Social Distortion’s 40th Anniversary Celebration Brings Down the House

Mike Ness celebrates 40 years of Social Distortion. Photo by Michelle Alvarez/Green-Eyed Blonde Photography

Early birds to this past Saturday’s “Sounds from Behind the Orange Curtain,” Social Distortion’s 40 anniversary celebration at FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine, were treated to hot temperatures and flammable music on a side stage just outside the main venue.

These fans got to check out Bully, Mannequin Pussy and Black Lips, all of which were very good, but it was Plague Vendor and front man Brandon Blaine who delivered a very good set–that included their hits “New Comedown” and “Black Sap Scriptures”–that  started the day off perfectly.

As the main venue opened, concert goers poured in to see the Eagles of Death Metal on the main stage. They proved that they’re professional musicians who know how to bring it. Jesse Hughes is a showman, and he took immediate charge of the stage and crowd. Among the band’s dual drummers is Josh Homme, who sings, plays guitar and is the primary songwriter for Queens of the Stone Age. Homme, who founded that band and co-founded Eagles of Death Metal with Huges, was impressive behind the kit. Overall, EODM was booming with a charismatic feel to them, and the crowd loved their back and forth banter. It was a very good opening set.


The leader of Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls gets air. (Michelle Alvarez/Green-Eyed Blonde Photography)

Honestly, I had never seen Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’ve just heard they were great performers. Turns out those rumors were very, very true. The band reminded me of a very cool Dropkick Murphy’s bar band. That’s a very big compliment because this is the kind of band everyone can relate to. The songs that got most screams were “If I Stray,” “Photosynthesis” and “Four Simple Words.”

I also hadn’t seen the Kills before: All I can say is they were a very nice surprise to say the least. The band put out a very nice electric and, at times, industrial sound, with a Front-242 drumbeat. Lead singer Allison Mosshart displayed an amazing vocal range and shifted from high-energy into a very nice Mazzy Star-esque sequence with ease. Hits she belted out included “Tape Song,” “Alphabet Pony” and “What New York Used to Be.”

Another very entertaining act was The Distillers. This band is led by the electrifying Brody Dalle. Their sound is pure energy and sometimes nothing short of bone crushing. Dalle got loud cheers with their hits “City of Angels,” “Man vs. Magnet,” and the uber-tune, “Drain the Blood,” which brought down the house!

As the sun set, a headliner everyone anticipated was Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. The band was as tight as ever, with Jett’s vocals sounding as explosive as when we first heard her with the Runaways. The crowd loved when she went into “Bad Reputation,” “Crimson & Clover,” “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” and “Fake Friends.” She also belted out a few Runaways favorites, including “Cherry Bomb” and “You Drive Me Wild.”

The band closed with “I Hate Myself for Loving You.” Jett has such a great catalogue of music and sounded so good that she could have played for two more hours and fans would have been OK with that.

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts got a rousing reception. (Michelle Alvarez/Green-Eyed Blonde Photography)

In the end, fans were ready for the band they came to see: Social Distortion. Mike Ness came out strong, sporting a very nice 1940s-style suit with a bad-ass hat. Ness took no time and pulled no punches with a video journey as a backdrop of racially motivated moments in history that were inspiring, shocking and violent at times. Social D opened with “Don’t Drag Me Down.” Ness has never stayed away from speaking his mind on things that matter to him; he immediately declared “Social Distortion is gonna make racism wrong again” and went on to say “Because white is not superior.” The crowd was receptive to his comments because the venue got even louder.

The show was filled with Social D classics such as “Bad Luck,” “Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown” and “Prison Bound,” which Ness has told us was his own wakeup call to straighten up and get his life right. He also belted out other hits like “Machine Gun Blues,” “Another State of Mind” and “1945.” The band also played new music from a forthcoming untitled album. That announcement got a loud response from the crowd; the new song titled “Over You” got a very good response.

It was an emotional night for Ness. (Michelle Alvarez/Green-Eyed Blonde Photography)

The Social Distortion set wasn’t huge, but it was solid. The encore set included another new song, “Born to Kill.” They also played “Sometimes I Do.” For that song, Ness brought out his oldest son Julian to play his signature guitar. Then they went into their uber-hit, the cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”

Before the night ended, Ness took a moment and sincerely thanked everyone who made his band’s 40-year journey possible. He thanked his wife and children, past and present managers and families of band members who over the years supported them and helped them get through life. He also got a huge response from the crowd when he thanked them for making all his silly schoolboy dreams come true.

What turned into a very solemn moment was when he took a deep breath and in a very candid manner, thanked his mother, who he said died earlier this week. He’s often talked about his parents, and like most children, they didn’t always agree and sometimes things weren’t good. He went on to say they weren’t the best parents, they were lousy parents, but his mother always encouraged him to be himself. Those who know him felt the sincere nature and gratitude he was expressing. After all, he is “Mommy’s Little Monster.” Ness took a deep breath, got himself together, and the house exploded when the crowd heard the opening “La, la la, la la la” as he led everyone into “Story of My Life.”

Good times come and good time go, everyone at FivePoint Saturday night just wished that night would’ve lasted a little longer. It was a great night for music!

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