TVD Live: Social Distortion at the 9:30 Club, 11/7

Since Mommy’s Little Monster was unleashed upon the world back in 1983, Social Distortion has remained a fixture in the music scene, earning a devout following while straddling the line between punk and rockabilly, mixed into their own unique style. On Wednesday night, they made their return to the 9:30 Club in the nation’s capital, the 2nd night of a two-night stay amidst a tumultuous presidential election.

To start out the night was The Biters. With matching mop-top hairdos, the quartet from Atlanta were an energetic mix of ’70s-era rock and modern garage rock—think Thin Lizzy or the Runaways meets The Hives. (The Joan Jett hairdos only added to that image.) The audience filled up rapidly as their set went on, and they were received warmly by the crowd, minus a few moments of awkward stage banter. (The attempt at a joke about wigs of their hair being for sale at the merch table seemed lost on the crowd and was met with virtual silence.)

The music was energetic, and pretty crowd-pleasing, though. At one point, vocalist/guitarist Tuk praised Social Distortion, saying that Mike Ness was a huge influence on him as a songwriter, and that since it was a Social D show, they couldn’t do one of their songs, instead playing a rocking version of Tom Petty’s “I Need To Know.”

Up next was Lindi Ortega (who unfortunately did not allow photography). Originally from Canada and now hailing from Nashville, Lindi won over the crowd in no time at all. Playing rootsy music with plenty of swagger, her voice brought to mind Dolly Parton, with songs as real and honest as any Johnny Cash tune.The sound of her trio was big and gritty, even without a bass player, but the mood of her music is what led the audience through a storybook of a set. One song, she was almost angry, full of heartache and emotion, and the next she was sexy and alluring, completely seducing the audience. Whether she was singing a dark ode to burying a body in the backyard, covering “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” of Nancy Sinatra (and originally, Cher) fame, or singing a song that sounded like it came from a Wild West saloon, the crowd ate it up and asked for seconds. She ended her set with a fantastic version of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” much to the approval of the entire club. Lindi Ortega is definitely one to look out for—you’ll be hearing a lot more from her soon.

Finally, the clock struck 10, and Social Distortion was met with a roar from the crowd as they sauntered onto the stage to the tune of Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man.” The stage itself was full of thrift shop bric-a-brac—various signs, trinkets, a stoplight, and even an RCA dog perched on top of the amplifiers. Mike Ness led the charge as they went into “So Far Away,” looking dapper while he did it—fedora, suspenders, and sharp white shoes. The crowd responded in kind, exuding rowdiness from the first note all the way until the lights came up. The band went straight from one song to the next, not stopping to chat with the crowd until after four songs into the set. They would continue this pattern throughout the set, playing timeless Social D favorites like “Highway 101,” “Cold Feelings,” and “Sometimes I Do,” and newer songs like “Machine Gun Blues” and “Bakersfield.”

Social D enthusiastically played with seemingly renewed vigor, with Ness, guitarist Johnny “Two-Bags” Wickersham, and bassist Brent Harding jumping around and making use of the whole space, and drummer David Hidalgo, Jr. keeping it all together, adding up to a superbly tight set. Being the night after President Obama’s re-election, Ness gave a little commentary about the elections, then went into “Story of My Life” before a brief encore break after playing for about an hour. They made their way back to the stage, much to the audience’s approval, and went into “Pleasure Seeker.” While introducing long-lost vinyl-only song “Black Magic,” Mike Ness proclaimed “This ain’t no House of Blues Gospel Brunch Blues. This is down and dirty California Blues!”

Closing the night with “Far Behind” and their famous amped-up version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” the set felt a little short despite the brilliant performance. Word has it that they are starting their next album after this tour, and if their last album and the energy from this tour is any indication, there are some good times and good tunes ahead for Social Distortion.

Photos by Erica Bruce

The Biters

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