Harkening back to the DIY punk shows of the 1970s, an intimate crowd gathered sparsely at The Fillmore on Friday. But the mild mingling of the crowd was merely a temporary state of calm because as soon as the five members of Ceremony appeared, excited fans rushed to the front of the stage, quite literally piling on top of one another in the spirit of typical hardcore punk shows.
Ceremony formed in 2005 in Rohnert Park, California, made up of lead singer Ross Farrar, lead guitarist Anthony Anzaldo, rhythm guitarist Andy Nelson, bassist Justin Davis and drummer Jake Casarotti. The band is on tour to support its newest record, In the Spirit World Now. Ceremony’s sound is a mixture of hardcore punk combined with the brutality of powerviolence. The group also incorporates 1980s post-punk, which provides a nice juxtaposition to the traditional punk stylings of brash vocals and fast, heavily distorted guitars. Ceremony’s sound is melodic, but still draws out the raw emotions associated with punk, particularly through Farrar’s singing.
Ceremony was the opener for fellow hardcore band, American Nightmare, tuckering out the crowd with its quick but effective set. Farrar quietly took the stage, delivering a short poem titled “California Jungle Dream States End,” a combination of three excerpts found on In the Spirit World Now. The rest of the group took their places onstage, launching into the first song, “Presaging the End.”
Anzaldo had all eyes on him, sporting a black lace shirt and his signature fishnet garter stockings. Farrar wore only a plain white T-shirt and dark pants, embracing the simpler side of punk. The band’s influences from Joy Division clearly showed in Farrar’s passionate singing and Anzaldo’s embracing of gothic sounds with his guitar and keyboard.
Farrar jumped down off of the stage in the middle of a song and stood on a raised bench behind the rail. On cue, a slew of fans ran toward him as if he was a magnet, shouting the lyrics along with him, fists pumping in the air — there was a reason no one gathered at the center of the rail before the show began. The fans jumped on one another, ran in circles, scuttled across the floor and more, all entranced by the music.
Rage, emotion and dedication beamed on their faces as they grabbed at Farrar. There was a clear divide between the fans clustering in the back who wanted to enjoy the music without the physical component of moshing and general chaos and those who were pressed against the rail, desperately trying to get as close as the metal barrier and security would allow them.
But apart from the love from its fans, Ceremony highlighted its musical chops with Farrar’s singing and Anzaldo’s multi-instrumental talent. While Farrar showcased his vocal range, Anzaldo switched between playing riffs on his guitar and riffs on his keyboard, often simultaneously. He then picked up the keyboard and wielded it as a keytar, the epitome of 1980s music. His synths added a new depth to Ceremony’s songs, bringing a softer side to the explosive nature of hardcore without compromising the intensity of the genre.
Farrar announced that that night was the anniversary of the band’s first show 15 years to the day, thanking American Nightmare for bringing Ceremony along on the tour. He encouraged more fans to come up closer to the stage.
As Ceremony played its final few songs, Anzaldo stripped down to just his underwear and fishnets, garnering cheers of approval from the crowd. Farrar once more jumped down to the rail, yelling lyrics into the microphone and holding the attention of fans who followed him duly as he paced. And while the fans at the front of the stage were only a few rows deep, fans still attempted crowd surfing in order to get as close as possible.
Ceremony proved that it’s a poster child for “punk never dies,” staying true to hardcore punk but paying homage to its dark 1980s predecessors. The band managed to encompass the clobbering spirit of punk and the melancholy of post-punk, giving fans the chaos they wanted set to a soundtrack that was not only well-composed, but also, most importantly, dripping with emotion.
Highlights: “The Separation,” “Sick,” “Turn Away the Bad Thing”
Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].