Frontman Ross Farrar stepped on the raised stage with the microphone stand slung across his back like a wooden cross. As the band broke into their now nearly iconic "Sick", the audience of Berkeley's 924 Gilman broke into the song's rhythm and sang along nearly the whole night on May 28, 2011.
Splitting their set list across their entire career, Ceremony seems to have formatted their older songs to their newest image. The group's last LP, last year's Rohnert Park, branched out from their previous speed-hardcore and powerviolence compositions and leaned towards both classic punk and abstract, post-punk, spacey textures. Likewise, their older songs, many of which were a mass of blinding speed and noise, have been modified and come across with snappier choruses. Instead of going for pure adrenaline, the group has dug out the rhythm from songs which formerly had their skeleton overshadowed by white noise.
Likewise, the group played about three-fourths of the songs off of Rohnert Park. Because those songs were so rooted in classic punk structure, their live incarnations have beefed up this aspect, and have become almost group sing-songs. As the band kicked through "Terminal Addiction" and "Open Head", Farrar didn't so much sing as fight for the microphone as the audience grasped for a chance to sing along to songs that flow so naturally, they seemed to be almost all chorus and no bridge.
As the night progressed, the stage was increasingly encroached by more and more of the audience until the band itself was squeezed and had to fight for their space. Such a battle brought the stage dives to a zenith and kept the show's energy high.
After the band closed out its lengthy set (for a hardcore band), the audience shouted "Play one more! Play one more! Play one more!" One band member stated that "We don't really do that, but thank you for the show. It was one of the best ever." While a lot of punk bands don't play encores because it seems somewhat "rock star-ish," isn't refusing to play a requested encore the same type of power trip? But, maybe that's not why Ceremony didn't play an extra tune or two. Maybe it was noise-level curfew or maybe they had exhausted themselves from their impressive performance. Any way you cut it, they left the audience wanting more, but they promised to fill the need when, near the end of the show, they announced that they are working on a new album. Bring it on.
- One guy at the show literally had no nipple on one of his pecs, but did have a big black "X" tattooed there. I didn't know it was possible to be born without a nipple.
- There were no fewer than three "angry dads" in the audience.
- I think I saw a guy with a quart ziplock baggie filled with about three pounds of weed. That seems like an awful lot. Do I just not know the intake of the average toke, or do I not know what a three-pinned bag of weed looks like?
- Whew! The punk-funk quotient was unusually high. Please people, for the sake of my nose, you can still stay true to HxCx while remaining Zestfully clean.