Dead ringers: Mommy’s Little Monsters bring sound, fury of Social Distortion to South Shore
Mommy’s Little Monsters aren’t afraid of another bloody, ballsy, sweaty Tahoe show, an attitude that would make the tribute band’s inspiration, Social Distortion, proud.
Matt Stone, who plays rhythm guitar and the Mike Ness role for Mommy’s Little Monsters, said the Huntington Beach-based band is undaunted heading back to Whiskey Dick’s Saloon in South Lake Tahoe, the site of a sanguinary show in July.
“I have the blood on my mic to prove it,” Stone said. “I have bloodstains on my mic from the last time we played there.”
Mommy’s Little Monsters typically draw rowdier crowds on the road than in Orange County — home of both Social Distortion and its tributary offspring. They’re expecting similar things when they return to Tahoe for their third time and their second show at Whiskey Dick’s.
“It’s amazing how much more passionate people are up there with Social D in the Tahoe area,” said lead guitarist Mike Castillo. “Here it’s kind of like people have seen the band 20 times, 30 times, and down here for them — as far as we’re concerned — it’s kind of more of a refresher.”
“It’s not the same as coming to Tahoe and playing for your crowd,” Stone said. “Your crowd is ready to throw in a mosh pit.”
That crowd at Whiskey Dick’s threw a young woman up onstage. She hit Stone’s mic stand, which in turn popped him in the lip. Mommy’s Little Monsters pressed on bloody but unbowed.
“We encourage any emotional response, so that’s what it’s really about, is having a great time.”
Mommy’s Little Monsters aren’t the only Social Distortion tribute act, but they aim to be one of the most faithful.
“If you haven’t seen Social Distortion live or they don’t come around to where you play … and you can’t see them live and we’re going to be around, I’d definitely recommend you come and see us,” Castillo said.
Social D figured prominently in Southern California’s punk scene in the early 1980s behind Ness. Guitarist Dennis Dannell joined later and helped power the band through its early years –the straight-ahead punk of “Mainliner” and “Mommy’s Little Monster” — and its rockabilly- and country-fueled breakout period in the early 1990s. Dannell died of a brain aneurysm in 2000, leaving Ness as the main creative influence.
Social Distortion’s catalogue provides no shortage of material for Stone, Castillo, drummer Mike Taba and bassist Matt Walder. Some audiences are particular — and particularly demanding.
“You guys in Tahoe, you really like the older stuff,” Castillo said. “When we go older, I mean, you guys are just ready to go.”
So while listeners should expect to hear the Social D staples — “Sick Boy,” “Ball and Chain,” “Story of My Life,” along with “Bad Luck” and (of course) “Mommy’s Little Monster” — the band can delve deeper. Sometimes that involves the flat-out aggression of “The Creeps (I Just Wanna Give You),” “1945” and “Mass Hysteria” back-to-back-to-back, a set that’s as demanding for Taba as it is gratifying for the crowd and the rest of the band.
“It’s so dead-on it’s not even funny, and I love to hear him play it,” Stone said.
Evidently, the drummer isn’t the only dead ringer on stage — to the eyes or the ears.
“The comment we’re getting most consistently is ‘Your singer sounds like Mike Ness,'” Castillo said.
Stone acknowledged a resemblance to Ness. Clothes represent more than dressing as Ness for Stone — he’s one of the brains behind Seawolf Clothing, which has Tahoe ties, to CC’s Pirate Treasures — but they’re a also a way to help him look the part.
“You know something? Throwing on the eyeliner and the outfit, it’s more or less which shirt I’m going to wear for the night and which color Dickies I’m going to wear tonight,” he said.
That’s not the only accessory that helps. But there are limits to the lengths of the tribute.
“I do have tattoos, but I don’t have the amount (Ness) has. And I don’t think I’ll be getting the amount he has, ever.
“I’m not a rock star. I’m merely a guy playing somebody else’s tunes.”