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Pop Music Review

Noisy Wake for Social Distortion's Danell

May 08, 2000|RANDY LEWIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The punk-rock wake for Social Distortion guitarist Dennis Danell on Saturday in Irvine predictably found a lot of bands making a lot of noise, yet it was the singing of one man with one acoustic guitar that rang loudest of all.

That was Social D frontman Mike Ness, sharing his loss as well as celebrating the life of his friend and right-hand man, who died in February, apparently of a brain aneurysm. Danell left a wife and two children, who will get the proceeds from Saturday's six-hour, nine-band benefit at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.

The Offspring, X, Pennywise and T.S.O.L. combined to make the show a typically energetic, often anarchic, fleetingly sorrowful meeting of the punk generations.

After their sets, Ness started his musical eulogy to Danell alone, with a sparse but wrenching performance of "When the Angels Sing," written several years ago after his grandmother died. With more emotional power than all the high-wattage thrashing that preceded him, Ness sang straight from the heart and to the heart about inconsolable loss. The other surviving band members joined Ness for an hour's worth of Social Distortion music, with Cadillac Tramps guitarist Johnny Wickersham handling Danell's sheeting rhythm guitar parts.

The unspoken message was that the best way to honor Danell's memory was to serve up the music he played and loved full throttle. That sparked full-throttle stage diving, as well as the moshing fans' destruction of a couple of dozen permanent seats in front of the stage.

A two-stage setup and alternating performance times allowed hustling fans to catch all the music and created a microcosm of Southern California punk. The grass-roots intimacy of the small side stage during fast and furious sets by Agent Orange and others neatly complemented the grand-scale main-stage performances by punk's big guns.

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