August 5, 2017
Social Distortion is Mike Ness (lead vocals, lead guitar); Jonny Wickersham (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), A.K.A. Jonny Two Bags; Brent Harding (bass, backing vocals); David Hidalgo Jr. (drums) and David Kalish (keyboards). The band was formed in 1978 in Fullerton, CA. Since its inception, Ness has been the only constant band member. Over the years the band's lineup has changed, evolved and changed yet again with many members coming and going. There have been at least a dozen players who have manned the drum kit and six bassists. Social Distortion is known for its fiery mix of punk rock, rockabilly, alternative, cowpunk, pop, country and blues that has created a brand all its own.
During its career, through 2017, Social Distortion has released seven studio albums, two compilations, one live album, and two DVDs. The band's first two albums Mommy's Little Monster (13th Floor Records/Triple X Records, 1983) and Prison Bound (Restless Records 1988) gained them a following. Social Distortion achieved its greatest popular acclaim with its 1990 self-titled third album, (Epic Records) which featured the hit singles "Ball and Chain," "Story of My Life" and the cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." The album was certified gold by RIAA.
Social Distortion's fourth album Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell (Epic Records, 1992) included the band's highest-charting single "Bad Luck," which peaked at number 2 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. White Light, White Heat, White Trash was released on Epic Records in 1996 and is the last Social Distortion studio album to feature guitarist Dennis Danell who died on February 29, 2000 of a cerebral aneurysm. The album reached number 27 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll was released on Time Bomb Recordings in 2004 and reached number 31 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, Social Distortion's seventh studio album reached number 4 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, marking the band's first ever Top-10 album and what is currently the group's highest position on that chart. Social Distortion continues to tour and record music; its next studio album is tentatively scheduled to be released in 2018.
Jade Jackson is a Santa Margarita, CA-based singer-songwriter signed to Anti/Epitaph Records. Her debut album, Gilded (2017), was produced by Mike Ness. Jackson was a bit of a child prodigy. She began playing guitar and writing songs at 13 (coincidently after seeing a Social Distortion concert). She had developed a growing fan base by the time she entered high school. After graduation, Jackson formed her band and shared the stage with numerous Americana and country music icons including Merle Haggard, Rosie Flores and Dwight Yoakam.
Along the way, Jackson was able to connect with Ness. Serendipitously Ness' wife, it turns out is friends with Jackson's mother. After hearing her perform the die was set and Ness became her mentor Jackson and the producer of Gilded.
The album is a country rock affair, but much more than that. It owes as much to Ness and Social Distortion as it does to the influences of Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Springsteen, the Smiths, the Damned, Echo and the Bunnymen, George Jones, Ray Price, and Hank Williams.
On a warm Saturday evening in early August Social Distortion and Jade Jackson arrived at a packed to the gills Paramount in Huntington, NY. With the doors opening at 7pm, the line at the merchandise stand snaked around the upper lobby and bar area outside the main concert space as Social Distortion fans gobbled up t-shirts, baseball caps, sweatshirts, license plates, posters, beer coozies, key chains, CDs and other memorabilia. When Jackson hit the stage and began to play, the fans took notice and began purchasing an additional item. Many were seen leaving the area with not only their Social Distortion purchases but with Jackson's CD.
Jackson's short set was long on power. She appeared on stage wearing a Tom Petty (another influence) t-shirt and delivered a finely honed confident well-beyond-her-years performance that channeled the country aesthetic of the past while embracing the modern alt-country vibe that is today's genre with nods to rock, folk, modern rock, pop and even a touch of goth. Jackson is completely aware of her good fortune. During the performance, she took a moment to thank Ness when she smiled said, "Seeing how Mike Ness produced my album, I think that's how we got this gig."
Highlights of her short set included: "Finish Line," "Troubled End" (which she described as being "completely autobiographical. It took place in my hometown."), "Better Off" and "Gilded."
After a short intermission, during which even an EMT was seen purchasing a Social Distortion bandana, the main event was ready to begin. Ness and his band arrived on stage while a pre-recorded version of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You" blared across the loudspeakers.
The thirteen song main set opened with a number of tunes from Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell and Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, starting things off with "Still Alive" and "99 To Life" which allowed Ness to show off his guitar and vocal skills. "Gimme The Sweet and Low Down" which included a bit of a jam was followed by "California (Hustle and Flow)" and "King of Fools." Each song was greeted with an enthusiastic round of applause as audience members from those crowding the stage to those at the back of the mid-sized venue (and the fans in between) called for their favorite tunes.
Ness appeared to be in a jovial and talkative mood. Between songs he took the opportunity to speak on many issues touching on the political climate, the news media and many other topics. Ness' social commentary was delivered with an honesty and earnestness that never veered toward lecture. He approached each subject with objectivity and care--never offending audience members who might feel differently.
Other highlights of the performance included "Ball and Chain," and "Another State of Mind" the Jonny Two Bags song, "Hope Dies Hard" from his Salvation Town album (Isotone Records, 2014). Ness and his compatriots also offered up nice versions of "When She Begins" (which seems to have been given a new life on this tour), the new tune "Scars" (which should be released on the 2018 album) and the set closer "Mass Hysteria" from the Mainliner: Wreckage from the Past (Time Bomb recordings, 1995) collection of B-Sides and singles
If the show was a high energy affair (it was), the four song encore set was even more fiery and energetic. "Angel's Wings" a song about hope and love from Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll "Misery Loves Company" from Ness' 1999 solo album Cheating at Solitaire (Time Bomb Recordings) sent an already delirious audience over the edge. On the final two songs, "Story of My Life" and the powerful performance ender "Ring of Fire" Social Distortion really drove it home. The balconies shook and the floors felt as though they were bouncing up and down as the fans sang along with Ness from the first word to the last.
As the sweaty and spent audience left the orchestra pit, mezzanine and balcony, many stopped at the merchandise stand to purchase more tchotchke or to get back on line to purchase what they had wanted to make prior to the show. The line again snaked its way down the hall and back around the bar as another large scale and spontaneous retail therapy session had broken out.
Photo Credit: Christine Connallon