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SOCIAL DISTORTION HELPS MAKE PUNK HISTORY CLEAR

Wednesday night's Speedway Cafe crowd got a one-night lesson in Punk Rock History 101 - clear-cut examples of what the much-maligned musical form was, is and will soon be.

The 270-minute marathon featured late '70s-based punk rock inspired by the British originals (from headliners Social Distortion), early '80s two- to three-minute punk snippets (from the Strangers) and funk-based punk fusion similar to current college radio faves the Red Hot Chili Peppers (from Brainstorm).However, the show was delayed for an hour for seemingly interminable sound checks (though sound checks seem contradictory for a punk rock concert).

Also, the set-up time for Southern California-based quartet Social Distortion took twice as long as would have seemed possible - even longer than for last year's Camper Van Beethoven concert, though the latter band featured twice as many musicians.

Was the show worth the wait? Just ask any one member of the full house, many of whom are probably still humming along with some of SD's well-crafted - and dare I say it, melodic - numbers.

The band, which looks like a punk rock version of the Stray Cats (especially after noticing singer/guitarist Mike Ness's arm-length serpentine tattoos), concentrated earlier and often on songs from its current eponymously named LP, its most successful to date.

If skeptical parents don't believe the youth of today can be moved by old-fashioned, kick-in-the-pants rock 'n' roll, they then should check out the band's "It Coulda Been Me" and "Let It Be Me," two punk rock love songs that Ness called "punk when it was punk."

Similarly spirited is the band's cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" (which was also covered by Wall of Voodoo at one time), which actually sounds as if it might have been written for SD's twin-guitar snarl and ex-Utahn Chirs Reece's drum attack.

For a punk rock band, bassist John Maurer and rhythm guitarist Dennis Danell add certainly capable harmony vocals, another seeming contradiction in

punk terms.

The 11-year music veterans even got a measure of respect from the notoriously rowdy Speedway crowd, which actually obeyed Ness' commands to stay off the stage ("Stay off the stage. If you want to be up here, then go get your own band.") - something Speedway audiences usually aren't wont to do.

Ness, a one-time rock bad boy who has quit drugs and alcohol cold turkey, even dedicated his "Sick Boys" to his father, who he said "was the only one in his high school with a Harley Davidson."

Replacing veteran hardcore punk band Gang Green (whose drummer is supposedly in some legal trouble) were local bands Brainstorm and the Strangers. Though the two bands didn't have quite as much experience as Gang Green, they proved to be decent last-minute substitutes, especially with the latter's more skewed pop-flavored numbers.

For example, the veteran Utah music scene trio respectfully covered the Who's "The Kids are Alright" (to which the singer jokingly thanked Pete Townshend "for writing for us to play") and based one song on the '60s sci-fi B-movie "Mars Needs Women."

Brainstorm - a Salt Lake five-piece outfit - ominously began its set with a harsh treatment of John Carpenter's "Halloween" film theme, but settled on a louder, faster and more fun set that blended speed metal with funk-inspired rhythm lines. Among their standouts were "Momentum" and "Let Me Forget, which may have started a new dance trend with the piggy-back slam dance.