Concert Review

Social Distortion Bring So-Cal Cowpunk to Pittsburgh’s Stage AE

Social Distortion Stage AE June 26, 2013

Some things always remain constant:  At any public event in Pittsburgh someone is going to start a Steeler chant.  In the summer you can count on Jimmy Buffet to come to town and a giant party to ensue regardless of musical taste.  And Mike Ness will always be the king of Southern California cowpunk due to a couple little songs called “Ball and Chain”, “Story of My Life”, and a cover of Cash’s “Ring of Fire”.

The other constant is that Social D (as most know them) are always going to put on a straight forward kick ass punk rock show packed with great tunes and a hard drinking time.  Pittsburgh may be far from the sunny beaches of southern California, but the vibe was damn close yesterday as the pin-up girl wanna-be’s, gear heads, tattoo enthusiasts, and counter culture of the tri-state area came to rock out with the legends of punk.  And Mike Ness (lead vocals, lead guitar),  Jonny Wickersham (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Brent Harding (bass, backing vocals), and David Hidalgo, Jr.(drums) did not disappoint.

Mike Ness has been putting out great rock since 1978 and has consistent success with such hits as the above mentioned as well as, “Bad Luck”, “Misery Loves Company”, and “Winners and Losers”.  A blend of punk, blues, country and rockabilly, Ness’ music is classic in the sense that it is structured in simplistic three chord style songs in the same style as The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, and Bob Dylan.  That gravely voice of his that has so much personality, seemingly produced by years of hard labor, hard drinking, and hard smoking, is one of a kind and instantly recognizable.  His style of part barrio, part prison yard, all tough and tattooed has been the catalyst for many a punk rock band and musician.  Countless guitar players can cite “Ball and Chain” as one of the first songs they ever learned to play.  Last night Ness and company once again proved why they gained their legendary status and have kept that ball rolling.

Many have described Ness as a sloppy guitar player, but maybe that’s what gives him so much swagger and style like Keef.  The combination of his rhythm and Wickersham’s lead makes a beautiful jangle that fits perfectly in the punk groove.  The addition of Suicidal Tendencies Hidalgo on drums added a solid backbeat and partner to Harding’s bass who also provides perfectly harmonious backing vocals.  Even though the tunes may be seen as simplistic, there are complexities within that if not executed perfectly live could come of disastrous.  This band is extremely tight though and every ounce of work they have put in together shines on stage.  Pittsburgh may be a drinking town with a football problem, but last night there were no problems.  Just a great pub (Stage AE) and great punk.

Highlights: “Story Of My Life”, “Bad Luck”, “Winners and Loser”, “Ball and Chain”, “Ring of Fire”


  1. Encore:
  2. (Johnny Cash cover)

All photos  ©AWeldingphoto and Pittsburgh Music Magazine

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