Social Distortion is a band that is legendary in punk rock. Their sound hasn’t been directly emulated a lot, but their endurance of the changes and challenges they’ve faced is what has earned them their cred. Although they haven’t gone without some lineup changes (one of which was due to a founding member passing away), the band as an entity has been around for 30 years. Much like their sole surviving founding member Mike Ness, the hurdles they’ve overcome are as much a part of who they are as anything else.
Their sound is far from complex, being a very simple rock and roll blare reminiscent of what is more 50s and 60s than the year 2000. Mostly, their music is has a jangly blues-rock feel. For those unfamiliar with the band’s music, perhaps one of Mike Ness’s philosophies on music would help. According to Ness, “without good black music, there would be no good white music.” Lyrically…they’re just singing about life and how to get through it.
I waited in anticipation, in my 2nd balcony seat, for Social Distortion to play.
A couple of bands opened for them. The first band, The Strangers, was actually pretty good. I’d never heard their stuff before, but they’re actually a lot like Social D in that they have a bluesy, 50s/60s rock sound with a blaring lead guitar. But then they also reminded me of The Clash, so they were kinda late 70s punk rock too. Really, the performance was pretty solid.
The 2nd band to precede Social D was Civet (pronounced “Siv-ette”). All girl punk rock band? Hell yeah. At first their ferocity freightened me (j/k), but like Strangers they played really well. They’re a four piece group from LA (all the bands playing tonight were from Southern California), and apparently the singer and the guitar player are sisters. But you would never guess that there isn’t a similar relationship between all of the band members, because they all play off each other’s strengths and play a tight set.
Then, finally, SOCIAL DISTORTION! It’s difficult to describe how exciting this is. Before they come on stage, the sound system plays an old slow jazz song (title and artist escape me, despite best efforts). This, by design, only intensifies the anticipation level. The band played through a good long set (lasting about 90 minutes), taking a break in the middle. They opened with a few old songs from albums recorded in the 80s; songs like “Mommy’s Little Monster” and, a crowd favorite, “Sick Boy”. They mostly played songs from more recent albums though, like White Light, White Heat, White Trash and Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll. There were songs such as “Don’t Drag Me Down”, “Highway 101”, and “Nickles and Dimes”. They even played a couple of the cover songs they’ve become known for, like “Ring of Fire” (Johnny Cash) and “Alone & Forsaken” (Hank Williams Sr). All of these are highlights, but it was also fun to see a fan jump from one of the side balconies, run out on stage, attempt to hug lead singer Mike Ness (dumb move), and then get beat down by several security guards while the crowd chanted “**** him up! **** him up!”. Good times. The band’s set came to an appropriate conclusion with the song “Story of My Life”.
Overall, Social D lived up to expectations. They definitely weren’t shy about sharing the fact that they’re going to be recording soon. They even shared a couple of their new songs with us (like “Bakersfield”, about just wanting to be home). They’re just one of those bands who, even though their new material generally doesn’t stray too far stylistically from their old material, still seems to improve with age. Mike Ness is included in that assessment. Even though he’s about 47/48 years old now, his jumps while playing guitar reveal that he feels more like he’s 20 years old (at least while playing). The band as a whole puts on an energetic show that left me wanting more, and I’m thinking I’m gonna buy tickets the next time they’re in town…tickets that are hopefully a LOT closer than 2nd balcony!
You can check out pictures of the event here!