Rock band Citizen brings deranged energy to first time playing Berkeley

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Reni De La Nuez/Staff

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Aggressively pointed fingers and various edgy band tees made their way into Cornerstone Craft Beer & Live Music on Sunday for the Ohio-Michigan rock band Citizen’s first ever Berkeley show.

Citizen, composed of lead singer Mat Kerekes, lead guitarist Nick Hamm, drummer Jake Duhaime, rhythm guitarist Ryland Oehlers and bassist Eric Hamm, is currently finishing up its North American tour before heading to Europe in September to promote its newest album, As You Please.

Beyond the band’s outstanding performance, the night’s highlight was how frequently aggressive fans made their way onstage and grabbed the mic from Kerekes before diving back into the hoard of intense angst. The fans were loud in every definition of the word — whether through their deafening voices, their movements mimicking those of a violent mob of geese, or all the bright hair colors populating the venue.

With “Roam The Room,” the first track off the band’s 2013 release Youth, the band’s music incited a mosh pit that made this year’s Warped Tour look like a daycare center. While the group was playing one of its more emo-sounding songs, the rowdy crowd was intimidating to watch, even from the confines of the upper balcony. Hands were thrown and crowd surfers hit the ground at a concerningly frequent rate.

The group performed many songs off its latest album As You Please, which released in October of last year under Run For Cover Records. The top hit off the record, “Jet,” has amassed more than 25,000 streams on SoundCloud and more than 3 million listens on Spotify. When the band sang the pre-chorus lyrics, “You put my back to the wall,” pointed fingers flew toward the stage. The electronic undertone of the album may be more experimental than past releases, but it was still well-implemented in the live performance.

And Citizen’s live sound was arguably even better than its recorded material. Kerekes’ voice sustained throughout the entire show, regardless of the intensity of the vocals — as evidenced by the veins consistently jutting out of his neck. The band was transparent in its electronic effects, bringing out a small synth contraption to “sing” the opening of “In the Middle of It All,” off the latest record, which repeated echoing phrases throughout the song.

The band members did not move around much, but their stage presence was augmented by their interactions with the crowd. Kerekes often leaned far off the stage, into his audience, and shared the mic with whoever was confident enough to grab it and scream some lyrics for a moment. Especially during the song “Sleep,” crowd members took advantage of the simplicity of the only chorus lyrics, “Do you sleep anymore?” The audience members used the lyrics as their chance to momentarily join the band and not embarrassingly sing the wrong words.

Partway through the set, the band switched over to some older tunes — tracks the crowd knew so well that even the speakers around the room were drowned out by the booming of audience vocals. At the start of “The Night I Drove Alone,” fans screamed every word so piercingly that even Kerekes had to step away from the mic and laugh. This is one of the band’s more emotional songs, and the mood was only intensified by the instrumentalists’ energetic and powerful playing.

Despite the amount of light screaming that peppers the band’s sound, Kerekes still maintained a vocal range and strength during the band’s performance of “The Summer,” which contains a straining and lengthy repetition of the chorus. There were a total of six stage divers who made it their own personal agendas to run as much ground of that stage as they could during this song, jogging behind the band members and covering every available corner of space, one at a time.

The amount of energy the band threw into the room defied the standards of the average punk shows hosted in small Berkeley venues. Given its size, Cornerstone rock shows are often more intimate, and Citizen meshed the organic nature of the niche punk scene with the grandeur of performers who might be seen at larger venues such as the UC Theatre or the Hearst Greek Theatre. As the band is on the rise within the post-hardcore-emo-punk genre, this show is hopefully only the start of Citizen’s time here in the Bay.

Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.