Nevermind The Posers

See ya in the pit.

Music grows from its roots: Social Distortion, Dan Sartain, and The Action Design at Starland Ballroom. August 12, 2010

Review by Angela Blasi
August 1, 2010-

Picture it – Starland Ballroom is packed for a sold out show.  The room is a buzz with a mature crowd, filled to capacity, truly embodying the notion of standing room only.  The newly renovated space is home for the night to a congregation of faces, many of them creased deeply in the smile lines.  Yet, still the air is rife with the same energy one would have found back in 1988.  Yes, this is Social Distortions crowd.  Playing with openers The Action Design and Dan Sartain, I knew this was going to be one hell of a concert.
First to take the stage was the four piece rock group The Action Design.  Having risen from the ashes of former punk band Tsunami Bomb, this latest outfit proved to encapsulate the older punk rock roots while allowing the music to evolve further.  Driven by the eclectic mix of sounds, often fusing punk with rock and dance grooves, The Action Design graced the stage with an attitude of laid back professionals.  Happily grooving along to their own music with the audience, one could sense the groups chemistry as they interacted well with one another, feeding a vibe that only enhanced their performance.  Musically solid, Emily Whitehurst sang each note with grace and style, even seamlessly taking her place behind the keyboard, complimenting each bass groove and guitar riff to create a driving force.  Songs “Desperation” and “Still Standing” are available via 7″ vinyl release also titled Desperation, courtesy of Pandacide Creative Lending.  All in all, definitely a band I could see myself rocking out to driving down a long stretch of open road, just singing along, feeling the music.  I dig it.

Dan Sartain was next on stage.  A tall, lanky figure with slicked jet black hair and guitar strapped to his back, Dan stood center stage crooning rockabilly blues tunes to the audience, looking like the movies Crybaby and The Outsiders had a baby, complete with an old school microphone.  A simple set up consisting of a drummer and bassist to back him, he quickly stood out as a person of interest.  His voice, steady and sincere yet rich with the tones of musical forefathers like Johnny Cash, delivered something refreshing- rockabilly and blues- pure, simple and most of all genuine.  A fitting description, considering he hails from Birmingham, Alabama.  Now, I’m no die-hard rockabilly fan, it’s not something I listen to often but I do appreciate good music when I hear it.  Mr. Dan Sartain definitely is an up and coming artist in his genre.  With songs like “Ruby Carol” and “Atheist Funeral,” he has that punk rock devil-may-care attitude coupled with a quiet confidence that shines through effortlessly.  He’s been dubbed the “post-punk Johnny Cash” and I can see why.  His guitar riffs coupled with that voice, which is almost too perfectly rockabilly to be believed, make the moniker not only fitting, but something to be worn like a badge of honor.  I definitely recommend giving him a listen.

Now on to the main event!As soon as the Social Distortion banner took its rightful place in the air and the opening music sounded, the entire crowd came to unified attention and began to cheer; the show was about to begin.  One by one, the band members took their places on stage and in one second, tore right into “Road Zombie”.  One second more, the great Mike Ness geared up and completed the line up, being welcomed with even more cheers from the eager fans.  The music kept on coming and without missing a beat, the band began playing “Bye Bye Baby.”  Social D is one of those bands I’ve been listening to for years, sometimes without even realizing it, but never had the chance to see live.  As soon as Mike opened his mouth and that voice, that unmistakable instrument that’s defined the bands’ sound just as much as the music itself rang in my ears, a smile spread across my face.  All those years of listening and here it was, live and in the flesh before me sounding just as raw, perfect, and distinct as I’ve always heard it.  As the set continued on I could not help but notice the amazing atmosphere of the room.  In the pit, a myriad of converse plunged toward the ceiling as the younger fans faithfully breathed the words to every song while being passed along a sea of hands as if it was the last concert of their lives.  The rest of the crowd, almost all which were much older than myself, (some even bringing their own kids to share in the musical legacy) was completely drenched in positive vibes.  Throughout the entire show there was no division of band and crowd; it felt like a family had come together in the same place to share in something amazing and greater than themselves.  Ness spoke to the crowd casually but it never felt lengthy or put on, more like a friend you haven’t seen in a while, busting your balls and having a beer with you.  Despite playing since the 80’s and facing a host of trials and tribulations as a band, Social Distortion has not lost steam.  Giving it their all, the show was high energy from start to finish.  Time was of no concern that night, an hour and a half flew by like nothing, yet the group never once slowed down or compromised their sound, even playing four encore songs, ending the night with a great cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”  Every thing about this show was amazing – the band, their music, their live performance, skill, charisma and most of all the passion brought to the table that made this one of the best shows I’ve been to in a while.

Complete Set List:

    1. “Road Zombie” / “Bye Bye Baby”
    2. “Under My Thumb”
    3. “Bad Luck”
    4. “Don’t Drag Me Down”
    5. “The Creeps”
    6. “Another State Of Mind”
    7. “Mommy’s Little Monster”
    8. “Sick Boys”
    9. “Reach For The Sky”
    10. “Ball and Chain”
    11. “Highway 101”
    12. “Sometimes I Do”
    13. “Still Alive”


    1. “Prison Bound”
    2. “Nickels and Dimes”
    3. “Making Believe” (Jimmy Work cover)
    4. “Ring Of Fire” (Johnny Cash cover)

One Response to “Music grows from its roots: Social Distortion, Dan Sartain, and The Action Design at Starland Ballroom.”

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