Show Review: 697

A Night in Modesto with Social Distortion This isn’t as much about the music or the set list as it’s about the message of Social Distortion and the people of Modesto. Equally, I have to say that rockin’ in Modesto is unlike rockin’ in most places. It’s Modesto and practically home for the band. Social Distortion, featuring Mike Ness (lead /vocals) Johnny “twobags” Wickersham (rhythm/ lead/ vocals) Brent Harding (bass/ vocals) and David Hildago (drums) put on thunderously melodic harmonic display of straight forward rock with a smattering of soulful rhythm and blues mixed in with a little something to say. Me and my West Coast partner-in-crime, Johnny Y, met up with his partner, Doug, hailing from Modesto, at the 2500 people capacity downtown Modesto Centre Plaza. We made the drive down from Sonora – about a hour away. Modesto looks to have a bustling night life with multiple single screen movie houses and event venues, bars, restaurants and the 3 Star Double Tree Inn attached to the Centre. That’s more than can be said for the rest of the region. On the way down, I saw, along the way, just how bad the depressed economy had decimated the area. Bar after bar in little podunk cities closed and shuttered. When I booked this little musical soiree, it said general admission and I was pleased. That meant no small seats and knee crunchin’ for the big guy. You know you’re in Cali when you see Car Club patches – say hello to the Road Lords C.C. You know when you’re with Social D – lots and lots of ink. The beer lines were long but who cares when you’re having fun. On stage, it was all there … Social D theme Skeleton martini glass in custom Roadster, operational traffic signal, no parking sign, vintage stop sigh with cardboard cop cutout, union hats and 13. We position ourselves fairly close to front stage – at about 8 pm, as Muddy Waters’ tune “Forty Days and Forty Nights” plays the band in – members take the stage. Mike Ness diddy bops out and onto the set sporting a 30s style fedora, trench coat, suspenders with maroon sharks skin trousers. First chords to “Ring of Fire” are struck. The mosh pit rips into its primal spin. Bangin’ and bumpin’ bodies flyin’ everywhere. I turn around and my partner is nowhere to be seen. After awhile, I bond with mosh’rs. That good good comradely feelin’ warms my soul like a kindred spirit. More fun, possibly, than a human should be allowed to have! Here’s a thing I found most interesting and perhaps little irritating – what’s up with the little people standing back and getting chip shots in pushing people into the pit. All things considered, I guess they got to get theirs. So with a little help from nearby mosh’rs, we hurled some of these little bastards into ruckus. Laughed my ass off! If I didn’t say it before, let me say it loud, Social D are the real Deal. Ness’ stage presence is commanding. He spits gangsta “you can have mothafuckin’ ink up to your neck” as he gestures to his own heavily tattooed neck “that don’t impress me!” And in the low tone of a serious individual he talks “it’s the look in a man’s eyes.” He points into the crowd stage right “like that mothafucka right there – ya you, the tall one with the glasses “you a serious mothafucka.” The D punches into, with brutal force, Reach for the Sky. Once again – the pit whirls with fury. Later on in the set, with electricity jumpin’ – Ness brings it down a notch. Crowd simmers to a tepid boil and Ness sets up a Carl Perkin’s diddy, Brent Harding with upright on this one – “Let the Jukebox Keep Playing.” He educates the people “the black man gave us rock and roll.” I couldn’t have been more proud to be where I was at that very moment. I’ve seen lots of rock shows and it’s always a constant with me. From a black perspective, people, all people regardless of race, creed or ethnicity need to know and understand the rich history that is African American Music. Black music. American music. It’s true, I’ve heard lip service paid to that history and some rockers have done more than most. On this evening in Modesto, Mike Ness said more than most. So in the spirit of Black History Month – I put Social D in a class with abolitionist’s William Lloyd Garrison, the Quakers and brother John Brown. For the finale, Ness addresses racism itself. Crowd response generates receptive. I felt there wasn’t a racist bone in the room. I felt at home. He ended his soliloquy on race with one word “Unacceptable!” With fists pumpin’ air – the folks in attendance cheer. That’s a message we all need to hear a little bit more in this fucked up world! Well done Social Distortion.