Life has given Mike Ness plenty of opportunities to fold his hand. The 42-year-old Social Distortion leader has battled heroin addiction, seen the inside of a jail cell more than once, gotten dropped from a major label after failing to rack up the "hits," and watched an endless parade of jokers co-opt his greased-up pompadour and sleeve tattoos en route to charming the dollars out of the TRL generation. The biggest blow occurred in 2000, when Dennis Danell, his childhood friend and the band's founding guitarist, died of a brain aneurysm. Yet Ness and a slightly retooled Social D soldier onward with searing, gut-stomping intensity; their potent new album, Sex, Love, and Rock 'n' Roll (their first in eight years), proves there's no rust on this punkabilly-blues muscle car. The only knock on Ness is that he's prone to overdoing the "keepin' it punk-rock real" banter between tunes. No doubt he's earned the right to remind fans of his quarter-century of survival with integrity, but it isn't necessary: The great songs and the bottomless passion with which they're delivered are what really speak volumes. Do not miss this show.
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