On Sunday night, a trio of modern day Bruce Springsteens finished up a three day stand at Showbox SoDo. The gravel voiced, working class heroes sang to us of the hard times on that rainy evening. Each singer bared their soul to a slightly soaked but appreciative crowd.
Upon arriving, we were greeted with a line of old punks dressed in black waiting to be patted down by a cadre of gruff security guards. I haven’t been patted down for a show in quite some time, so I was expecting mayhem during the headliner’s set. However, the Sunday night crowd was pretty tame.
Throughout the night’s acts, I was struck by how perfectly the music worked with the lyrical content. Songs of hard drinking and hard work sound better with a steel guitar. The ragged alt-country of Chuck Ragan and the country influenced punk of Lucero tapped into a deeper body of work that form the core of the American collective soul. A music that uniquely captures our struggle for independence and against all of the hardships along the way. The spirit of this American genre continues in alt-country, the latest punk rock retirement plan.
Social Distortion are influenced by this same soul, but occasionally get lost in rock stylings. My gruff audience mates seemed generally bummed out when the Southern California group entered in the dark backed by their introduction song (2Pac’s “California Love“) and then got down to business. It took a couple songs to get used to the strobe lights and the carefully composed stage paraphernalia, but after a short pep talk (“I told them Sunday night’s crowd would be the best”) and the first notes of “Mommy’s Little Monster”, the band was forgiven. Mike Ness and crew followed this up with their other favorites in short succession, further pleasing the audience.
Social Distortion have an important place in American punk history. They incorporated (or maybe even started) a lot of the fundamentals of Southern California punk rock. For example, three part vocal harmonies were used in abundance Sunday night (see Bad Religion or any band on Epitaph). The songs are straight forward and simple, but incorporate a rockabilly flavor that most of their contemporaries did not. Social D have been widely influential, possibly explaining the penchant for punks to migrate from loud angry music to alt-country.
In all, the night was enjoyable, but I preferred the opening bands to the headliner. Lucero were more of what I was looking for: something authentic. Though it’s impossible not to hear Bruce Springsteen in Lucero’s work, I appreciated the blend of punk and country they brought. Chuck Ragan has been my hero since the first Hot Water Music record, so I was happy to hear him play solo again.
Social Distortion was somewhat of a let down. Having never seen them before, I was expecting to be inspired like all of my punk heroes have been. However, they just seemed like another rock band. For pictures and a different perspective, be sure to check out our gallery from day 1.