August 27, 2015 Social Distortion Tear Up Marquee Theatre Tempe, AZ 7-28-15 w/ Nikki Lane & Drag the River
Social Distortion has been an American Punk Rock staple since its inception in 1978, bringing to the forefront their brand of Punk tinged with Rockabilly. These icons out of Fullerton, California currently consists of Mike Ness (lead vocals, lead guitar), Jonny Wickersham (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Brent Harding (bass, backing vocals), David Hidalgo Jr. (drums), and David Kalish (keys). Social Distortion has released seven full-length studio albums, two compilations, one live album, and two DVDs. They released two albums, Mommy’s Little Monster (1983) and Prison Bound (1988), before signing a three-album contract with Epic Records in 1989. Social Distortion rose to fame with their 1990 self-titled third album, which produced their well-known hit singles “Ball and Chain,” “Story of My Life,” and a Johnny Cash cover of “Ring of Fire,” as well as being certified gold by The Recording Industry Association of America. It was also themed the silver anniversary of this well known album going gold.
Most bands may consider selling 25th commemorative reissues, a box set, or something of the like. Not this group, instead they were going to bring this album to all its fans by performing it in its entirety for a full-length tour. Ness himself stated prior to the tour, “It’s not often we get to celebrate anniversaries of records, or play them in their entirety, but this record was a milestone for us and after rehearsing it, we realized it was a hell of a set… High energy and good flow. It was a great feeling to play songs that I hadn’t played in twenty years, or more. It’s inspirational to “revisit” this album; especially during the writing of a new record. All I can say is, ‘It’s gonna be a kick ass show!!!!’” Creating a load of excitement, the tour kicked off on Tuesday July 28th, and the 2,500 capacity Marquee Theatre in Tempe, Arizona played host to this historic event. Completely a well-rounded bill, Social Distortion brought along Nikki Lane and Drag the River as supporting acts for the night.
Born in Greenville, South Carolina, Nikki Lane found her way through ups and downs to Nashville, Tennessee where she was introduce to the Country genre and became an up and coming lady of Outlaw Country. Back in 2011, Lane released her debut album Walk of Shame via Iamsound Records. Her second album, All or Nothin ’, was released via New West Records in 2014 and was produced by Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) and recorded at his Easy Eye Sound Studio. All or Nothin ’ even features a duet between Lane and Auerbach on the track “Love’s on Fire.” Joined by her band for an in-your-face brand of Country Rock, Lane turns the vulnerable singer-songwriter stereotype on its ear, crafting songs that crucify ex-boyfriends and have no problem with one-night stands as long as she can bolt out of town right after. Fueled by love, passion, and heartbreak, Lane highlighted her set with the sultry, smokey sounds of “Man Up,” “Seein’ Double,” and “Sleep With a Stranger.” Lane also owns and operates a clothing store in Nashville, Tennessee called High Class Hillbilly, so be sure to check out this compelling artist as she rises in the rankings.
Keeping with the Country Rock vibe, Drag the River, from Fort Collins, Colorado, was up next. Formed in 1996, Drag the River had been active recording and releasing demos, LPs, 7 inches, live records, and other forms of music since 2000 to now, with the latest being the self-titled 2013 album. The band has sustained a few lineup changes over time, but has survived and will be celebrating two decades as a band in 2006. Performing as a duo of Jon Snodgrass (vocals, guitar) and Chad Price (vocals), they also perform as a full band, joined by Kyle Oppold (bass) and Dave Barker (drums). With all members from a Punk Rock background, they introducing the crowd to their heavy brand of down-and-dirty, punk-laced, alt-country sound, highlighting their set with tracks such as “Witchita Skyline,” “Here’s To The Losers,” and “History With History.” After concluding their run with Social Distortion, they will be in Southern California September 12th and 13th for two more shows.
The heat was high in the Valley of the Sun, and even hotter than hell inside the venue with well over 2,000 fans sweating their way to the front of the stage to catch a glimpse of the Punk Rock legends. There was a buzz starting to brew from the over-sold, heavily-packed Marquee Theatre crowd, and the evening was off to a steaming start with the performances of Drag the River and Nikki Lane setting the tone for the main act. The crowd was ready for what they came for. As fans still packed their way in, you can hear a “Social D, Social D, Social D” chant start hitting the air as more and more started in. The lights went dim, a blast of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” hit the PA and out strolled Social Distortion. They proceeded to kick off this 25th anniversary evening with “So Far Away,” blowing everyone away with some heavily distorted guitars thrashing away.
Social Distortion carried on with the self-titled 1990 track listing, saving a popular song for later in the evening. Some of the highlights of the album performed this night were “Let It Be Me,” “Story of My Life,” “Sick Boys,” where the crowd enjoyed a good push and shove, and the popular hit “Ball and Chain.” With the crowd roaring, they moved along with “It Coulda Been Me,” followed by another standout in “She’s a Knockout.” Adding even more excitement, Social Distortion performed a Hank Williams classic “Alone and Forsaken” and “Gimme Me the Sweet and Lowdown,” both on their album Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, and “Cold Feelings” from 1992’s Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell. Just for good measure the band even covered what Ness deemed as one of his favorite The Rolling Stones songs, “Wild Horses.”
With the audience at the peak of excitement, the encore began with the cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” greeted by whistles and screams. A cover of Merle Kilgore’s “Ring of Fire” ensued, which turned the flame up and ignited a small, brief circle pit to open up. Showing approval and admiration, this dedicated, tattoo-covered fan base raised their hands, clapping in praise for an unforgettable Social Distortion performance. Exhausted by the the energy exerted while enjoying the band, combined with the heat, fans were sure to leave fully satisfied as well as ready to unwind and reflect on the history made on this evening. There are still dates left, if not already sold out, and it is advised for all fans of Country Rock, Rockabilly, and Punk to try to get to one of the remaining shows.