Sunday night I took my HS daughter and her best friend to the Social Distortion concert in beautiful downtown Sauget, Illinois. (My idea, BTW.) The venue, a club called Pop’s, is nestled on the banks of the broad Mississippi–and right between a Penthouse club and a Dream Girls establishment, and across the street from the Big River Zinc smelter. When we got out of the car, my daughter said “What’s that smell?” Damned if I knew. Damned if I wanted to know.
Despite the rather seedy environs, the club was OK, although the crowd was not what my daughter and her friend were expecting. Knowing the location of the venue, and the band (which had an album titled “White Lightning, White Heat, White Trash”) I had sort of an idea what it would be like, so I wore a “Heroes of the Confederacy” t-shirt that my Dad won at a Civil War Roundtable fundraiser–to blend in, dontcha know. Good choice. The guy in front of me had a shirt that said “White Trash and Proud of It!”
Funniest moment. I went into the men’s room, where a kid–six years old, I’d guess–was washing his hands. (There were more than a few kids younger, some a lot younger, than my charges.) He had big, thick geek glasses–and full punk regalia. Blue Mohawk. (Gen-u-ine, real deal, Mohawk.) Black t-shirt. Metal-studded belt. Straight-leg jeans. Black Chuck Taylors. When he turned to dry his hands, he noticed that the towel dispenser was about 5 feet off the ground. I noticed his dilemma, pulled off some towels, and handed them to him. He looked at me with that Mohawk, staring wide-eyed through those thick glasses, and said in this sweet six-year old voice: “Thanks, friend!” I swear, it was like an episode of L’il Rascals Go Punk.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given that Social D’s heyday was in the mid-90s, the crowd had a strong forty-ish contingent, and was pretty well behaved. Of course, there were a few knucklehead rowdies that security hustled off very quickly. Half of those shown the door were women who looked like they outweighed the bouncers–and the bouncers, of course, were not small. At the sight of these, er, ladies, being frog marched with their arms pinned behind their backs, exercising their salty vocabularies, my girls stared wide-eyed for a minute, and then began cracking up. Quite educational, I do say.
As for the concert, it was very good, even though I couldn’t stay for the whole thing: being a very responsible parent and chaperone, I split at 11 to get the kids home at a reasonable hour on a school night. Even the warmup bands (especially The Strangers) were good, and Social D was excellent. Not quite as good as Rancid, but then I’m partial to Rancid. It was interesting that the band was very faithful–almost to the note faithful–to their CDs in their live performance. Very little improv or variation. That’s not bad, since I like the songs as they are on the albums.
I did really like the wall-of-sound feel of the band, and Mike Ness was an excellent entertainer. Unlike Rancid, which showcases not just Tim Armstrong but Lars Fredrickson and Matt Freeman (their excellent bassist), Social D is really the Mike Ness Band. It’s definitely his group, and his show. You always wonder if somebody on a long tour is just going to dial it in, but Social D didn’t. The entire band was working it, and Ness was definitely emotionally engaged with his edgy, gritty material. Good show, and hopefully I’ll be able to see them again soon not on a school night;-)
Friday night, my college daughter and I go to Chicago (actually, DeKalb, about 60 miles west, near where my grandparents lived when I was growing up) to see our favorite band–the Smoking Popes. And the Pixies are in Chicago in November. Thinking about that one; always wanted to see them, and I’m a huge Frank Black fan.