Social Distortion at the TLA, Nov. 16
Mike Ness walked onto a red carpet as the smell of incense filled the TLA. Dressed in black pants, black shirt, black tie, black hat, and white socks, the Social Distortion lead singer/guitarist looked like the epitome of a punk rocker. The sound of the electric guitar filled the room, and the “walls began to sweat,” as Ness himself put it.
For an hour straight on Friday night, Social Distortion played song after song, packed with power and emotion. Ness managed an introduction for each and every song. “This one is an Italian beer drinking song about growing up in a broken home,” he said about the song “Angel’s Wings.”
He also made a point to thank the fans that have been following his band since its conception 23 years ago. Then he called the youngest audience member, 15-year old A.J. Costanzo from the Scranton area, to the stage. He thanked all the “new school” fans, then dedicated the song “Prison Bound” to everyone. The set was a reflection of this as they played both old and new music. Crowd pleasers included “Wasn’t Born to Follow,” “Creeps,” “Don’t Drag Me Down,” and of course, Social D’s most recognized song, “Ball and Chain,” in which Ness insisted on crowd participation. The sold-out crowd belted out the song word for word along with the band.
A 25-minute three song encore followed, during which Ness introduced the rest of the band: 18-year veteran John Maurer on bass, and newcomers Charlie Quintana on drums and Jonny “2 Bags” Wickersham on electric guitar. Ness also took time to remember former band member Dennis Danell by playing “When Angels Sing,” a song written in his memory, and dedicating it to the soldiers in Afghanistan. Social Distortion closed the show shortly before midnight with “1945.”
Cake at the Electric Factory, Nov. 17
It’s a good thing for John McCrea that his fans know to take him with a huge grain of salt. A mere two songs into Cake’s set at the Electric Factory this past Saturday, the frustrated frontman said “I’m never coming back to the East Coast again. This guitar was perfectly in tune before we started, and now it’s not. That never happens on the West Coast.” It doesn’t exactly seem like the best way to get off on a good foot with the Factory’s capacity crowd, but they just laughed it off and grooved along to “Sheep Go To Heaven.”
Later, when the band kicked into the funky “Nugget,” the audience began to scream out the words, but McCrea wasn’t having it. “This would sound much cooler if you just sang along on the chorus. Let me sing the verse by myself … I’m a somewhat well-paid professional, I’ll handle it.” But as he directed them in the song’s shout-along chorus, he conceded “This is why we came to Philadelphia … you all have such beautiful voices!” While it seemed like pandering at first, McCrea repeated it enough throughout the night — and continued to work the crowd into enough shout-along frenzies — that he seemed sincere.
The tight-as-shit band deftly worked through older cuts (“Stickshifts And Safetybelts”, “Frank Sinatra”) as well as selections from their new LP, Comfort Eagle (“Meanwhile, Rick James…”, “Love You Madly”), delivering a fairly solid set. But McCrea again tried the bounds of the crowd’s sense of humor when, as the show drew to the close, he picked on the balcony for not singing along as loudly as the floor. “You’re not invited next time we come to town,” he announced. Amazingly, the crowd in the balcony just cheered him on.