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Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Epic Story of Social Distortion and The Supersuckers

I left work late Monday afternoon and headed into Boston. I was heading in to see a show later that night. Social Distortion was playing in town, along with The Supersuckers and The Blackpool Lights.

I drove down RT 2 East, headed for the city. As I came over a rise in the highway, I could see the entire city of Boston and Cambridge laid out there ahead of me. It was like looking down on a model of the city. Pretty cool.

I drove past Harvard University and made my way down towards Fenway Park. The place where I was going, The Avalon, is located right across the street from Fenway. 'This time, I'm not getting lost,' I told myself. I've been to Boston many times, but it seems like every time I drive in there, I wind up getting lost somewhere along the line. Of course, as far as cities go, Boston is not really that big, so you're never really 'lost', you're just kind of turned around, perpetually turned around at times.

Thankfully it was a Monday night and traffic was pretty light this time of night. I made my way over to Fenway and parked in a lot right across the street from the ballpark. I have to say, I was pretty impressed with myself for making it over there without having to turn around or swear at anybody, not even once.

It was only about 6:30 PM and I had time to kill before the show so I walked over to the club to see if anything was going on outside. There were a few people hanging around and there were some guys loading up the storage compartments on the busses parked outside with cases of Rolling Rock beer. I kind of laughed at the sight and continued on past the club. Time to get something to eat.

I headed over to a place behind Fenway Park called The Baseball Tavern. It's a really cool bar that's kind of off the beaten path, unlike The Cask n Flagon or Boston Beer Works, which are located right across the street from Fenway. The Baseball Tavern is a few streets away. That's where you go if you're in the know, ya know?

I sat at the bar, had a whiskey and a beer and ordered a sandwich. I had plenty of time before the show so I took my time, had another beer and watched some Monday Night Football pre-game.

Around 7:30 I settled up and walked back over to the club. As you walk into The Avalon you enter a big hallway where there is a coat room, restroom entrances and of course, the t-shirt tables. The first table I was presented with was the Social Distortion table. I checked out all the Social D shirts but nothing was really jumping out at me. There was one design they had that I liked but it was on some big hoodie thing and I was not interested in that. I am not a big concert t-shirt guy anymore. I used to buy one at every show I went to, but now, eh, who needs another t-shirt..

I walked farther down the dim hallway into the club. In the corners of the hallway were these cool statues that looked like Robbie the Robot from the movie Forbidden Planet, except they were painted white and they had these neat plasma globes inside of them.

As I got to the end of the hallway, right near the entrance to the main part of the club, at a much smaller table, was the Supersuckers t-shirt guy. He had a Philadelphia 76'er's hoodie on and a Boston Red Sox ball-cap. 'That's a weird combo,' I thought, 'You're not supposed to mix sports cities like that.'

There was a clear container on the corner of the table that looked like an old plastic candy jar and there was duct tape stuck diagonally across the front of the container bearing the words 'FOR THE BAND'. I shook my head and laughed. Fucking guys.

I checked out all the Supersuckers t-shirts. Again, nothing was really saying 'buy me' but I wanted to help spread the evil of The Supersuckers so I asked the guy how much for a shirt. '15,' he said, 'and I'll throw in a CD for another $5.'

'I've already got all of those CD's' I said, smiling.

'Do you have 'Devil's Food'? I've got more of those coming out.'

'Yeah, got that one too.'

He just looked at me, grinned and shrugged like, 'Oh well'.

I told him I'd probably come back and buy a shirt after I'd had a couple drinks. 'Bring one back for me,' he said.

'Ok. That I'll do,' I told him.

I headed into the club, bought a beer and stood around near the stage barrier waiting for the first band, The Blackpool Lights. While I was waiting around, I could not help but notice some of the characters in there. There was one kid there with, I'm guessing it was his Mom, who could not have been more than 10 years old. He looked a little nervous. There was another kid who looked about 12 or 13, hair slicked back, wearing a black leather jacket with the words Social Distortion on the back. It looked like the words were hand drawn. That's pretty cool I thought.

After a short time, The Blackpool Lights, a band from Kansas City, walked out on stage. They walked onto stage to the sound of complete and total silence. Nobody clapped, cheered or yelled. Just silence. 'Alright that's the way we like to make an entrance,' the singer said, 'subdued'.

