition of “Que Sera Sera” in history, and they got the whole room singing along with the chorus.
They only played a few songs alone, and the mandolin and guitar came back. One of the other highlights of their set is that the mandolin player was pretty awesome too, rocking some very fast and complicated solos with skill and style.
A lot of Petty Booka’s charm is in their unconventional takes on familiar songs, so you can appreciate them a lot more when you actually know the song they’re playing. Personally, I thought it awesome when they played The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” (appropriately reworked as “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend”), while I wasn’t as enthusiastic as the Grateful Dead fans when they covered “Friend of the Devil.” Another song I liked, even though I was unfamiliar with it, was the absolutely charming “Ukulele Lady.”
Overall, Petty Booka is a fun group with a lot of novelty and charm (despite the supercute factor). It’s certainly not the type of music that will get you sweaty, though some of their songs can be fairly lively in a country-western type of way. Those familiar with the group may know that the lineup has changed from its original members (more than once I think), so be aware that the vocals vary throughout the group’s history.