"Festivals here, festivals there – all you need are four great bands," said Mike Ness, lead singer-songwriter and supreme guitarist for punk rock stalwarts Social Distortion. No one disagreed with that sentiment, uttered during the band's jam-packed Tuesday night Canalside Live concert.
The show is the second-last of Canalside's outdoor season, which finishes on Aug. 30 with rapper Nas. Tuesday was a mini-fest of sorts with co-headlining Social Distortion and Flogging Molly, and opening acts the Devil Makes Three and Le Butcherettes.
It was a night of all-out expressions ranging in sonic stylings from punk (and its vagaries) to Americana to go-go performance art. The overcast weather also kept the crowd on its toes, at times sprinkling down, and necessitating deft squeegeeing by stage hands between acts.
"Thank you for all showing up and not going to the Jonas Brothers," said Ness, referring to the pop-rock show at KeyBank Center. "I think this is the biggest crowd that we've played for in Buffalo."
"So Far Away," from the band's eponymous 1990 release, was set opener, sliding into "Through These Eyes," punk poetry about love run off the rails (one of the Social D. tenets). Another is "Buffalo is always good," a proverbial tip of his cap to the band's loyal fans here.
"Don't Drag Me Down," from its 1996 "White Light, White Heat, White Trash" album, with lyrics that begin "Children are taught to hate," was introduced by Ness as being from "the same album as the last two songs" – "Untitled" and "Dear Lover." He had more to say. "I'm a patriot," he said, "racism is unacceptable."
"Don't you think you deserve a day off?" he asked/goaded. "Tell your boss to call Mike Ness," before their set closer, "Story of My Life." "You guys are fantastic, thank you very much," a wall of feedback ending the show. Fans stood in place, not trusting that an encore was imminent even as a recording of "Ring of Fire" (Social D. famously covered it in '90) by Johnny Cash played.
Flogging Molly, the Celtic punk seven-piece ensemble, also played a lucky set of 13 raucous songs, opening with "Drunken Lullabies." At the four-song mark lead vocalist/guitarist Dave King asked, "Is this what you call humidity?," removing his jacket. "I won't be needing this anymore."
The band's romp inspired pockets of dancing, especially during "a song of celebration," "Tobacco Island" and "Devil's Dance Floor." King's wife, amazing fiddler Bridget Regan, took over lead vocals on "A Prayer for Me In Silence." It was introduced by King: "And now for something completely different," acknowledging the Monty Python reference.
Midset, King introduced his bandmates, praised the acts who came before them, and expressed deepest gratitude for Social D. for bringing them along on the road. The closer, "If I Ever Leave This World Alive," was a merry, rainy singalong.
Banjo-driven (fabulous Cooper McBean) and with big vocal harmonies by all on stage, Americana punk band the Devil Makes Three covered Black Sabbath's "War Pigs," into "Black Irish," bridging all the genres happening during the night.
Mexican quartet Le Butcherettes, with singer/guitarist/keyboardist Teri Gender Bender in fringed red satin circus performer outfit, inaugurated the night with dabs of performance art. The band's original "Dress Off" had the group disappearing down low on the stage behind amps and instruments.
Social Distortion and Flogging Molly
With The Devil Makes Three and Le Butcherettes, Aug. 27 at Canalside Live.