Author and Photographer: Jonathan Stark of Stark Raving Mad Photography LLC
On Saturday September 14th, I drove down from my home in the Rockies, late as is typical, to the new Mission Ballroom in Denver, Colorado. I was getting ready to shoot for two iconic bands, Social Distortion and Flogging Molly. I had thought and planned what lenses I would bring, where I would be shooting from, would I have enough time in the first three songs to get in all of my shots, would I do well enough to bring honor to my craft and do justice to the veteran performers who have had decades of images memorializing their career?
As previously stated, I was late and therefore it is with great remorse that I must confess I missed Le Butcherettes. Sorry. I was in time to catch The Devil Makes Three. Glad I did. It was absolutely fantastic and not at all what I had expected in the mix. Their style was engaging and their stage presence bluegrass punky and mesmerizing. Remember, I’m not a trained musictician- a person learned in the nuances of different musical styles. Right? Lucia Turino on Upright Bass was a treat, so smooth and a lovely voice. We need more Upright Bass in music. Pete Bernhard and Cooper McBean were classy and crisp. They’ve been at it a while and it shows. Check them out.
Next up were my friends in Social Distortion. I say friends not in the familiar sense, but in the same vein as the populace that grew up with a background soundtrack consisting of 90’s punk.
With four decades of music and live performances behind Social Distortion, these guys are absolute pros. While Mike Ness is the only original member of Social Distortion still at it, the other members come with their own tenure of experience. I mean, Jonny “2 Bags” Wickersham on guitar was with Youth Brigade and US Bombs. David Hidalgo Jr. was with Suicidal Tendencies in the early to mid 2000s. My expectations were high and I was not disappointed in the slightest.
Mike Ness has not lost a step, from his vocals to his fashionable appearance. That guy keeps everything running tight- the sound and the presentation. I absolutely loved watching him and the guys play and move around the stage. The first three songs are a blur since I was a focused on shooting, but I will tell you that the rest of the show was outstanding. I took an opportunity to sit back and enjoy the songs, stage lights and countless familiar sounds coming from the stage. Classic Social Distortion.
From the opening to the end, Social Distortion performed as solid as I had seen them back in the 90’s. They played a litany of hits which quenched the flames of desire coming from an eager audience. Too much? The audience’s anticipation and mood built to the final crescendo with the sounds of “Ring of Fire” and “Story of My Life.” Crescendo is the musical equivalent of a climax or pinnacle or peak. Everyone, from young to old, drunk to sober, sang along. That’s one of my favorite things to watch, the audience and the band connecting in those moments. Satisfaction. There were some surprises along the way, but I’ll save that for you to discover on your own.
On that night Flogging Molly closed things down. I have listened to them off and on for over a decade and had been listening to them on the regular in preparation for the show. You know there are some bands that are good on recording and garbage live, others that sound amazing regardless and others that sound great on the album and are outstanding live. Flogging Molly is the latter. Like Chick-fil-A sauce on those nuggets. Holy crap, what an energetic, engaging performance. I can’t believe I waited so long to see them play. Don’t make that mistake.
I love that Flogging Molly incorporated so many different sounds, styles and delivery into their performance. Dave King and his wife Bridget are quite the pair. She is very talented- singing and playing the tin whistle and violin. That studious looking guy Matt Hensley is on the accordion. Wait, no, rocking the accordion. All the team played a vital role. Get it? Side note, apparently Nathan Maxwell, bassist extraordinaire, is a local Denver resident. Which means he’s obviously awesome.
You don’t want to end up like one of my kids on a recent movie outing. Where we live there’s only one small theater that commonly shows only two movies at a time. On this day the grandparents took them to the theater where my seven year old ran straight to the Aquaman door only to find out they were seeing Mary Poppins. This concert was not like that punch to the gut. Not only did we get to see both movies, neither sucked. Flogging Molly and Social Distortion, I will definitely partake of your offerings in the future.
Social Distortion Slideshow!
Flogging Molly Slideshow!
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