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Social Distortion to play Vail

Charlie OwenVail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily
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The guys in Social Distortion have grown up a little bit since their early days as a band, proof that growing up doesnt always make you uncool.Good Charlotte might be all the rage with the kids right now, but without Social Distortion, Good Charlotte likely wouldnt exist.Looking into a fun-house mirror might be the best way to describe life as a teenager for Mike Ness. His rocky childhood inspired Ness to name his band Social Distortion when they came together in 1978. Its basically how I felt when I was 17 years old, Ness said during a phone interview. Just a kid from a broken home, alcoholic home, and thats just basically how I felt at the time.Now, three decades later, the band is considered a punk-rock legend and consistently sells out shows across the country. They will be playing Friday night at Dobson Ice Arena in Vail as part of Vail Snow Daze.

Social Distortion plays high energy punk tempered with a mixture of blues, country and American roots rock their style is often called cow punk which has become the bands signature sound. During the bands early years they grew in popularity in the Orange County underground punk scene, but didnt find mainstream success until the early 90s with hits like Ball and Chain and Story of my Life. Usually when a punk band reaches the level of popularity that Social D has attained they are labeled sell-outs and while there are bound to be those unaccepting critics out there, Ness is sure that his true fans are stoked about their success.I think theres a lot of stereotypes that come along with the word punk and most of them I didnt really buy even back in the day when it wasnt considered cool to become successful, said Ness who cites The Clash a highly successful punk band that frequently played to huge cowds as one of his biggest musical influences.Selling out means changing or compromising for the sake of getting ahead, something that Ness said he would never do. He believes its for that very reason the band is so well-respected today.

The rise to the top hasnt all been easy for Ness, who is the only living original member of the band. The tragic death of co-founder Dennis Danell as well as other members of the band, coupled with Nesss own drug addictions during the 80s has given him a lot to write about in his songs.Its kind of profound I do like writing about stuff that people really dont want to talk about sometimes, Ness said. In fact, When the Angels Sing a song about death and remorse is the one song he penned that comes closest to summing up his life experiences, he said.Ness emerged through the tragedy with a level-headed view that kept him writing songs; using what he learned he was able to rise above the rockstar melodrama.So what does a punk rock icon who helped shape the genre think about the current status of todays punk scene?I dont think about it very often. Its no different than contemporary country music. The stuff theyre playing on the country music channel is so far from its roots. Its just really lame. Its just like anything. When something cool becomes popular it can tend to get uncool and it takes certain artists to break through the crap. Radio stations and record companies sell crap all year long and every now and then a good band breaks through. And thats the way its always been and thats the way it always will be, Ness said.True, it may seem today that pop punk bands like Sum 41 and MXPX are a far cry from the glory days of the revolution, but the fact that such bands are now covering songs by Social Distortion is still flattering to Ness, even if he doesnt keep up on the latest fads in music.I think its good to know a little bit about whats going on (with the music scene) but I dont base the song writing or the look of the band or the sound of the band around that, Ness said.



These days Social Distortion is busy and in high demand. Taking a break from playing a string of shows in his native California doesnt make it easier for Ness to work on new studio projects fans have been looking forward to a new album since the 2004 release of Sex, Love and Rock n Roll but he said that there are some things in the works, including a new documentary about the band, as well as an acoustic album. In 2008 Social Distortion is eligible for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an honor that Ness would love to see happen. I think if they dont put us in there theyre really stupid, Ness said.Unlike the Sex Pistols, who mocked their nomination, Ness said it would be an honor and that fans of the band would appreciate the attention it would bring to them.Whether or not theyre inducted, Ness feels that Social Distortion has done a lot both musically and historically. I feel fortunate to have made a change, Ness said of his bands role in the grand scheme of things. When we started this band it was an out-and-out revolution against the music industry and against mainstream society and to have been a part of that and to have actually come out of it and to actually have done something, thats what feels good.Arts & Entertainment writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.


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