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I didn’t start out 2011 intending to see Social Distortion so many times. In the fall of 2010, I’d seen them play a fantastic show in Chicago, and shortly thereafter, they announced a west coast tour in February. February, for whatever reason, is a month in which I tend to go pretty batshit insane. Mostly that’s related to insomnia; one year, I added up all the sleep I got that month and the total clocked in around 50 hours. That’s less than most normal people get in a week. I can function very well for a very long time on very little sleep, but that kind of insomnia wears me down pretty quickly. I start to look at sleep like I look at time travel: as a fantastic impossibility that only happens in books and movies.
Now, I do have a full-time 9(ish)-to-5(ish) grown-up day job. I’m sure you can imagine how useful I am at that job during the month of February. It’s really best for me to be elsewhere, which I’d discovered the year before when I took most of the month off and hung out in Vancouver. It was the best thing I did for my mental health that year. So I thought, oh, they’re touring the southwest in February, I’ll take ten days and go somewhere warm, see some friends, see some shows, relax in an environment where my sleep-dep isn’t going to fuck me up too badly. Off I went!
That was the winter tour. The next tour, in May, they played Milwaukee but not Chicago, and my roommate and I drove up. It was my fifth Social D show of the year, and so things were averaging out nicely to one show per month. But then they went off to Europe and Australia, and although I have followed bands out of the country before and will do it again, I won’t do it for outdoor festivals. I hate outdoor shows of all kinds. So then it was announced they were playing Riot Fest, followed by a fall/winter tour that fell right around Thanksgiving. That’s usually a pretty good time to follow bands around because I can see a lot of shows without taking many vacation days. And I looked at the tour dates and thought, hmmm, I have friends in those towns, I have airline vouchers from getting bumped on a regular basis, I have seven shows to see if I want to meet my totally arbitrary goal of seeing them once a month (on average). Let’s give it a shot!
social distortion at hob san diego, 2011-02-20
I didn’t consider any of these shows for my best-of 2011 lists because when you see a band so many times — especially a bunch of times in a row, which does weird things to your head — you judge the shows very differently. But here’s the full list, ranked as well as I’m able to do it.
I knew, going into the meet & greet, that both meeting and greeting might be on the agenda. I spent a long time being nervous and pissed off about said nervousness — I really do feel celebrity is bullshit — until I remembered about social anxiety and how I get nervous whenever I have to meet anyone at all. I do just fine meeting strangers on the sidewalk, but put me across a table from someone and I’m lucky to string together two coherent words about the weather. This is true if the person across from me is a possible coworker, a blind date, a long-time internet friend, or Mike Ness.
I should have prepared remarks, but I didn’t. I was told it would be casual, and I can totally do casual. But surprise! It was not particularly casual, and so I have no idea what the hell I said. I don’t think it was mortifying, and that’s about all I’ve got.
If I had prepared remarks, though, maybe it would have been something about how me and Social Distortion are the same age, almost exactly, and I can’t tell you the first song I heard. But you know how some people get the urge to start nesting and they buy a house or have a kid or get a dog or organize their closet or drink a lot of hot chocolate or take up quilting? Me, I go to Social D shows.
social distortion @ the ogden, 2011-12-03
It’s not just about the music; I love a lot of bands. It’s not just that they put on a good show, although they do. It’s the whole thing — the other fans, bikers and punkers and straights and rockabilly queens, drifters and criminals and cops and PhD students and plumbers; parents there with their kids, parents there without their kids, sisters with their little brothers, couples on dates, the anti-social there alone. It’s getting to know them before the show and being family for a few hours, having a fantastic time, and not seeing them again till next time. It’s the writhing of the pit and the roar of the crowd as we all shout the words back at the stage. It’s whatever happens after the show — sometimes nothing, sometimes something. I’ve never been someone who felt I fit in anywhere, and my family is not exactly familial, and although these days I do better than fine, sometimes I want to be with my people. And my people, apparently, hang out at Social D shows.
Actually, before I start talking about Riot Fest, I think we should talk about how I went to see D.R.I. on Sunday at Reggie’s. (It was an excellent show! The singer of the first band gave me one of his beers, hit himself in the head with the mic, picked me up by my hoodie, rubbed his bloody face all over mine, and was a very nice guy. I watched over his glasses for him. Here are the pictures.)
