Dennis Danell Benefit Shows
The Shows Are At The Gypsy Lounge & Irvine Meadows Respectively
Dennis Danell, Social Distortion's co-founder and rhythm guitarist died of natural causes on February 29. Two benefit shows were organized on behalf of Dennis' wife, Christie, and their two young children.
The first benefit was held on April 30 at the Gypsy Lounge in Lake Forest. Sixteen local bands performed, including Step Thirteen, Drain Bramaged, Boobie Trap, B.F.D., and Lisafer. Chicken, singer-guitarist for Lisafer, put the Gypsy Lounge benefit together.
"Whether people want to admit it or not, Social Distortion is the spinal cord for Orange County punk rock," Chicken said on a patio outside the club. "They've always been there for Southern California and Orange County. Social Distortion, and Dennis, in particular, are why I do this. I met Dennis when I was fifteen, and I'm thirty-six now. I miss him."
Social Distortion bassist John Maurer and Dennis' brother, Johnny, were among the few hundred fans gathered at the Gypsy Lounge.
"I want Social Distortion fans to remember my brother as they knew him," Johnny Danell stated early in the evening. "I don't want them to remember him as I knew him. I want him to be remembered for the way he played guitar."
"You kind of take things for granted," Maurer said during a break in between bands. "I didn't really open my eyes and realize the impact that [Social Distortion] had made on so many people until [Danell's passing]. I'm grateful to [have been a part of Social Distortion] and to have been to all those places and done all of those things with Dennis. Those memories will never be replaced. This benefit that Chicken is doing today is a street level thing, and this is where Social Distortion started. If Dennis were here, he would definitely give this a big [thumbs-up]."
"[Rebel Waltz/Time Bomb owner] Jim Guerinot, who was one of Dennis' lifelong friends, is organizing a benefit next Saturday at Irvine Meadows," Maurer continued. "He is a very powerful man in the music industry, but this [benefit at the Gypsy Lounge] is not his world [anymore]. Jim's world is across the street at Irvine Meadows with No Doubt, The Offspring, and Chris Cornell... But even though he's very busy, he used his time and resources to put [the Irvine Meadows benefit] together for Dennis' family. I think it's a pretty cool deal."
Six days after the Gypsy Lounge show, a second benefit called "When The Angels Sing" was held at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater. Nearly fifteen thousand people were on hand to see T.S.O.L., Pennywise, X, The Offspring, and Social Distortion perform. T.S.O.L. was the first band onstage.
"What is this? A fucking picnic?" T.S.O.L. singer Jack Grisham commented, as his band played in the afternoon sun. "This should have been held in a backyard in Costa Mesa. Something about this doesn't seem right."
Pennywise, who followed T.S.O.L., invited fans to rush the stage. Seats were ripped out, and a slam pit formed in the VIP section.
"Fuck assigned seating," Pennywise guitarist Fletcher Dragge told the audience. "This ain't Iron Maiden. We're doing Jack's job for him."
X came on after Pennywise. Legendary guitarist Billy Zoom signed autographs before his band's set, and X played classics such as "Johny Hit and Run Paulene," "Los Angeles," and "The World's A Mess, It's In My Kiss."
"You have to have fun," said X singer Exene Cervenka, her hair dyed yellow and spiked like the crown on the Statue of Liberty. "It's an Irish wake."
Before the sun went down, Christie Danell walked onstage, accompanied by her young son, Duke.
"I know you all have a lot of stories about Dennis," she said, warmly addressing the crowd. "We all have a lot of stories about Dennis. But one thing held true with him. He was an incredibly kind, giving, and supportive person. I feel it is our turn to say 'thank you' to all of you for the last twenty years of our lives. Because without all of your continued loyalty, support, and encouragement, my husband's life would not have been the same. This band and genre of music was so incredibly important to him, and if it weren't for all of you, his dream would have never become reality."
The Offspring took the stage as night fell upon Irvine Meadows. Not surprisingly, The Offspring turned the benefit into a real arena rock show. Dexter, Noodles, and company played most of their best-known songs, including "Gone Away," "Self Esteem," and "The Kids Aren't Alright."
Finally, it was Social Distortion's turn to perform. Mike Ness strolled onstage alone, armed with only an acoustic guitar. After greeting the audience, he played heartfelt, solo renditions of "When The Angels Sing" and "Ball and Chain." The rest of Social Distortion then joined him, and they plugged-in for a truly electrifying set. Johnny Wickersham (a.k.a. Johnny Twobags) from the Cadillac Tramps played Dennis' guitar parts, and Charlie Quintana filled-in for the missing Chuck Biscuits on drums.
Social Distortion closed the benefit with Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire" and a new song called "Don't Take Me For Granted." Ness dedicated "Don't Take Me For Granted" to Dennis, and he left the stage saluting the crowd and pumping his fist against his heart.
Step Thirteen singer-guitarist Dodge Mallare was among the many fans and friends who watched The Offspring and Social Distortion from the side of the Irvine Meadows stage. Mallare and Step Thirteen also performed at the Gypsy Lounge benefit earlier in the week.
"I remember seeing Social Distortion open for the Jesus and Mary Chain at the Hollywood Palladium during the Prison Bound Tour," Mallare said, looking back a dozen years. "That show pretty much changed my life. I was in awe. And I remember when Social Distortion played at Scream, which was an after hours club [held] at an old hotel in downtown Los Angeles. They played every song they had, and the show lasted until three in the morning. And I remember the riot [that broke out] when Social Distortion played at the Palomino. Admission was three bucks, and there was a line around the corner. I was lucky to get in because a lot of people were turned away."
"At the same time Social Distortion was playing [clubs], bands like The Offspring were playing shows in backyards in my neighborhood," he continued. "Fifty to a hundred people would show up, depending on the size of the backyard. It's amazing to think about those [old performances] and [compare] them to where these bands are at now. Because I remember when you used to see Mike and Dennis buying hot dogs at the concession stand before the show..."
Parts of this article appeared as a live review in Mean Street (June, 2000).
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