Saturday was a day of great excitement in the Bay Area. Dr. Dog was playing at the Regency Ballroom, the Chinese New Year Parade was in full effect and Social Distortion was coming to the Fox Theater in Oakland for the second night in a row. That’s the one that intrigued me most, because of the opening acts Sharks and Frank Turner. Frank Turner has long been a favorite of Mike Ness’, touting his exploits for several years now and I was excited to see him live.
Sharks, on the other hand, are a relatively new band. Despite having performed for five years their debut album has yet to come out and they’ve been touring here for about a year. There was some speculation that they may not make the show due to their statement on Twitter that their van broke down on the way to their San Luis Obispo show.
I got to the theater early and coordinated an early interview so that I wouldn’t miss any of the show and could give a full and proper review. Again, the tour manager pushed back what was supposed to be a 7:00 interview to 9:00 and thus I missed most of Frank Turner’s performance. The audience was filled to the brim with zoot suits, tatted up hoodlums and curiosity. Curiosity for what the opening act Sharks would bring to the table.
It turns out the set was a bit disjointed. The band attemped to cover a Social Distortion song, while opening for the punk icons, which many found to be sophomoric, and in the midst of that, forgot some of the lyrics. They simply couldn’t energize the crowd and that’s the job of a warm up act. It wasn’t all a disaster, though; they did have a few moments that showed the potentiality of future greatness. Whether they get it together or not is entirely up to them and the direction they choose to take. If they continue to miss gigs, then they will fail miserably. However, if they stick to the formula that got them to where they are and make that a priority for the fans then they’ll have a long, fruitful career. As I said, because of their insistence that I move the interview up to 9pm from 7:00 I have no review or real frame of reference to judge Frank Turner’s performance, but from the few songs I did see he was amazing.
Social Distortion has been around for over 30 years. They’re hardly a new band and are widely considered to have been the forbearers of the tattoo resurgence of the past decade. Lead singer and only original member of Social D remaining, Mike Ness, appeared on stage wearing a Zoot Suit, hat and all. Looking like ’20s mobster, he thrilled the crowd with all the favorites they’ve come to expect from the illustrious band.
When a fan threw a shirt on stage Ness, in his classically acerbic style, retorted, “I’m not your fucking mother; she’ll be at home waiting for you. Until then keep your fucking laundry off my stage.” This drew huge applause and cheers from an allied audience. This was the band they all came to see. This was the band that they’d been following since they were born. Coming out of the OC punk scene so long ago, Social D has been a symbol of musical consistency.
While the members have certainly changed or passed on the style and flair with which Ness composes his music and appearance has not. He caters to an audience he knows wants to hear the classics, but that also has a vital interest in the survival of the band. In this place in Downtown Oakland these elements converged and despite the hiccups of the opening act, which again could be an easy fix, found the love for a band that’s been showing it to them for a very long time.