Undaunted, they launched into their set. The lead singer played a Tele and the lead guitar player had a gold top Les Paul that had the finish completely worn off where his forearm rested on the body of the guitar as he slammed the strings. Impressed? Yes I was. The drummer had on a prosthetic leg below the knee but you'd never know it from his playing.

I did not know any of their songs, but I thought The Blackpool Lights put on a great show. The band grew on the people in the crowd too and they became more animated and cheered louder at the end of each song. The band seemed to appreciate that. The singer noted that this was their first time playing Boston and they liked the response. I enjoyed The Blackpool Lights set. I liked their songs and they even mixed in a short little Tom Petty cover into their set. I'm planning to check out their latest CD very soon.

After The Blackpool Lights finished, I headed over to the bar and got a couple Sam Adams beers. One for me, one for the Supersuckers t-shirt guy. I walked back to the shirt table and he was talking to somebody about buying a shirt. I put the beer on the table and said, 'Here you go dude!'

'Hey! I was only joking before, but thanks! That's the best present I've gotten all night!'

'No problem,' I said. 'Have a good one!'

I headed back to the front of the stage and waited for The Supersuckers. I only found out about these guys a relatively short time ago after reading about them over on Faster Than the World. Shit it's only been six months since I first heard these guys? I feel like I've been listening to them all my life.

I was really looking forward to seeing The Supersuckers, ever since I had seen on their site that they were touring with Social D out on the West Coast, I had eagerly hoped that they would come East. I tried not to get my hopes up, because that line-up is almost too good. I figured it was a West Coast stint for both bands and I would not get lucky enough for them to stick together for an East Coast tour, but lo and behold, one day I checked their site and there was a big list of Social D East Coast dates and The Supersuckers were listed on the Boston date. It took me about 30 seconds to get my ticket order in, then it was time to wait.

Now the waiting was over and I was at the front of the stage, right in the middle, right next to the barrier. The Supersuckers came out to a lot of cheers from the Monday night crowd. It was hard to tell how many people there actually knew who they were, but when lead singer and bass player Eddie Spaghetti walked up to the mic and said, 'Hey everybody, we're The Supersuckers, The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World!' the cheering ensued. And with that, it was on and they proceeded to rock Boston's ass with the appropriately named song, 'Rock Your Ass'.

'I said I'm Eddie Spaghetti here to rock yo asses steady. Are you ready? Then grab a drink and chug-a-lug, have some sex and take some drugs, aright!'

The Supersuckers are all about not taking things seriously, having fun and a pair of Les Paul guitars with lots of distortion, wah-pedal fueled solos and a lot of crashing symbols. In short, a great fucking time.

The Supersuckers put on a great show and had a lot of fun with the audience. Eddie commented appreciatively on how many people were there to see the opening band on a Monday night. 'You know, even though it's a Monday, it feels almost like a really great Thursday' he joked.

Some of the other songs from the Supersuckers set included, 'Pretty Fucked Up,' 'Paid', 'Creepy Jackalope Eye', and 'The Evil Powers of Rock n Roll'. They did a whole bunch of the songs that I knew and that made it more fun.

At one point in the show Eddie let everybody in the band play his bass. Each member of the band acted thrilled and surprised at the chance to feel the power of the bass guitar. Even the drummer got into the act, hitting the strings with one drumstick while he kept the beat with the other. After everybody in the band had their turn, Eddie put the neck of the bass out over the stage barrier to let people in the crowd feel the awesome power of the bass guitar too.

It was a lot of fun. A really great time. As the band was ending the set, Eddie told the crowd that he'd be in the back of the club afterwards to meet people if they wanted to. He said they had special people waiting in the back to hold the places for everybody standing up near the front, 'so if you're in the front don't worry, your spot for Social D will still be there waiting for you when you come back...'

Wise ass. I just shook my head and laughed.

So of course, after The Supersuckers finished their set, with everyone in the band bowing in unison in a Skynyrd like fashion, I felt obliged to head back over to the shirt area and shake Eddie Spaghetti's hand. There were some people there talking to him but it was not overly crowded. I waited till he was done talking to one guy then I went up and shook his hand. I told him it was a great show and thanked him for rockin' my ass steady. 'Eddie Spaghetti! Thanks for rockin' my ass steady!' was my exact quote.

