Concert review by JD Alvarez
Thirty years of punk and L.A. still can’t get enough. When Goldenvoice started staging punk shows three decades ago, who knew the trend they would be starting. Obviously, bands like X, The Adolescents and Social Distortion knew. Despite all the challenges over the years, here we are thirty years later at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium celebrating their three decade mark with the weekend-long punk festival called GV30.
A funny thing happens when you put on shows with bands who have been around as long as this years participants, you get a very diverse crowd. You get what you expect, the geriatric punkers who defiantly refuse to grow up; and I say that with the utmost respect. You also get the thirty-something crowd who kind of remind you or Dr. Drew and Martha Stewart, just in leather. Lastly, you get the teens, who personify the angst that punk bands in the 70’s were all about.
In addition to Friday night’s show, the festival included shows on Saturday with Bad Religion, Youth Brigade and T.S.O.L. and the Sunday madness featured The Descendents, The Vandals and The Dickies. Although many of the younger concert goers were sporting t-shirts by other influential punk icons such as The Damned, Misfits, Ramones and Sex Pistols, the consensus was overwhelmingly positive for Friday nights line-up.
It was clear to all that attended that the once underground movement, was now the retro-hip thing to be into. Unfortunately, that’s not what the music was about. Luckily, the bands reminded us all what we were there to celebrate. So did original Goldenvoice founder Gary Tovar. Interesting thing what time does, despite its meager beginnings; similar to that of Southern California Mega Station KROQ FM, Goldenvoice is now a division of the live-entertainment juggernaut AEG Live. It is now a major player in today’s music industry, and Tovar was there when it all started.
Tovar brought out The Adolescents to the screaming sounds of the capacity crowd. They put on a very raucous and loud set, which was a great opener. Their set was a little shorter than expected, but they had the crowd ready for X.
X is a very interesting band with a storied past. They’ve been around for many years, and their band members are as diverse as the crowd that attended the show. Over the years, bassist and vocalist John Doe has ventured into a very successful acting career. Lead singer Exene Cervenka has battled illness, but has come back strong and has become a very inspirational figure for many. She is also doing very well for herself as a writer and solo performer of her poetry. She also sings in a band called the Knitters with Doe and Bonebrake. Guitarist Billy Zoom and drummer DJ Bonebrake also have other projects, but they are still together and touring as X.
It didn’t take long at all for the crowd to get pumped and the mosh pits were insane. For me, I was taken back to my 20’s and felt like a teenager again when the played The New World. The band sounded energized and sharp. Cervenka’s vocals were impressive, Doe and Zoom were at peak performance by anyone’s standards. Bonebrake was spot on and kept a steady beat. Several people standing next to me commented on how good Zoom and Doe sounded on guitar. The crowd went into overdrive when they played Los Angeles, the Hungry Wolf, White Girl, Nausea and my personal favorite Devil Doll. X alone, was worth the price of admission.
Next up was the featured act, a fact that is disputable if you ask X fans. That’s the thing that’s great about punk shows, the fans love who they love. There is one thing that all the concertgoers agreed on, Mike Ness always brings it and Social Distortion has become a Southern California institution. No matter if they are playing in “L.A.”, “the I.E.” or “the O.C.,” fans from all areas and walks of life claim them as their own. Ness is not shy in talking and singing about his troubled past. Content such as his troubles with the law and drugs are a common theme at his shows. His lyrics are what endears him to his fans. The music is very good, but the tunes are endearing not just because they’re cool, it’s because he’s truly lived the life and experienced love, hate and tragedy. In short, they’re a microcosm of all that we are. His fans love him for giving their experiences a voice.
Social D has been playing since 1978, truth be told, Ness is from “the OC,” Fullerton to be exact. Ness formed the band with high school friend and band mate Dennis Danell (who passed away in 2000). Notwithstanding all the challenges, troubles and tragedies over the years, Social D is playing just about everywhere these days. In addition to being the featured act at GV30, they were also featured this year at San Diego’s 91X Wrex the Halls show as well as KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas.
It should also be noted that Over the years, Ness has taken a penchant to country-punk. At his shows, he always pays homage to the greats like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. He’s even featured some country/folk bands in some of his tours. Bands like the Avett Brothers who would not normally be getting the notoriety they are receiving if it weren’t for Ness. This is where the heart of his alternative-punk-rockabilly sound comes from, his love of truth and soul. That all being said, Social D’s current incarnation features drummer David Hidalgo Jr., guitarist Jonny Wickersham and bassist Brent Harding.
So now it was time for Social D’s GV30 performance. This show was like all others, passionate and energetic. The noise went into overdrive when Ness said “I wrote this song while in the Orange County jail.” This statement literally drove the crowd wild. Another statement that created a large buzz was when Ness told the crowd to give a big hand to The Adolescents and X. He went on to say, “If it weren’t for them, we’d still be listening to Oingo Boingo.” That’s the thing about Social D shows, Ness always provides great matter-of-fact and/or amusing commentary.
Ness provided a very classy acknowledgment by congratulating Goldenvoice on its longevity. He said that “30 years ago, no major labels or promoters were knocking down my door.” He explained that Tovar created a space for bands like Social D and others! By the end of the night, Social D played their string of hits to the crowds delight. They played songs like Mommy’s Little Monster, Machine Gun Blues, Bad Luck , So Far Away, Story of My Life, I Was Wrong and Ring of Fire. Although, you could hear a chorus to Credence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising in that their closing. An appropriate chorus for the night.
This night was special, definitely a show to remember for years to come.