By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jul 31, 2009 at 1:10 PM

I think you can place most bands in three catagories: good, bad and important. Mike Ness and Social Distortion fit comfortably into both the "good" and "important" categories.

With nearly 30 years and thousands of shows in its rear-view mirror, Social Distortion will visit Milwaukee again during a show presented by FM 102.1 Saturday night at The Rave.

Although Ness is the only original member remaining, it doesn't lessen the band, it's sound, where it's been or where it's going. In terms of sound, Social Distortion has as much street cred in the punk community as it does a straight-up rock band (look to Mike Ness' 1999 solo album "Cheating At Solitaire" for a guest appearance on the song "Misery Loves Company" by Bruce Springsteen, a fan and friend of Ness).

As to where Social Distortion has been, well, the album title "Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell" is pretty accurate. For proof, check out the 2004 DVD "Another State of Mind," which follows a very young Social Distortion along with Youth Brigade and Minor Threat (two very influential bands in the early hardcore punk movement) on their 1982 tour and gives you some insight into the early hardcore movement as well as a 20-year-old Ness battling drugs. (He was hospitalized numerous times for drug addiction which he kicked in the late ‘80s).

As for the future of Social Distortion, besides adding two weeks on to their existing tour, they are going to return to the studio after the tour to capture some of the new songs they are trying on stage.

If you think you've never heard SD, you actually may have and not even known it. The song "Story of My Life" has been used in the films "Reality Bites" (1994), "Orange County" (2000), "Life or Something Like It" (2002) and most recently the Vince Vaughn/Jennifer Aniston movie "The Break Up."

Social Distortion is a band that can take someone else's song and make it their own. From Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" (a version Cash himself was said to enjoy), The Clash's "Death or Glory," The Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb" or any of the Hank Williams songs they visit. Categorically speaking, though, SD is at their best when they're seemingly feeling their worst. Songs like "Bad Luck," "Prison Bound," "I Was Wrong" are a necessity for any mix tape ... uh ... CD ... uh ... iTunes playlist. (When you've been around for nearly three decades, you've got a lot of media to go through.)

Ultimately, Ness is the glue that holds Social Distortion together. I will sound fanboy-ish here, but I honestly don't think they come any tougher than him.

Besides being an incredible singer and guitarist (with two solo albums on top of the six Social Distortion studio albums), he also boxes in his spare time and raises two kids with his wife. Ness may not make the cover of Men's Journal, but Car and Driver is a possibility. His side project is hot rods (both vintage cars and motorcycles), which are detailed on the Web site

Ness has an appreciation for all things vintage in vehicles, instruments and style. On July 4 last year, Social Distortion played the U.S. Cellular stage at Summerfest and -- through much begging, some forcing and sneaking around -- I got to bring them on stage.

Sitting backstage watching Ness pace back and forth, I decided to interrupt his pacing and thank him for coming and get his take on Milwaukee.

He said, "Milwaukee has my two favorite things: Harley-Davidson and Allen Edmonds shoes."

Now, Harleys would seem like a logical choice for a guys who spends his spare time cutting and welding cars and choppers, but I guess when Kramp and I interview bands the answer is usually "Harleys and Miller!"

Realizing Ness no longer drinks, I guess the shoe thing just caught me off guard. What it did do is give me one great idea: the Mike Ness/Milwaukee economic stimulus ... advertising ... plan (in my head it was much clearer, and sensible).

Think of a Ness shoe collection for Allen Edmonds! It would open a local product to a whole new (and younger) national demographic. Michael Jordan hasn't played in years and his shoes are still flying off the shelf, think about it! If Eddie Bauer can have its own line of Ford Explorers, why can't Social Distortion have a line of Harleys (imagine that Social D skeleton on a tank, I'm already working on the gas cap!).

Social Distortion -- great for music, great for Milwaukee!