It’s Sunday night, May 6, 2012, and there’s a sea of black-clad rockers crammed into a muddy Stubb’s Amphitheatre, drinking Lone Star Beer and clamoring to see Social Distortion, one of American punk rock’s last standing bands.
Formed in 1979 when the charismatic lead singer was just 17, the band known to legions of fans as simply Social D, has been together in some form or fashion for almost four decades. I’ve seen several shows since my first in the mid- 1990s. Ness, once known as much for his on- and off- stage brawling and battles with drug addiction as for his music, has, by all accounts, mellowed with age; Social Distortion, however, has not.
In an obvious homage to fellow artist Adam “MCA” Yaunch’s recent passing, the band takes the stage to “No Sleep Til Brooklyn.” As one would expect in a musically diverse town such as Austin, the crowd goes wild at the first beats of the song, and stays with Ness and his boys through every measure as they proceed to jam through a hit-heavy set which includes, “Ball and Chain”, “Sick Boys”, “Machine Gun Blues”, their cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”, and my personal favorite, “The Story of my Life”.
Ness, a master at working the crowd, artfully mixes in newer material from the bands 2011 release Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, including “Bakersfield”, a song much more akin to something written by The Man in Black than Black Flag.
The set, perhaps more than in past shows I’ve seen, really seems to showcase Ness’ love of Outlaw Country, Southern Rock and Blues. In the crowd, perhaps because this IS Texas, after all, the cowboy boots outnumber the Doc Martins, and there are more pearl snap shirts than either mohawks or leather jackets. However, we have come here to ROCK and Social D delivers, their guitars chugging in a train-like rhythm behind Ness’ vocals about the folly of youth, impulsiveness, and the inevitable struggle for maturity.
To see more images of Social Distortion please visit, Christopher Durst. There is an entire concert photography album of Social D on tour.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVresJTjkj4&w=560&h=315]
Written by Robyn Powell