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Gonzo Report: Bad Religion and Social Distortion’s effects on Chula Vista

Good conversations and mixed vibes at tag-team show

Bad Religion: here to expand your mind and fire up your adrenal gland.
Bad Religion: here to expand your mind and fire up your adrenal gland.
Video:

Bad Religion bassist Jay Bentley reflects on the band's early days playing Iguanas in Tijuana


“I don’t even know this fucking guy, he’s not my friend!” says the man who has just pulled a stranger out of a fight as he leaves with his companion. Said stranger is bloodied from multiple blows to the face and is being transported over the concourse in a wheelchair by medical personnel. All this is happening as Social Distortion is reaching the midpoint of their set at North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre in Chula Vista. The reluctant rescuer and his companion are decked out in the band’s gear, but they’re headed for the exits — maybe to beat the traffic, maybe because their vibe has been spoiled. Either way, he’s not in the mood to talk to me, and neither is the bloody guy in the wheelchair. Oh well, I tried. Just as I tried to get video interviews with Social Distortion fans and was mostly met with “I’m good,” perhaps the douchiest dismissal since “It is what it is.”

Spending time outside of the performance area is not my usual concert behavior, but it’s been a night of exceptions and shifting energy. I blame co-headliners Bad Religion, or more accurately, my preference for that band over Social D. Perhaps it’s a matter of like attracting like, but most of the people I talked to were there to see Bad Religion and happy to discuss what the band’s music meant to them. There was the usual talk of building vocabularies — consulting a dictionary to fully understand the band’s lyrics is a necessity for most fans. An example of what I’m getting at: an interviewee, explaining Bad Religion’s double effect of producing an adrenaline rush and expanding the mind, used “fuck you” and “misanthropic anthropoid” in close conjunction.

Following an opening set by the Lovebombs, who share Social Distortion’s DNA (singer-guitarist Julian James is the son of Social D’s Mike Ness), comes the gathering energy prior to a Bad Religion show energy that finally explodes when the band takes the stage to one of their biggest radio hits, “Infected.” Pre-show, bassist Jay Bentley had described being onstage as a rollercoaster where no one knows exactly what’s going to happen. The audience is included in the ride, and the communal participation reflects that. I told Bentley that every time I’d been to a Bad Religion show, they had played a least one song that made me say, “What the fuck?” This time, I tried to engineer the moment, offering a bribe to get him to play “Victims of the Revolution.” That failed, but I still get my WTF on when they light into “Epiphany,” and it’s clear that I am not the only one who feels that way.

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The pit is energetic, but no more dangerous than usual, with all ages taking part and without fists and elbows being thrown. There is even the occasional crowd surfer being supported by the masses. The end of the set sees smiles all around, and emotions that sometimes border on tears — I spot one guy lying on the ground, exhausted, but with a satisfied grin on his face. That’s when I realize I haven’t shot as much footage as I may need for the video report — but that’s what happens on a rollercoaster.

On the floor before Social Distortion begins, I talk to a woman named Kay, who discloses that she had to push past her anxiety to get out to the show. She asks me what the etiquette of the floor is, if the pit will swallow her up. I tell her my experience and remind her she can go to the back or sides if she feels unsafe. As for me, I feel plenty safe during Social D’s performance, and I occasionally check in on Kay to make sure she’s still standing.

Eventually, I become tired of defending my little piece of turf, because, while Ness and company are solid and their set includes their debut album Mommy’s Little Monster, I’m not getting the energy feedback I need. In fact, I’m getting annoyed by people attempting to hand Ness a drink from the front row, and I wonder if they know anything about the fucking band and the man’s struggles with substance abuse. I start hoping his physical gestures communicating “no” will escalate into him kicking the drink from the person’s hand, but he just keeps playing — and shooting the occasional glare.

The floor is still packed, but the pit starts to take on a “might makes right” tone, with smaller people outside of it getting knocked over on purpose by dickheads three times their size. I head to the concourse, where I can hear Ness’ earnest storytelling style just fine, see bloody face guy, and get in a merch line longer than it should be while the band who adorns those shirts and hoodies is still onstage.

