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Social distortion and bad religion were F@#$!ng glorious

Saturday night it was 1985 again for three hours. Two bands that made their mark in the early 80s, Bad Religion and Social Distortion, were absolutely murdered during Revolution Live Outdoors. It was glorious. Oh my god…it was fucking glorious!

Bad Religion appeared on stage promptly at 8 p.m. For 80 minutes we heard and felt song after song after song, expertly curated from their library of seventeen studio albums. They didn’t just play these songs. They punished their instruments, they punished their voices, and most importantly, they punished their hearts. Everything in our favor. These mostly long-time members of Bad Religion persuaded the audience, back to back, to feel exactly how they felt. What they felt…. Well, after 44 long years of tough punk duels, there was intensity and joy in finally reaching the other side. The performance was a live exhibition of well-written, intelligent, melodic songs, made possible by a persistent group of dedicated, talented musicians. The set ended with “American Jesus” and an excerpt from their 1982 debut album, How could hell be worse?, “We’re going to die.” Glorious. Damn glorious.

At 9.45 am it was Social Distortion’s turn. While the current band has been together long enough not to be categorized as hired guns, when you say Social Distortion you’re talking about the band’s frontman, singer/guitarist/songwriter Mike Ness. Agnostic Front’s Vinnie Stigma might be punk rock’s most interesting man (at least according to Simon and Shuster’s new book The most interesting man in the world), but Mike Ness, who has his own book, The story of my life, is not far behind. Heroin addiction, prison, the assholes of the music industry and more would have rocked most of it. Not Mike Ness. The dude has persevered, all the while releasing anthemic rock songs like ‘Story of my Life’, ‘Ball and Chain’, ‘Reach for the Stars’ and many more. Side note: Social Distortion is and always has been an American rock band (NOT a punk band). Back to Saturday’s performance.

Social Distortion’s set couldn’t possibly have been more perfect.

The sound system at Revolution was powerful and clear and the even more tightly packed audience sang and danced in sync with the highly skilled band. Between songs, the audience hung on every word of a now older, wiser Mike Ness. Ninety minutes later, after an encore of two Johnny Cash classics, “Folsom Prison” and “Ring of Fire,” a sated crowd spilled onto the streets of downtown Ft. Lauderdale.

Like I said, when you say social distortion, you say Mike Ness. It’s impossible to ignore the fact that Mike Ness was treated for tonsil cancer less than a year ago. He talked about it from the stage. Of all the bad things he’s been through, he described his battle with cancer as being on another level. But here he was, still singing. Try as we might, it was impossible to ignore his physical and emotional pain. This guy worked 46 years to become a star. Now, damn cancer.

Yes, 1985. That was 40 years ago. The concept of borrowed time makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you think. Most of all, like great music, it gives you a feeling. If not now, when?

It was 1985 again on Saturday night at Revolution… bloody glorious.

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