By Felicity Clarke, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – American punk rock band Social Distortion will play at Circo Voador in Lapa this Friday as part of their first ever South American tour. Despite a career that spans three decades, the current stint which kicked off in Argentina last week is the veteran grungers premiere Latin American outing.

Social Distortion lead singer Mike Ness, photo by Edvill/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Led by Mike Ness, vocalist, guitarist and only remaining original band member, Social Distortion are often hailed as one of the leading groups in the American hardcore punk explosion of the 1980s.

The band was formed in Orange County, California in 1979 by seventeen year old Ness, drummer Casey Royer and brothers Rikk and Frank Agnew. Dennis Danell soon joined to play bass (and later rhythm guitar), while Royer and the Agnew’s broke away to form similarly important West Coast punk outfit The Adolescents.

At the time a US rock band’s potential for success relied on heavy radio play and influential DJ Rodney Bingenheimer at L.A. station KROQ-FM became an active supporter of the band releasing the track “1945” on a number of compilation albums. A national tour, the subject of the 1984 rockumentary Another State of Mind, and their debut album Mommy’s Little Monster made the band well known on the national punk scene, but Ness’s spiraling heroin addiction led to the first disbandment in 1985.

Returning in 1986 with a new line up and a clean front man, Social Distortion made their second album Prison Break and a first foray into punk with a country and western flavor, developing the sound for which they would become famous three years later with the release of their self-titled third album and major label debut.

1989’s Social Distortion is focused cowpunk (country punk) with a distinctive California hardcore leverage driving Ness’s classic lyrical themes of hard luck, mistakes made and making the best of it. The success of hit singles ‘Story of My Life’, ‘Ball and Chain’ and a cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ helped the album go gold. It was followed by 1992’s Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell and 1996’s White Light White Heat White Trash, which were both commercial successes.

Social Distortion playing in front of their skeleton logo, photo by Brett L/Flickr Creative Commons License.

The sudden death of long-serving band member Dennis Dannell from a brain aneurysm in 2000 led to another hiatus, but the band returned once more with a new line up and their most recent studio album Sex, Love & Rock n Roll in 2004.

In the last year Social Distortion have returned to business with refreshed zeal, a US and European tour and the recording of the long awaited follow up to Sex, Love & Rock n Roll, which Ness has hinted will feature the band’s classic punk, rockabilly and country sound, saying; “It’s funny – the record reminds me very much of [1992’s] ‘Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell,’ but also I’m bringing elements of early New York Seventies punk”.

But this month they take a break from the studio to storm South America, and a tour which began with sell out shows in Buenos Aires last week. In a statement on their website (published in English, Spanish and Portuguese) the lead singer expressed his excitement; “The band and I are really looking forward to our tour of South America. From the overwhelming amount of emails we receive from our fans in South America, it’s crazy to think that it’s taken this long for us to come down and tour.”

Social Distortion play Circo Voador, Lapa this Friday April 16th, 23h. For tickets see


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