Sun. Jun 16th, 2024

Punk Legends Social Distortion and Bad Religion Rock West Des Moines, IA

Last week I attended the Bad Religion and Social Distortion co-headlining tour in West Des Moines, IA.  It had been over 20 years since I had seen Bad Religion and it was my first time seeing Social Distortion.  The venue was the newly remodeled Val Air Ballroom with a capacity of approximately 3000 people.  The crowd was full of punk fans of both young and old.  Given how long these two bands have been playing it was no surprise to see a large number of fans that could be classified as senior citizens.  

Pulling up to the venue I could see a line around the building of fans waiting for doors to open.  I joined the line and overheard discussion of the various punk band and skate companies shirts you could spot throughout the crowd.  The venue filled up quickly and it was difficult to walk through the venue before the opening band even went on.  

LOVECRIMES opened and received a warm reception from the crowd who was packed in a way you usually only see for headlining acts.  LOVECRIMES is fronted by Julian Ness, son of Social Distortion’s Mike Ness.  There’s definitely a physical resemblance as well as a similar style of playing and vocals.  They came out with good energy and the crowd seemed to enjoy them quite a bit.  It was a great start to the evening.  

Bad Religion and Social Distortion have been alternating who closes on the tour and the first one up tonight was Social Distortion.  This tour is their first since they had to postpone touring and recording because of Mike Ness’ tonsil cancer diagnosis and treatment.  The crowd was eager to see him back and there was a buzz in the air.  They opened the show with “Through These Eyes” before going into “I Was Wrong”.  The crowd reaction was great and the room was packed.  Ness was pretty talkative, taking time to banter throughout the set.  He spoke about how the band and Bad Religion have known each other for a long time but never toured together until now.  Making sure to point out that it was not because they didn’t like each other just that it never occurred to them.  He spoke about writing “1945” in history class and believing the US had to get involved in that war while expressing his distaste for nazi’s.   Later in the set he referred to his treatment as a medical mishap when speaking about how the recording of a new album was interrupted.  He said he wanted to get a tour under his belt before recording the vocals before playing one of the new songs “Over You”.  The set was full of fan favorites.  After the new song they  closed the set out with a killer run of four of their biggest songs, “Reach for the Sky”, “Ball and Chain” “Story of My Life” and their cover of “Ring of Fire”.  During that last run of songs the crowd was into it even more than earlier and it seemed as though the majority of the venue was singing along to every word.  

Bad Religion came out with a lot of energy and the crowd was really feeling it.  They gave the crowd a lot to cheer about while playing a set full of fan favorites from throughout their entire 40 plus year career.  Among the noteworthy songs were “Los Angeles Is Burning”, “Fuck You” “Do What You Want” and “You”.  Personal favorites for me were an absolutely rocking “I Want To Conquer the World”, a version of “Generator” that started out slow and then built up to its usual speed, and two albums that were a big part of my soundtrack to high school “21st Century Digital Boy” and “Infected”.  As Mike Ness did earlier in the evening lead singer Greg Graffin spoke about how despite being two punk bands from the same area for decades they had never toured together before.  They also teased that might be back in the Des Moines area again soon to much applause.  After a 4 song run of “No Control”, “Generator”, “We’re Only Gonna Die” and “You” the band left the stage.  As a few minutes went by the crowd grew louder with their cheering and stomping, urging the band to return for an encore of “Sorrow” and “American Jesus”.  

I walked away being glad I drove the three hours up from Kansas City to cover the show.  It was apparent through the night that the crowd was really enjoying the opportunity to see two legendary punk bands in the same evening.  Both bands played very strong sets including some of their most popular songs among fans and really just rocked West Des Moines that night.  It was impressive to see that these bands that have been around for 40 plus years can still come out and give a hell of a show that impresses both the young and old in the crowd.