LIVE at The Observatory North Park
January 13, 2023 by Christina Sanchez
After having to reschedule November shows due to the flu, Social Distortion made their way back to San Diego and The Observatory to make the shows up, and even added extra nights due to high demand. The OC favorites led by Mike Ness have been punk icons for more than 40 years and show no signs of stopping
On any normal night, Social Distortion features Ness on guitar and vocals, Johnny “2 Bags” Wickersham on guitar, Brent Harding on bass, and David Hidalgo, Jr. on drums, but we’ll circle back to the lineup.



San Diego, California

January 3, 2023

Social D has a monster catalogue to choose from for live shows, which surely makes it difficult to select a setlist! For successful bands like Social D, they can be victims of that success. No matter what they pick as their setlist for any given night, when there are time limits at venues, they can’t play every one of their hits. Bands like Social D can play for hours and still not get to that certain song that was a big part of the story or our lives. That’s how deep their music catalogue is, and how much their fans love them.

Despite the cold and rainy night in SoCal, it was another sold-out crowd that filled the venue for Social Distortion and their special opener, Urethane. The passion for Social D’s music and signature style has gone on for decades, but Urethane, that a band new to the scene but they are already opening eyes and ears.
The brainchild of legendary skateboarder and artist Steve Caballero, punk band Urethane is full of talented musicians: Chad Ruiz on bass, Dylan Wade on drums, Tim Fennelly guitar, and Caballero handling vocals and guitar.

Urethane rocked the Observatory with energy and showmanship, and even played some awesome covers: “Where Eagles Dare” by Misfits and “Anything, Anything” by Dramarama.

Between sets you could feel the temperature rise and as soon as the larger-than-life skeleton draped the back of the stage by the drum kit, the crowd was definitely getting antsy. The chatter surrounded guitarist Jonny “2 Bags” Wickersham, who was missing the tour. The long-time bandmate, who replaced original guitarist Dennis Donnell, hurt his neck and shoulder. As a result, he had to sit out this tour. Filling in was Eagles of Death Metal shredder, Josh Jove. A few fans caught the band up at the House of Blues Anaheim earlier, and the comparisons were being floated. Only time would tell how solid Social D sounded with the Death Metal dude.

As the main event show time drew closer, the energy in the venue escalated. Once the crowd’s sonic heroes appeared, the enthusiastic crowd gave cheers and “Whoooos” of excitement. Then the silhouette of David Hidalgo taking his seat behind the drum kit stopped the chatter and everyone’s showtime face was on as the Sick Boys from Fullerton were in the house!
Ness looked dapper as usual and was dressed to the nines. With his devilish smile, he strummed his guitar as they opened to “So Far Away,” and just like that we all got in a time machine as the older crowd turned into teens again as they sang along to every single word.

Just like Springsteen, Ness engaged with the crowd throughout the night. At one point, he shared his excitement for this “residency” and staying in one place for multiple nights. He said 2023 would be a great year for Social Distortion and a new album was headed our way. Just like in Anaheim, it was evident Ness and his bandmates were very happy to be there and he repeatedly thanked the fans and the city of San Diego for their ongoing support.

One other thing became abundantly clear; the energy and excitement was there, but the band brought the electricity too. Jove fit in, and the fans that were concerned were all in.
The hit parade took off; they played a nice mix of classics, rarities, and songs off their new record, which is “early punk” inspired. Needless to say, the band was in sync (no pun intended), they were loud and playing inspired music. Like the icon he is, Ness displayed his vocal talent then stood upright sporting his universally recognizable Orange County guitar!

Social D tore through “Reach for the Sky,” “Mommy’s Little Monster,” “I Wasn’t Born to Follow,” “Tonight,” “Ghost Town Blues,” and “Over You.”
As Ness paced the front of the stage to play to the crowd, Hidalgo reminded us how amazing of a drummer he is – which is to be expected when you start playing at age four and your dad is in Los Lobos!

Love is a burning thing and it makes a fiery ring, bound by wild desire, I fell into a ring of fire.”

It was an energetic and passionate show with fans singing along at the top of their lungs, even to the cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” As each hit started, the crowd hollered their approval. And just like that, the show was over and Social D was exiting stage left.
Like the sound of a nearby jet taking off from Miramar, the crowd drew the band back out for more. For their encore, “Ball and Chain” and the June Cash classic made popular by her husband Johnny, “Ring of Fire” drew a massive overflow of joy to close the night out perfectly.

With more than a month of sold-out California shows, Social Distortion gets a small break and will head to Australia and New Zealand for a string of dates with Bad Religion. We look forward to seeing them back on our shores – and hearing their new album – later this year!


by Tiny Toyland



%d bloggers like this: