This was an early Christmas treat, a pairing of great post-punk and shoegaze bands with hardcore punk roots who retain that scrappiness to their sound and performance, all in a fairly intimate venue.
The nice thing about the Sonia club tonight, especially, was that they opened the door to the adjacent Middle East upstairs annex for people to hang out and grab drinks (apparently Sonia no longer had their liquor license). The sold-out show didn’t feel overcrowded with ample space for patrons to wander around, while keeping things sweaty and active on the floor.
Local-ish New Bedford act Brother opened it with 12 minutes of raw hardcore, getting a few nods to warm up the crowd.
Nothing then came out grooving to Travis Scott’s “Antidote” on the loudspeaker and surprisingly kicked it into an older song, “Downward Years to Come”, which I hadn’t heard in so long I didn’t even really recognize it. It was a treat, though. The band were in great spirits, with it being clear from the outset that vocalist/guitarist Dominic “Nicky Money” Palermo was having a lot of fun (during “Vertigo Flowers”, guitar still strapped on his chest, he dove right onto the crowd -- back-first at least). They sounded pretty good throughout the set too, with a new bassist in tow as well.
After “Get Well”, a friend of the band and local personality Colin of Arabia did some quick, dark spoken word over a slightly eerie instrumental before the band continued to kick out some career highlights, including “B&E”, “Bent Nail”, “Chloroform” and “Eaten by Worms”, among others. It was a nice mix of both LPs plus the older jam. They also played something late in the set that I didn’t recognize at all, possibly being either a cover or new one. It sounded good, though, with the same sort of sardonically upbeat flair they imbibe songs like “Get Well” and “Eaten by Worms” with. Nicky simply prefaced it by saying, “This is a good song.”
The crowd wasn’t too wild, with just a few people up front packed in and finger-pointing. One man did keep yelling things out of adoration at Nicky throughout the set, which prompted him to laugh and ask if it was his long-lost brother.
Set list (9:04-10:01):
- Downward Years to Come
- Get Well
- Curse of the Sun
- Bent Nail
- Eaten by Worms
Ceremony followed and were the delightfully weird and manically intense band who always deliver. They opened with the ominous “The Understanding”, with guitarist Anthony Anzaldo playfully throwing in the classic Jimi Hendrix national anthem riff at the end, and then the crowd basically began to boil over for the foreboding bass intro of “Kersed” before fully erupting at its break. They followed with their classic Red C cover of “Pressure’s On”, which is basically a Ceremony song, before cherry-picking highlights and deeper cuts from their more recent albums.
It was a very fun set that offered a great overview of their evolution. Half of their Ruined EP provided the thrilling ultra-aggression they initially made their name on; a couple from Rohnert Park the catchy and occasionally demented punk they began to morph with; through to Zoo’s occasionally surfy (“Citizen”), Dead Kennedys-esque energy; and the pure post-punk revival of The L-Shaped Man. (On that note, I caught them sound-checking something before the show that was definitely either a new song or a cover; if it was the former, it’s definitely a slightly dark and weird progression from this style, super interesting and something to look forward to all the same). Newer stuff got a pretty reasonable reaction, with a fair amount of singing along and spazzy moshing, but their hardcore era certainly resulted in the most stage dives, pile-ons and side-to-side action. The venue policed it well, settling down the more ignorant idiots and letting most natural hardcore atmosphere stuff go.
Frontman Ross Farrar was bleeding barely a few songs into the set, though I didn’t see the cause -- likely another case of him bashing the mic into his forehead. By the halfway point of the set, he had transformed from a friendly-looking flannel-clad fellow into a hulking, shirtless maniac (think Henry Rollins, but just getting out of prison after a long stint) swaying back and forth in a seemingly possessed state, while a similarly shirtless Anzaldo provided his usual feminine counterpoint, prancing around in black lipstick, briefs and pantyhose. It was awesome.
Set list (10:31-11:13):
- The Understanding
- Pressure’s On [Red C cover]
- Open Head
- The Doldrums (Friendly City)
- The Separation
- Your Life in France
- He-god-Has Favored Our Undertakings
- Terminal Addiction
- You’re All the Same
- I Want to Put This to an End
- The Bridge
- The Party