Social Distortion – Verizon Wireless Amphitheater

Concert review by JD Alvarez

Over the better part of the last three decades, I have been very-very lucky. I’ve been fortunate to have covered what seems like a gazillion concerts, and interviewed just as many artists. Some concerts I went to for fun, but most for work. The most notable ones were the first few. My first show was in 1979 when I got to see Earth Wind & Fire. I saw X in 1984, Nirvana in 1991, countless Boingo shows and the Ramones in 1992. Funny thing about that Ramones show, it was October 16, 1992 at the world famous Hollywood Palladium. I remember it as if it just happened yesterday. It was by far one of the most inspiring shows I have ever seen. The music spoke to me, as if some of those songs were about me.

The opening act for that gig was this band from Orange County, California called Social Distortion. Ever since then, all bands have had to meet a very high standard in order to get a decent review out of me.

Needless to say, I was looking forward to check out this show that featured Social D and Face To Face. Two bands that have their roots in Southern California.

When I got to the venuue, we had a little problem getting in. For whatever reason, my name wasn’t on the guestlist. It happens, Security was great and it was eventually resolved. By the time I got in, I only caught half of the opening act. The band was Sudehead, NO not a Morrissey tribute band, instead an O.C. upstart who only had a half hour set. The venue was fairly empty still, but the band sounded good.

After a brief intermission, Face To Face took the stage. I regularly say they are the best thing to come out of Victorville, California. This band has been around a while, they actually formed in 1991. They  took a break in 2004′ only to re-group in 2008′. The band is tagged as a Pop-Punk group. After seeing them, I don’t think that is a fair assessment. They play traditional punk just as good as anyone. The band is lead by frontman Trevor Keith. They have a unique sound, but you can tell the Gimme Gimme and NOFX influence. The band was sharp and had a great sound. Most likely because it was still early in the night, but the crowd didn’t do them any favors. It was very laid back, no mosh-pit, but Trevor brought a great sound. The crowd came to life when they belted out Bill of Goods. I swear how Trevor doesn’t blow a gasket when he sings this song I will never know. I mean veins were literally popping out of his neck when he went into It’s Not All About You, the crowd loved it. They ended with everyone’s favorite, Disconnected. A solid performance by these local favorites.

As the next band came on, I’m almost embarrassed to say that I wasn’t very familiar with them. Turns out the Avett Brothers are a folk-rock band from Concord, North Carolina. The band is lead by two brothers, Scott and Seth Avett, hense the name. They play the banjo and guitar and have a dynamic sound. They were very humble and kept ackowledging Social D frontman Mike Ness throughout the show for having them share the stage. The humbleness didn’t stop there, they continued to thank the near capacity crowd for “putting up with them.” After the first few songs, I could see Ness’ interest in them. That is, given Ness is partial to that southern twang sound. I was instantly fascinated by these guys. They sang songs about killing your girlfriends boyfriend, and then followed with gospel songs. They had songs everyone could related to. Songs of love, hate, hope and redemption. I may not know much about folk-rock, but I pride myself in knowing good music when I hear it. All I can say about the Avett Brothers is they weren’t good, they were great!

The crowd was prepping themselves for the featured act. The venue was now at capacity, their were black leather jackets as far as the eye could see. Social D t’s were everywhere and the girls looked like 50’s pin-up dolls. They were all ready to see Mike Ness (lead vocals, guitars), Jonny Wickersham (guitar), Brent Harding (bass) and David Hidalgo, Jr. (drums).

For those of you not too familiar with Social Distortion, they formed in the 1978, they were based in Fullerton, Ca. They have that punk / rockabilly / alt rock sound that they developed playing at every dive in LA, Orange and Riverside counties during the 80’sand 90’s. They temporarily disbanded in 85′ due to Ness’ drug and legal issues, they also lost longtime guitarist Dennis Danell, who succumbed to a brain aneurysm in 2000′. Despite these challenges, they have released seven full-length studio albums, two compilations, one live album and two DVDs. This includes their just released Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes. This is the bands first release in seven years.

As the lights dimmed, a single spotligth focused on Mike Ness. He opened with California (Hustle and Flow), and the crowd screamed. Ness was prime to play tunes off their new album and give the crowd a taste of their catalogue of hits. Before more new music, they came back with Bad Luck. The crowd went insane, I witnessed fans just screaming at the top of their lungs to the song. You know, as if they were screaming at someone who stole something from them.

They played songs off the new album including their other featured song, Machine Gun Blues. Like in their Live at the Roxy album, Ness displayed that he is a master story teller. He paid homage to their early days; their punk rock formative years so-to-speak. He talked about some of the clubs they played, not by name, but by cities. Clubs like the Roxy, the Palladium, Gizarri’s and Fender’s Ballroom. He then segwayed into a mosh-pit formin’ rendition of Mommy’s Little Monster, Reach For The Sky and crowd favorite Story Of My Life.

As I looked around, it was amazing how many people knew every single word and cadence to this song. There were countless people singing along at the top of their lungs, while others were in tears as they were sportin’ a big grin or smile. The thing that is very clear, their fans love them. They are devoted because I truly believe Ness relates to the everyday person. I’ve only seen this type of connection with fans from two other soon to be icons and legends (Dropkick Murphys and Big D and the Kids Table).

They ended their set with You Can’t Take It With You, and the capacity crowd gave them a great ovation.

Funny thing about people, it’s true you can never please everyone. If there was a knock on the show, it was identified by the two kids sitting next to me. They were upset that the Ness didn’t play songs like Sick Boys, Ball and Chain, When She Begins or Sometimes I Do and a few others. Before they had a chance to finish their rant, Social D returned for their encore. They ended the show with their smash hits Prison Bound and Ring Of Fire.

After the encore, the two kids forgot about what they were complaining about and I heard them say as they were walking away, “that show was a bad ass!”

The thing about Social Distortion, they are more than a band to their fans. They have captured the essence of every day life. Their music transcends age and economic classes. In short, they tell the stories of  peoples lives.

Social Distortion continues their tour. For more information on their tour and everything else you want to know about Social D, go to http://www.socialdistortion.com or visit their social media pages at FaceBook and Twitter. Their music can also be found on iTunes.

Click here for TNN’s photos from the show!

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