Social Distortion

Rialto Theatre, Thursday, May 10

Thirty years ago this month, the Sex Pistols released the single "God Save the Queen," offending a nation or two and setting into motion a genre--punk rock--that is bigger today than ever. Though in the late '70s, it was a movement--a revolution that bred a gang-like attitude--versus today's mob-like, Hot Topic, dyed-hair, obligatory-tattoo, now-I'm-punk mentality.

By 1978, a more aggressive, hard-core punk scene evolved in Los Angeles, and Orange County's Social Distortion, formed by lead singer Mike Ness, was one of the few breakout bands from the scene. Social D refined their style by 1983's debut, Mommy's Little Monster, reflecting Ness' rockabilly, old-school country and rock influences. Nearly 30 years later, Social D is still going strong, and was here last Thursday at a sold-out Rialto Theatre to celebrate the release of their forthcoming CD, Greatest Hits.

Ness was in excellent form, back in the saddle again playing rhythm and lead guitar (a broken hand last year restricted him to vocals). Ness' vocals were dead-on as SD went through their entire catalog, stretching back to Monster's "Another State of Mind" to non-album, newer songs like "Diamonds in the Rough," rumored to be included in a forthcoming album of new material in 2008.

Ness was also literally very vocal, taking time to tell stories and preach--at one point, bringing several kids, ages 5-14, on stage. When the 5-year-old girl, dressed in a child-sized Social Distortion T-shirt, was asked to name her favorite band, she replied, "Show-Show-Dee."

Awww. "This is the future, right here," Ness reminded us, "and don't let them make the same mistakes we did." The tough-looking, tattooed and pompadoured crowd cheered wildly--though most were probably displaying pride for all the rebellious (and possibly criminal) things they'd done all their lives.

"And we're still here," Ness had said earlier, citing the personal risk dressing like a punk once was.

Social Distortion closed out the night with "Ring of Fire" and "Story of My Life," then show-goers queued across the street, taking over Club Congress.

Later that night in the Tap Room, I realized how dangerous it was to not look like a punk, as a giant Scotsman threatened to break my neck if I "trriid to peck-pohhk-et" him again. Huh? Me, pickpocket YOU? Guess I shoulda got a new outfit at Hot Topic earlier in the day.

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