Social Distortion is a band that shows no age.
The punk stalwarts have been rocking stages for 33 years and in the process created some timeless tunes, perfected an airtight stage show and amassed an army of loyal fans. And during their 90-minute set at Showbox SoDo Friday, the band’s first of three consecutive sold-out shows at the venue, Social D showed no signs of slowing down any time soon.
The crowd was a colorful bunch filled with an assortment of fans ranging from rockabilly types wearing poodle skirts, to hardcore safety-pinned punks with mohawks and facial tattoos, to a local celebrity in Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready. The set started with the instrumental “Road Zombie” off the abnd’s latest album Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, which was released last month. Prior to “Machine Gun Blues,” the album’s lead single which showed up about midway through the set, vocalist Mike Ness received a huge amount of applause after letting the crowd know a video was in the can for the track that features “plenty of cool guns.” But Social D has never really been a band for banter so instead of talking the crowd’s ears off the band delivered a tight hourlong main set full of energy that showcased newer material aside older Social D classics like “Ball and Chain” and perhaps more importantly showed Social D has more or less perfected their craft.
As exciting as the main set was the encore nearly stole the show. It began with a nice departure from the band’s punk rock swagger in new songs “California (Hustle and Flow)” and “Can’t Take It With You” both of which have classic rock undertones and featured a pair of soul-singing backup vocalists giving the band some extra pizazz. Those songs were followed by “Ring of Fire” and “Story of My Life” which was a perfect one-two closing combo.
Chuck Ragan, former frontman for influential punks Hot Water Music, opened the show with a 30-minute set of folk songs. Ragan and his three-piece band — which included a fiddle, upright bass and at times an accordion – was a refreshing way to start the show. Unfortunately Ragan’s vocals often fell victim to the curse that is poor sound at Showbox SoDo with his gruff voice sounding much better at the front of the room compared to the echoey, tinny sound that could be heard at the back of the venue. Sound issues aside it was a short and sweet set that included a song Ragan said he wrote two days prior. The rest of his songs were spirited (when they could be heard well) and showed plenty of promise for his newly chosen career as a folk troubadour compared to his past profession as punk rock icon.by