Saturday night's sold-out Social Distortion show at Pop's was a living case for the greatest hits album that the SoCal band is releasing on June 26. Now, I know the first translation of "greatest hits" might be "sell-out," so go ahead and roll your eyes -- but how else would the little kid I saw being led by the hand up to the mezzanine wrap his ears around such a body of work? I mean, Social D. (or at least vocalist/founder Mike Ness) has been making music since 1978.
Ness opened with "Reach for the Sky," from 2004's Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll, and ended with his cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." The crowd, which included the mohawks and hardware you would expect (as well as the Starlight Mints T-shirt that you might not), responded to all of it, from "Mommy's Little Monster" to "Ball and Chain."
Ness caught my attention by cracking a joke about love songs and "hate" songs, then telling a little story about a back-stabbing friend. The song itself wasn't that memorable -- one of my companions who is a much bigger fan tried to help me remember the refrain, and we could not. (And I'm not sure why Ness held back on sensitive but popular tracks, such as "Don't Take Me for Granted," also from Rock n' Roll.)
Ness is aging, but he still sings with conviction. While I wasn't hugely familiar with the band before this show -- I've listened to the most recent album and thought it was great, and have heard some of the hits here and there -- when Ness started singing Hank Williams' "Six More Miles," I thought, Yeah, this makes sense.' You can tell that he sings it because he feels it, not because country is nouveau-hip.
And when you look around the cock-rock venue that is Pop's and see that odd mix of folks, that makes sense too. We all like Social D. because, hell, pumping fists is more fun than tapping toes.