Bikers, butt shakers in high-wasted jeans, guitar store lost boys, smoke-haloed rockabilly hairdos, and most importantly babies…LOVE Social Distortion. Twenty-five years after the release of their self-titled album, Mike Ness and crew are touring around the country and basically throwing the rowdiest family reunion you’ll ever attend. They’re performing the album which made punk, country and the blues play nice in its entirety. The album which includes songs you didn’t realize you knew the words to. Because of television and/or movies, even your Aunt Sadie knows the chorus to “Story of My Life.”
Even before the first opener, fans with new Social D t-shirts thrown over their shoulders were pushed up against the front row railing. I watched as old friends with matching Flogging Molly tattoos reunited, Dads with kiddos on their shoulders found spots back by the soundboard, and MANY beers were chugged. By the time Drag the River came on stage, the crowd had grown significantly. The floor was full, the merch line still going strong and the upper balcony steamed with kissing couples. The band pounded out a quick set of crunching, chain-wallet alt-country songs which got things kicked off.
When I first heard that Drag the River and Nikki Lane were on the Social D tour, I thought it was strange. A good strange, but strange nonetheless. Seeing this roadshow live and witnessing Nikki Lane’s middle finger attitude sandwiched between two guitar-heavy bands who share a love for country music, makes total sense. From the audience reaction, most agreed with me…some didn’t, but they were totally respectful about it. I’d caught Nikki Lane’s mid-day performance at Newport Folk Fest, and now realize that she’s even better with nighttime sets. She was all smiles as she picked up her wedding ring that she’d tossed away for effect during the last song. Want heartbreak and cheating songs? Nikki Lane has a few.
As the quilted curtain rose to reveal a huge Social Distortion backdrop, Mike Ness took to the stage to give a thumbs up to the kissing couples in the upper balcony. For the next fifteen or so songs, the band brought life to “Ball & Chain” (my personal favorite) and rattled the antiques that surrounded the drummer on “She’s a Knockout.” Beer cups flew on stage as Ness ripped his gold top Les Paul in two. The Moms in the front row were going absolutely nuts when both heavily tatted guitar slingers stood on the edge of the stage to solo. It was Saturday night, this was their favorite band and by gosh they were gonna get wild. More than anything else, I was impressed by the fans. Social Distortion has built a strong, if somewhat dysfunctional, family of fans who are still digging their stuff twenty-five years later and sharing the music with their kids. Sure it got rowdy and I saw a couple twenty-something girls get into a beer-slinging fight, but I’ve heard that beer is good for your hair. This was only the third stop on their tour which goes through September and I’d highly recommend catching them when they roll through your town. Bring an extra set of suspenders.
You can find Drag The River all over the Internet
You can find Nikki Lane all over the Internet