“It just kind of hit me one day a few years ago,” says Donald Vercelli when asked exactly when it was that he decided to impersonate Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness. “I sang ‘Ball and Chain,’ ‘Bad Luck,’ ‘Ring of Fire,’ and a few others in a cover band.” Then, Vercelli says, the notion to form a complete Social D tribute band came to him. Socially Distorted is now a year old, and Vercelli is passing convincingly in the role.
Which Social D songs were hardest to perfect? “I would have to say ‘1945’ or ‘Another State of Mind.’ The songs are not technically hard, just blistering fast,” he says. “The timing needs to be spot-on.”
Is there anything he’d do to be more Ness-like? “I need to get the full body tattoos all the way up my neck like him, but I’m pretty sure my day job would have issues with that.”
The real Social D’s been around for about three decades. Their roots go back to a time I call San Diego’s “hall era,” when West Coast punks like Black Flag and the Circle Jerks drove down from Orange County and worked out their young acts playing our Fairmount, Wabash, and Carpenter’s halls. But why is it that only one local radio station airs Social D? “I really don’t understand why. I could see songs like ‘The Creeps’ or ‘1945’ not being radio-friendly, but ‘Story of My Life,’ ‘Ball & Chain’ should be on every rock station in the country.”
As a student of all things Ness, is there something Vercelli’s learned about his de facto mentor that would surprise the rest of Ness’s fans? “I’m not sure if most know about this, but, after Mommy’s Little Monster came out, he was painting houses to make extra money.”
Socially Distorted, October 8, the Griffin (formerly O’Connells), Bay Park, 619-684-1816. $5.