I felt fine when I left the house. My throat starting hurting about halfway through the show, and there were a few minutes when I got home in which every inhalation literally felt like my lung tissue was being ripped apart inside my chest. It was excruciating, and familiar: pneumonia. Sure enough, I woke up the next morning sounding and feeling like I had swallowed a rusty chainsaw, I couldn’t breathe, I had no energy for anything. Next day was the same. I had planned to go see a show (Malajube and The Besnard Lakes) that night but couldn’t do it — plus my mother always said that if I am too sick to work, I am too sick to play, and I thought that was bullshit at 7, but north of 30, it’s a little more reasonable — and on Wednesday, although I was feeling a little better, I was still having trouble breathing and so I did the responsible thing and went to the doctor. I was right: pneumonia.
Also note that Wednesday was my birthday, and X was playing that night. Pneumonia: NOT ACCEPTABLE. The doctor loaded me up with antibiotics and steroids, and I went home and crawled into bed and slept slept slept. I almost didn’t go see X, but… I mean. It’s X. I love X so much that it makes me ache a little, they are one of my very favorite bands, and with these old punk bands, I never know when I might get another chance to see them. Plus they were playing Los Angeles start to finish, which is basically one of the greatest records ever made in the history of music. Which is to say that I really, really, really wanted to go to the show, and I thought it would be okay. My breathing had gotten better, I could sleep on the train on the way there and back, the “opener” was a movie — X: The Unheard Music — and I could sit down for that. I didn’t think the pit would get too rowdy, and if it did, I could go to the back, or go home. I took my inhaler and my throat drops and my hand sanitizer and my camera and I got on the train.
x at bottom lounge, 2011-10-05
And X, oh, X. They looked great. They sounded great. Exene in her beat-to-fuck cowboy boots and nonstop dancing and John Doe tearing it up with his long hair flying and DJ’s goofy gap-toothed grin and Billy Zoom’s creepy fucking smile and those rockabilly licks. I smiled and danced and sang at the top of my lungs and a few hours after the show I felt fantastic. I don’t know if it was the antibiotics or the music, but I like to think that punk rock saved me once again.
Show roundup for last week: Frank Turner x 2, and yet another Social Distortion show. (Note: Not much of a roundup.)
frank turner | 2011-05-02 | jbtv studios, chicago
There are things I talk about when I talk about shows. Sometimes I say I cried, and sometimes it’s even true. Not often, though. Usually I manage to rein that shit in. Usually I mean, “it got a little dusty in there.” I sniff, and I wipe at my eyes, and I get myself under control.
Sometimes I talk about getting chills or being moved, transported somewhere else. My memory is very reliable but my senses are less so. I will remember the things I made a point to notice (what does that tattoo say? which guitar is that?) but almost nothing of what I don’t (where did this bruise come from? why am I drenched in beer? what happened to my shoe?). Maybe that makes sense, maybe not.
I saw Frank Turner twice last week, and all of those things happened at his second show. It was strange, because normally a show builds up that kind of momentum, and by the end I might as well be high. This one happened backwards. I was immediately in it. Frank is entertaining and engaging and energetic and hilarious, and he sings about music and wanderlust and heartbreak and alcohol and the redemptive power of rock & roll, all things I like to think I know a little bit about, and so his songs resonate pretty deeply with me. It started off great and got greater, chills crawling up and down my spine from the first song (“I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous”), and there weren’t a lot of tears during “I Still Believe,” but there were enough. I did try to rein it in, but I failed.
I just returned from one of my irregular trips, one of the ones where I fly somewhere for a while and follow a band around. In this case, I saw Social Distortion, mostly in Southern California. (I also saw Henry Rollins, but those weren’t concerts, and they were icing on the cake. He happened to be having some shows while I happened to be in Los Angeles, so I happened to find myself at both of them.) And, because I am still pretending this is a music blog, I keep thinking I should say something about the trip, or the concerts, but I find myself at something of a loss.
Social Distortion has a new album coming out in January, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, and I have been listening to it nonstop for a few days now, and I am not seeing a change in my habits in the near future. I wrote a really long and ridiculous track-by-track reaction email at three in the morning, and after a lot of soul-searching (there are a lot of reasons I’m not super comfortable with this), I have decided to clean up that email and post it under the guise of an “album review.” So here we go! Warning: long. Full of images, youtube embeds, and allcaps that walk the line between “indignant,” “horrified,” and “madly in love.”
[I never know what to do with this blog; I am currently thinking I will use it to write about concerts I see, and if I ever write code again, that, too. This is an edited-down version of a post I made elsewhere.]
Last night I went to see Social Distortion. I have been thinking all day about what to say about it, and I still am not sure. I have loved Social D for a long time, since I was a baby punk rocker, and although I drifted away from punk for a while when I got to college, it was Social D that brought me back. So they’re important to me, I guess is what I’m saying, formative and informative, and now that I go to shows again (because I didn’t for about ten years), there was no way I was missing this.