TVD Live: Ceremony with Ed Schrader’s Music Beat at the Rock and Roll Hotel, 8/12

PHOTOS: KRISTIN HORGEN | While still remaining true to their original hardcore sound during their live shows, Ceremony’s latest album is a major deviation from the “power violence” exemplified in their last two albums. The band started experimenting with a brattier punk sound on Rohnert Park, gaining the attention of Seattle-based record producer and recording artist John Goodmanson.  If you learn about one producer this year, it should be about Goodmanson, who has produced records for a diverse cache of indie bands including Weezer, Blood Brothers, Nada Surf, and many albums by Sleater Kinney.  Goodmanson also has credibility working with punk bands such as Bikini Kill and Unwound.

“Often I’m more interested in a band’s ambition than their past releases,” says Goodmanson, who has been influencing notable indie bands for over two decades.  That is why seeing Ceremony on tour right now is so compelling; their current album explores ’70s post-punk in its heyday, evoking  early influencers of the genre such as Wire, and The Fall.

This show was one of a week’s worth of shows celebrating the Seven-Year Anniversary for The Rock and Roll Hotel. (If that doesn’t make you old, the Black Cat’s upcoming 20th might.) Ceremony headlined a brutal lineup that included support from Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, Give, and Barge. If you made it out Monday, you got what you came for, a well-paced set of hardcore interspersed with arty post-punk.

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Ceremony opened in a blast of three cacophonous songs lasting about 30 seconds each.  Fists of fury, elbows flying, the sheer look of terror in my friend’s eyes—it was her first hardcore show, and she had no idea it would be a circle pit churning with body fumes and rage because she’s as innocent as a daisy. I fucking love hardcore live because it’s my own private fight club. I get to pick out who I think will bite it in the pit, who’s gonna throw the most elbows, and watch as the band referees the fight in reverse, encouraging everyone to beat the living shit out of each other in the most dangerous way possible.

“The Doldrums” slowed the pace after the thermonuclear opening, shifting towards the post-punk sound of Ceremony’s more recent work.  Hardcore kids fidgeted and stewed, and as Ross Farrer launched into the next track, the mass of flailing violent bodies took any and all bouncers that ever existed in the universe to fight the crowd, who all but piled on top of Farrer as he sang sweat and anger into the mic. Farrer continued to taunt the audience, jumping into the pit for songs and begging everyone to come in close during “Nosebleed,”  followed by yet another blast of hardcore punk.

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Opener Ed Schrader has worked with notable Baltimore artists including Dan Deacon and Matmos. His project, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, led a tribal charge with their set.  A shirtless Shrader beat a floor tom with his shirt draped over it. The duo’s proto-punk set whispered into the ear of now-dead Jay Reatard, assuring him that his legacy lives on.

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Watching them reminded me of a band I once saw at a house show whose drummer sat in the middle of the crowd, lit a t-shirt on fire, draped it on the floor tom, and pounded away.  I felt like I was invited to a private satanic ritual, and the innocent friend confirmed my suspicion when she leaned over into my ear and simply whispered, “Satan worshippers.”

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A hardcore band incorporating post-punk influence is nothing innovative. The “post-hardcore” genre depicts a sound with longer sonic blasts, straying from the short bursts of fury of pure hardcore. Goodmanson has had a hand in shaping recent influencers in this genre, such as Blood Brothers’ Crimes album. I think Ceremony are making more of a direct nod to their influences while simultaneously diversifying their sound and am curious to see how future albums build on the momentum the band is gaining with the release of Zoo. If they work with Goodmanson again, the sky’s really the limit.

Ceremony are taking risks and diversifying their sound, as any talented artist might do, with an intellectual and solid progression that translates to an explosive live set worth fighting to see.

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