Hard Luck, Hard Times, Hardcore: Social Distortion Brings Over Three Decades of Life Lessons to Anaheim’s House of Blues

For over three decades Social Distortion have been mixing punk rock, rockabilly, country and just about whatever else they want into their unique style of music. Picking up a Social Distortion album and playing it from beginning to end is like listening to a musical crash course in how to survive the pains of life. Founding frontman and lead guitarist Mike Ness is a punk rock poet whose lovelorn tales of misfortune and hard life lessons learned have served as a template for those who don’t necessarily fit into society’s ideal cookie cutter existence. Much like Kerouac and the poets of the Beat Generation, Ness has done things his own way and achieved success without compromising or conforming.
On Friday, January 18, 2013, Social Distortion returned to Anaheim’s House of Blues as a part of their Winter Tour. It’s always a bit of a “home stand” when Orange County’s finest punk band plays here, and as one might expect, Friday’s show was a sold out event. Anaheim’s HOB was as packed as I have ever seen it. The crowd was a mix of younger fans and tattooed punk rock greasers that served as the fruit of over three decades of hard work by a band that puts the “blue” in blue collar. Ness and company played a set that covered songs from Mommy’s Little Monster to Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes and everything in-between. By the time Social Distortion launched into their second song of the night, 1992’s “Bad Luck,” I had already witnessed two fights- one of which was between two girls that fought like professional boxers and a guy with a bleeding gash in his head. Less than fifteen minutes into their set, Social Distortion showed that punk rock is alive and well and that some thirty years into their career they can still whip a crowd into a frenzy. In-between songs Ness waxed poetic about various life lessons and announced that he was working on a book.
Social Distortion opened their set with a blazing rendition of “So Far Away” and nineteen songs later closed with their classic cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire.” The venue was filled with pits, punkers and a plethora of merchandise, including a signed toilet seat by Mike Ness (not to worry, it wasn’t used). To see Social Distortion live is to truly experience what the punk rock scene is all about. It’s equal parts music and chaos. In the end, everybody leaves knowing they saw a good show. Ness and his fellow conspirators are living proof that punk rockers don’t grow old- they just gather more tattoos.