Thursday, October 02, 2014

old man / punk rock

b. got here a little past 7:00 pm.  we had a quick bite at a local taqueria [lots of food, cheap.  i'm still stuffed!].  then mosied to the radison inn, a hotel, where social distortion was playing.  we got to the hotel at 8:00 pm.  two bands opened for social d.  we figured mike ness and co. wouldn't get on the stage until about 10:00 pm.  wrong!

we had our tickets ready but when we got to the hotel courtyard where the stage was located we walked right past security and into the venue.  no one checked for our tix.  they checked other people but not us.  i thought that was a bit odd.  but then perhaps -- if i might interject a bit of foolish vanity -- if one is a certain age, with grey hair, and with a certain air [all pose, i assure you!], no one stops to question you.  you simply look like you belong.

or it could've been security was a bit unorganized.  at any rate, b. and i were in.  we stopped at the swag table.  t-shirts for $30.  knick knacks for a little less.  social distortion always had cool imagery -- their mascot is a fedora wearing skeleton with a martini glass in one hand and a cigarette in the other -- but the swag looked a bit cheap and the imagery a little forced in their cool.

i had to piss.  so did b.  as soon as we turned toward the hotel for the bathrooms a band took the stage.  i said, it must be the whigs [one of the opening bands].  but no.  the singer looked very familiar.  and when the vocals shot over the p.a. system b. and i looked at each with unbelief.  the band was -- you guessed it -- social d.  so early?!  yep.  so early.

we got to the show right on time for social distortion to take the stage.  the place was crowded.  the average age of the concert-goer about 45.  i was not the only grey-head in the audience.   b. and i found a place in the back.  the sound was a bit off.  mike ness was in great form.  his banter was funny.  he was well-spoken which was unlike most of his interviews when ness sounds like an inarticulate teenager.  the band was tight.  i didn't recognize a couple of their songs.  not every song by social d. is a masterpiece, or any good.  they did a terrific hank williams cover.  the band played a very slowed down version of 'ball and chain'.  but no 'mommy's little monster' or 'under my thumb' or 'anti-fashion'.  the band did perform 'story of my life' and concluded with 'ring of fire', their very famous cover of johnny cash's tune.

the people watching was a trip.  lots of tattoos.  lots of middle-age skaters and skate chicks.  a few bikers.  a couple of women dressed in 1940s fashions.  a few hatchet faced ancient punks.  and a very many old skool punk rock fans.  like me and b.

but then b. and i wanted a beer.  it's a rock&roll show, so why not.  the line was not long but took forever anyway.  when we whetted our whistles we moved to the front stage right.  that's where we should have been from the beginning.  great view of the band.  the p.a. loud but not obnoxious.  we watched mike ness and co. finish up 'ring of fire' then the house lights went up.  the band left the stage.  i watched ness come off stage and pass in front of me.  i wanted to tell him i've been a fan for 30 plus years.  i too am in it for the long haul.  but no.  he moved off stage to cool off.  b. and i lingered in the crowd for a bit longer before going outside.  i stopped by the swag table to reconsider a t-shirt.  naw.  we went outside to sit out the crowd and wait for it to thin before we headed back to our respective families and homes.

this is the third time i've seen social d. in concert.  the first time was in a small punk club after the release of their first l.p.  that was over 30 years ago.  the second time was 10 years ago at a local club that is still open to touring bands and musicians.  and now tonight.  i marvel at how the audience is changing not in members perhaps but in composition.  30 years ago the audience was 60 or so screaming punks.  10 years ago the audience was mostly a thousand 20-something gearheads and rockabilly types.  tonight was a couple thousand  middle-aged and older skaters and punks, and gearheads and rockabilly types, along with a few bikers in the mix.  there were small children in the audience with their parents, and dare i say it, grandparents.  while b. and i were waiting for the parking lot to thin out of traffic i noticed a tattooed mother and her young daughter waiting for their ride.  the mother was taking pictures of her daughter in front of the hotel fountain.  i'm bad at guessing ages but i think the woman was probably close to my age.  i thought of the passage of time.  and how close i was to the daughter's age when i first hear social d. 35 or so years ago.  and how punk rock has become the domain of us, the old and aging.  how we move from youth to not-youth in the snap of a couple of fingers.

social distortion remains my favorite band.  their brand of speeded up blues rock spoke to me when i was 15.  mike ness found a sound that was un-trendy, and without age.  the sound of social distortion is what i'd like to get in to in my poetry.  solid, cool, and of any time.

there comes a time when punk rock, and punk rockers, needs reading glasses and planning for retirement.  age happens.  to all of us.  may we find our sound to help us groove in our days.


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