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Bad Religion: here to expand your mind and fire up your adrenal gland.
Bad Religion: here to expand your mind and fire up your adrenal gland.
Video:

Bad Religion bassist Jay Bentley reflects on the band's early days playing Iguanas in Tijuana


“I don’t even know this fucking guy, he’s not my friend!” says the man who has just pulled a stranger out of a fight as he leaves with his companion. Said stranger is bloodied from multiple blows to the face and is being transported over the concourse in a wheelchair by medical personnel. All this is happening as Social Distortion is reaching the midpoint of their set at North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre in Chula Vista. The reluctant rescuer and his companion are decked out in the band’s gear, but they’re headed for the exits — maybe to beat the traffic, maybe because their vibe has been spoiled. Either way, he’s not in the mood to talk to me, and neither is the bloody guy in the wheelchair. Oh well, I tried. Just as I tried to get video interviews with Social Distortion fans and was mostly met with “I’m good,” perhaps the douchiest dismissal since “It is what it is.”

Spending time outside of the performance area is not my usual concert behavior, but it’s been a night of exceptions and shifting energy. I blame co-headliners Bad Religion, or more accurately, my preference for that band over Social D. Perhaps it’s a matter of like attracting like, but most of the people I talked to were there to see Bad Religion and happy to discuss what the band’s music meant to them. There was the usual talk of building vocabularies — consulting a dictionary to fully understand the band’s lyrics is a necessity for most fans. An example of what I’m getting at: an interviewee, explaining Bad Religion’s double effect of producing an adrenaline rush and expanding the mind, used “fuck you” and “misanthropic anthropoid” in close conjunction.

Following an opening set by the Lovebombs, who share Social Distortion’s DNA (singer-guitarist Julian James is the son of Social D’s Mike Ness), comes the gathering energy prior to a Bad Religion show energy that finally explodes when the band takes the stage to one of their biggest radio hits, “Infected.” Pre-show, bassist Jay Bentley had described being onstage as a rollercoaster where no one knows exactly what’s going to happen. The audience is included in the ride, and the communal participation reflects that. I told Bentley that every time I’d been to a Bad Religion show, they had played a least one song that made me say, “What the fuck?” This time, I tried to engineer the moment, offering a bribe to get him to play “Victims of the Revolution.” That failed, but I still get my WTF on when they light into “Epiphany,” and it’s clear that I am not the only one who feels that way.

Sponsored
Sponsored

The pit is energetic, but no more dangerous than usual, with all ages taking part and without fists and elbows being thrown. There is even the occasional crowd surfer being supported by the masses. The end of the set sees smiles all around, and emotions that sometimes border on tears — I spot one guy lying on the ground, exhausted, but with a satisfied grin on his face. That’s when I realize I haven’t shot as much footage as I may need for the video report — but that’s what happens on a rollercoaster.

On the floor before Social Distortion begins, I talk to a woman named Kay, who discloses that she had to push past her anxiety to get out to the show. She asks me what the etiquette of the floor is, if the pit will swallow her up. I tell her my experience and remind her she can go to the back or sides if she feels unsafe. As for me, I feel plenty safe during Social D’s performance, and I occasionally check in on Kay to make sure she’s still standing.

Eventually, I become tired of defending my little piece of turf, because, while Ness and company are solid and their set includes their debut album Mommy’s Little Monster, I’m not getting the energy feedback I need. In fact, I’m getting annoyed by people attempting to hand Ness a drink from the front row, and I wonder if they know anything about the fucking band and the man’s struggles with substance abuse. I start hoping his physical gestures communicating “no” will escalate into him kicking the drink from the person’s hand, but he just keeps playing — and shooting the occasional glare.

The floor is still packed, but the pit starts to take on a “might makes right” tone, with smaller people outside of it getting knocked over on purpose by dickheads three times their size. I head to the concourse, where I can hear Ness’ earnest storytelling style just fine, see bloody face guy, and get in a merch line longer than it should be while the band who adorns those shirts and hoodies is still onstage.

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