I have to say, I thought that it was extremely cool that Eddie went and hung out back there and just talked to everybody and met people after his set. You don't see that happen. Ever. Well, I've never seen that happen anyway...

After my quick brush with rock stardom I headed back to the stage, much to the chagrin of those around me. Now I'm not that big of a guy and I was not shoving anybody and I was saying 'scuse me' and what not, basically trying to make my way through the crowd as unobtrusively as possible, but a couple people got agitated that I was trying to get back to the middle of the floor. One guy was all full of attitude because I had accidentally bumped into him and his girlfriend had to move her foot.

I was not in there to cause trouble or fight with anybody but I just looked at him and calmly said, 'Do you know where you are?'

'Yeah, I do. I know where I am, do you?'

I just smiled. 'Have you ever been to one of these shows before? Because in case you don't know yet, there's a good chance that someone might bump into you here, so I think you should relax a little. Now, sorry I bumped into you on my way by.'

I turned around and kept going and somebody was grabbing my shirt. I don't know if it was him or his girlfriend, or somebody else. I don't know who was still tugging on my shirt, but I was going out of my way to be polite as I walked through the crowd, so I got tried of it. I turned around and was like, 'WHO THE FUCK IS GRABBING ON ME? WHAT THE FUCK?'

One of the guys next to me said, 'hey you wanna get by, no problem.'

'Thanks' I said. 'I think some of these people have never been to a show like this before.'

I had found my spot back near the middle of the stage. I was not standing next to the speakers again. I know what happens when you stand next to the speakers. I was going right back to where I was, or at least back to the same general area, so sorry if I bumped into you on the way by.

Ironically I noticed later that the people who were so agitated by my passage earlier wound up standing right on the edge of where the pit was. I hope they did not mind getting bumped into. Heh.

Once again, it was time to wait, but it was not long before the lights went down and Social D came out onto the stage. Mike Ness emerged bearing a dozen or so roses. He threw one or two out into the crowd and then threw out the whole bunch.

At this point the crush was on as I was pushed into the people in front of me by the people behind. The people in front pushed back and that's how it went for a few minutes, like a big wave moving back and forth until it finally broke and the pit got going.

I was right on the edge of it so I got in and jumped around for a while then jumped back out to rest and watch the show. I only went in a few times because I mainly wanted to watch Social Distortion play, but I stayed near the edge and when I got the urge I'd jump in there.

Social Distortion was great. They are such a great band live. Mike Ness is so intense on stage as he is performing and his voice has that angry quality to it, like he's just spitting out his rage and anger over all the junk in his life with every word as he lays into the strings of his gold top Les Paul. Then when a song ends, he has this funny sense of humor as he banters with the crowd.

(image © courtesy Jeremy Saffer)

'You know', he starts, 'I kind of have a feeling, some of you might not be making it into work tomorrow morning... then after a moment he says with a smile, 'ah fuck that fucking job man... tell your boss Mike Ness said you can have the day off.'

Some of the songs they did included 'Reach For The Sky', 'Nickels and Dimes', 'Prison Bound', 'Mommy's Little Monster', 'Ball and Chain' and 'Sometimes I Do', which also featured some guest vocals from Eddie Spaghetti.

One of the humorous moments that occurred during the show was when Mike noticed the young kid that I had described earlier, 'I noticed some of you are here with your Mothers, you guys should consider yourselves lucky...' then he saw the young kid and started laughing and said, 'look at you, how the hell did you get in here anyway?'

Social D ended the night with the Johnny Cash tune, 'Ring of Fire' and then headed off stage. The show was over.

(image © courtesy Jeremy Saffer)

I hung around near the barrier as I waited for people to clear out. At one point someone from the stage crew dropped a set list down to the floor and it landed right next to me. I thought I had a cool souviner there for a second, but he told me it was for one of the very eager female fans who was leaning over the barrier. I handed it over to her and she was pretty excited. I would have liked to have had a set list, but all it is, is a printout with a list of songs on it, so no big deal.

After the crowd had thinned out I headed out the exit, past the members of The Blackpool Lights who were handing out free posters, and back into the night, happy that I had seen a great show and knowing that I did not have to go to work in the morning.

Even thought Mike Ness had said that I could take the next day off, I had thought ahead and cleared it with the boss first.

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