Show Review: 634

Punk’s bad luck troubadours Social Distortion brings hard times to Bogart’s James Sprague | The News Record An at-capacity crowd filled Bogart’s Sunday to commiserate their hard times with Social Distortion. The punk legends did not disappoint. Social Distortion has spent more than 30 years spinning tales of the common man, ranging from hard roads, bad luck, the downtrodden and the broken-hearted — all conveyed through their mainlined injection of fused rockabilly, blues, punk and country. Tales that never get old and tales that apply to everyone. Just call them the John Steinbeck of punk rock. The show opened with the Sharks, a pop-punk band from Birmingham, England. A somewhat tired mix of the Clash and Bay-area punk with a dash of emo, the Sharks spent an entire set playing repetitive tunes — variations of which have already been done better by Green Day, Rancid and Jet — under the aggravating glare of red stage lights. Unlike their fellow brethren from Birmingham — Black Sabbath — the Sharks lacked originality, motivation and most likely the talent to strike it as big as the down-tuned metal goliaths. Following the tepid opening of the Sharks was Chuck Ragan, former front man for Florida punk band Hot Water Music. Ragan’s three-piece band — consisting of fiddler Jon Gaunt and Joe Ginsberg on the upright bass — were the perfect primers for Social Distortion. Playing country tunes that should be on radio, Ragan and company tore enthusiastically through their set. Ragan at times played his acoustic guitar with a controlled fury that looked as if it would snap the guitar in half, while Gaunt attacked the fiddle with vigor, gyrating like he was at the club while squeezing out solos that only Charlie Daniels could top. Playing a set selection primarily from Ragan’s new album "Gold Country," the band slowed it down enough to pay homage to Mother’s Day with the tender "Geraldine" and a soulful ode to music with "The Boat." Ragan’s performance places him in the realm of "real country" artists such as Hank III and Steve Earle and would please anyone in need of a hearty slab of Appalachia, a dose of speed and Ragan’s pack-a-day Marlboro vocals. With an eclectic crowd of pin-up girls, middle-aged insurance salesmen, children and greasers with ducktail haircuts warmed up by Ragan, a remix of Dr. Dre and Tupac’s "California Love" began vibrating through the house speakers as headliners Social D took to the stage. With vocalist and guitarist Mike Ness clad in his best John Dillinger-esque fedora and three-piece suit and backed with ’50s kitsch stage decor, the band opened with the instrumental "Road Zombie" from their new album "Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes" and didn’t let up off the gas from there on. Despite the new album, the band perused its back catalog, playing the rarely heard live tunes "So Far Away," "King of Fools" and "Down on the World Again." They even decided to go against the stereotypical punk rock vein — "Where I come from, punk rock meant you do what you want to," Ness said — as they tossed in some accordion and an appearance from Chuck Ragan fiddler Jon Gaunt for a haunting version of "Down Here With the Rest of Us." After going honky-tonk with "Prison Bound," the band closed the show by upping the tempo with the Kittie Wells cover "Making Believe" and the band’s barn-burning rendition of Johnny Cash’s "Ring of Fire," which had the crowd singing, stomping and, in some cases, flying through the venue’s air. The band left the stage to a rousing ovation and reminded a satiated crowd why, 30 years later, they are truly the only band from the late ’70s American punk scene still going strong. Social D does want they want to do — and it damn well works.