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Love Is a Burnin' Thing

"Johnny Cash has always seemed larger than life to me. He is a true American hero, beloved the world over as much for his kindness and compassion and championing of the underdog as for the power of his art. He's been my inspiration, my faithful friend, my champion--a constant oasis of unconditional love and support.''
-- Kris Kristofferson

It took the death of Johnny Cash last week to get Social Distortion to update the news on their website--the first update in six months. "Farewell to an inspiration and legend," the band's message reads. "Social Distortion wishes farewell to The Man In Black. Johnny Cash was an icon in country music and American culture and will be greatly missed by all. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Cash family."

It was that last sentence that got to me, for one reason in particular: Social Distortion know about losing someone. Just three years ago, they lost guitarist Dennis Danell, the man who had left his mark on every one of Social D's album and stuck by frontman Mike Ness even when he was on the verge of destroying himself and the entire band with a nasty drug habit back in the "good old days."

The band hasn't released a new album since Danell's death, and so even though I hadn't seen them since '98, I still knew nearly all the songs at their Catalyst show Sunday. Social D was never the most prolific band in the world, but it was clear at this show that since Ness started a solo career on the side and Danell died, the band has gone into a complete holding pattern--except for maybe their cover of "The Harder They Come," which suggested a Clash-type vibe that, weirdly enough, fit them pretty well. Could Ness be ready to step into the boots of another fallen hero, Joe Strummer?

Nah, J.C. is still more his speed. The website message was nice, but everyone at the Catalyst on Sunday knew what the real tribute was going to be: Social D's cover of "Ring of Fire." And, oh yeah, when it came, the sold-out crowd went totally nuts. Punkabillies in their standard-issue Mike Ness Casual Clubgoing Punk Rock White T's wasted no time turning a simple majority of the Catalyst floor into a mosh pit. For a lot of people, myself included, it was the right place to be the weekend after losing the man who, of all the musicians who can truly be called a legend, was closest to our hearts.

There's part of me that thinks that June Carter Cash must roll over in her grave every time the punk kids knock each other around to the tune of her sweet little love song. But not that night, baby. Not that night.

Steve Palopoli

Monterey Jazz Festival

Sept. 19: John Mclaughlin & Zakir Hussain, Isaac Delgado y Su Orquesta, Michel Camilo Trio, Jason Moran & The Bandwagon, Soulive, Metalwood, Mary Stallings, Oregon, Berkeley-Monterey Quartet 2003, Global Funk Council, Along Came Betty.

Sept. 20: Ralph Towner & Friends w/ Gary Burton, Four Brothers, Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Kurt Elling & The Laurence Hobgood Trio, Eddie Duran, Bruce Forman, Calvin Keys, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Peter Cincotti, Omar Sosa Sextet, Carla Cook, Boban Markovic & The Serbian Orkestar, Buckwheat Zydeco, Bobby Bradford & The Mo'tet, John Clear & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen, Dena Derose Trio with Matt Wilson.

Sept. 21: The Crusaders featuring Randy Crawford, The Monterey Jazz Festival High School All-Star Big Band, Herbie Hancock Quartet with Bobby Hutcherson, Nnenna Freelon, Dave Douglas New Quintet, Gary Burton & Makoto Ozone, Billy Bang Sextet, Jacky Terrasson Trio, Ralph Towner, Clayton Brothers Quintet, Dave Ellis, plus some of the country's best high school and college jazz groups.


Local hip-hop freestyle competition hosted by Serendipity Project on Sept. 17, featuring Pushing Destinations, Toe Fu of Thunderhut, and Tight Rope Walkers at the Mediterranean. The Moonies, Duce Company, Tight Rope Walkers and Thunderhut Project perform on Sept. 24 at the 418 Project.

Mike Connor

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From the September 17-24, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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