Ceremony - Live at Berkeley (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Live at Berkeley (2012)

live show

While Ceremony's new record Zoo features the band's most distanced sound and comments on the space between people and society, it's fitting that in the band's live show, it has become even more intertwined with its audience. During the band's extended set at 924 Gilman in Berkeley, Calif., the band was so often joined by the audience on stage that the two seemed to join into a single tail that failed outwards.

The band chose its selection from across its entire career. Newer, more abstract songs from Zoo were dropped in between the highlights from 2010's Rohnert Park and the most well known songs from the group's earliest powerviolence phase. The combination of the band's various styles made it evident why Ceremony has lasted beyond the normal tenure allotted to hardcore bands, and why Ceremony has evolved passed being just a hardcore band.

Lead vocalist Ross Farrar exhibited one of the reasons why the band has continued to evolve and keep audience interested. Looking just slightly deranged with frayed hair and glaring eyes, Farrar would whip himself back and forth across the stage, at times pulling his shirt of his face, slashing the mic stand like a staff and, at all times, fighting for control of the mic from the audience. While the continuous battle did cause Farrar's vocals to often be off mic, the energy of the show and audience's own vocals minimized the lost words. Interestingly, lead guitarist Anthony Anzaldo, who just last week spoke with Punknews about his Morrissey meets Robert Smith style, brought his usual flamboyant, high energy slashing, but instead of being clothed in his usual colorful, somewhat dandyish, finery, wore boots-and-braces and seemed to have large swathes of back grease smeared across either cheek.

In contrast to the album counterparts, which are cold and methodical, albeit still raw, the live versions of the songs increased the energy and brought them closer to the classic punk jaggedness of Rohnert Park than towards the spaciness of Joy Division and Bauhaus. However, when the band really did slow it down on the more introspective pieces, it became clear how deep Ceremony's actual sound reaches. Then, when the band snapped into the harsher thrashers, such as "This is My War," the contrast between the two songs became evident and showed just how fast and loud Ceremony can get.

Most impressively, no matter if Ceremony was playing its more experimental pieces or their angrier sections, the crowd was constantly jumping on stage and singing with Farrar or screaming along from the audience. Usually, hardcore crowds will either cross their arms and collectively nod ahead or start smashing into each other hilw using white noise as a soundtrack to their private battlefield. But, because Ceremony's songs seem to be first rooted in craftsmanship than either a hot or frigid facade, the audience seemed to hang onto each word and note, understanding the cores of songs, as opposed to their sonic effect.

The contrast between Ceremony's range of songs made it just how far the band has traveled. But, because audience interaction didn't cease for the entire show, unlike some other hardcore audiences, it seems the fans are willing to make the trip as well.

Random notes:

-In my usual state of obliviousness, I accidentally elbowed Lars Frederiksen in the ribs on my way out of the little boy's room. Sorry, Lars, no disrespect intended!

-More and more, I see 18-20ish males with entire arms covered in a flat black tattoo and no design- just all black up one arm. What is up with that?

-The audience stinkiness quotient has substantially improved since the last time I saw Ceremony at 924 Gilman. Has the audience changed? Has their hygiene improved? Have I just become more tolerant of punk-funk?