November 4, 2010 – NEW YORK CITY:
I’ve seen SD or Ness perform in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Orange County (2x), Long Island (2x), New Jersey and NYC (4x) and the show last night at Roseland Ballroom was the best.
It was a sellout and the crowd was lined up around the block threatening to stretch to David Letterman’s studios a block away. I killed some time walking around the block hoping the line would eventually dissipate (it didn’t) and heard one lady tell her family “look at all the people waiting to see the play Jersey Boys” which was next door. Not quiet maam!
One look and you could tell this was a Social Distortion crowd with sick boys and girls dressed in various stages of Mike Ness inspired outfits. The guys in the newsboy hats, rolled up jeans, work boots and work shirts and the girls perfectly coiffed combining that rockabilly – punk look that is so hard to explain but so easy to spot when you see it. Sick boys and girls, not looking for a fight, but there to enjoy some rollicking rockabilly influenced hardcore punk music.
What is the influence of Mike Ness and Social Distortion? That chapter in their history is yet to be written, they are too busy working, touring and finally cranking out some new material with their forthcoming CD “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” coming in January 2011. Their first in 6 years.
I missed the opening act, but can tell you off the bat the warm up music featured old country and blues ditties from back in the day. Already this was getting off to a better start than the travesty of so called “warm up” music from their stop at Mulcahey’s in Long Island I wrote about last August.
The crowd of course was bigger than at Mulcahey’s but the atmosphere still had a small, intimate gathering feel to it. Maybe it was the joy of finally seeing Social D. in the center of the universe, New York City rather than having to schlep out to Long Island or New Jersey as has been the case the past couple of times the band came through. Maybe it’s the fact that new material is forthcoming. Maybe it’s just that Social Distortion and Ness after over 30 years of doing this, have matured and gelled and are comfortable in their own skin.
Whatever it is, it worked last night.
The band came out to open with “The Creeps” and plowed through a string of “hits” including “Sick Boy” and my personal favorite “Don’t Drag Me Down” (motherfuckers!) before slowing things down and treating the crowd to 3 songs from the forthcoming CD which included “Still Alive”, “Bakersfield” and an ode to Hank Williams that I really enjoyed.
They went through another string of old favorites before closing the set out with “Making Believe”.
The encore included “Far Away” and then my favorite part (maybe because I needed a break from getting bounced around like a rag doll in the pit), back to back acoustic performances of “Down Here (With The Rest of Us)” and “Cold Feelings” which featured an accordion in the mix.
It was at the point of hearing the acoustic version of “Cold Feelings” that I realized fully what a great musicians these guys are and that I really believe Mike Ness will be considered legendary status and a national treasure when he finally hangs up his guitar (hopefully not for another 20-30 years yet).
I mean who else can bring together such a diverse audience of young kids (I saw one guy with his dad, had to be no more than 11 years old) and old guys (some dude had to be well above fifty was getting with it in the pit) with such a diverse line up of music that ranges from hardcore punk to rockabilly to roots country to bluesy straight ahead rock and roll?
I know, I know the Rolling Stones are in their 60s or 70s or whatever but if you think about it, Social Distortion has been doing this, building a mass but incredibly loyal worldwide following for over 30 years without almost any radio airplay outside of California (remember not that long ago radio airplay was crucial and 100% necessary for “success” as an artist).
Their success can’t be pegged to the new rise and importance of social media and the internet to the music business. Sorry, they were there long before that stuff took hold. Social Distortion put out CDs and sold them independently through word of mouth and actual buzz before a thing like “internet buzz” even existed.
If you can’t tell I love going to a Social Distortion show, not just for the great music and to see a living legend do his thing, but also because for a brief moment, I can share the love of my favorite band in the world and be around others who feel the same way.
Most people I meet have never heard of Social Distortion (most of course aren’t punk fans either), and that is fine with me. It’s a not so secret, secret that I share with like minded people who come out during a Social Distortion concert and I see I’m not alone, that thousands and thousands of fans just like me exist.
And though of course I know this already, it’s cool to see this in New York City, with it’s diversity, with it’s incredibly energy but incredibly will always to me have an irrational legacy of non diverse and really horrible sameness of music. How much Jay Z/Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Bon Jovi and Billy Joel can NYC take?
The poor masses who blindly listen to whatever garbage is spewed to them from the radio or clubs had no choice 15 years ago, but now it’s different. With i-tunes and the internet, they can do better. Yet they don’t, so they have no excuse. They are the poor hapless masses.
When Social Distortion closed with “Prison Bound” and then “Ring of Fire” signaling the end of my 12th concert with Ness and company, I knew that within New York City and the surrounding area, there were thousands of people just like me, who, however they may have stumbled upon Social Distortion (I bought one of their CDs by mistake at a 2nd hand CD store), young or old, white collar or blue collar, punk or country or something in between, appreciate these guys like I did.
I noticed when I walked out of Roseland to the “Sanford & Son”theme music that much of the crowd did indeed look like some “scary looking criminals” as Ness likes to say in his concert banter, but if these people were such scary criminals, why did it feel so good to be hanging with them?
Below is a flip cam video of Social Distortion’s acoustic of “Cold Feelings”. I have video of the faster paced stuff where I was getting tossed around. I’ll try to upload some of that next week along with winding up my coverage from my trip from St. Petersburg, Russia so STAY TUNED:
So put on some Social D. this weekend and enjoy!