Californian hardcore-punk heavyweights Ceremony came to Australia this past week, bringing a show as diversified as having Black Flag and Joy Division on the same bill (let alone in the same band). From a group whose own back-catalogue has split their fans into two very discernible and opinionated camps, Ceremony’s Australian tour comes to show fans they haven’t forgotten their roots, but are still proud to be moving forward with their evolved sound. Accompanying Ceremony on their final, Adelaide leg of the impromptu tour were South Australian locals Horror My Friend and The Yabbies.
The Yabbies played a smooth set of indie jams, waking up the almost silent crowd at Enigma’s second upstairs stage. Horror My Friend, who finish up their Australian tour of their debut album Stay In, Do Nothing at Jive on Friday got right on into setting the vibe a bit more post-punky, and made it clear why they’re raking in acclaim across the country.
The theme of moving forward and embracing the new is made starkly clear to Ceremony fans, as the band opened their set with L-Shaped Man track “The Separation”. Fans that weren’t afraid to embrace the new sound made their presence in the crowd known through strangely rhythmic renditions of traditional hardcore dancing, while the back-catalogue aficionados stayed in anxious wait for something heavier on the outskirts of the crowd.
The set progressed slowly, keeping the alternative-indie-pop stylings from L-Shaped Man up for the first two or three songs, before the first single strum of Zoo’s Hysteria broke the middle of the pit open and sent everyone wild. Fans running and stomping around to the tribal drum opening of Hysteria got a chance to play around with the idea of starting a circle-pit, before letting loose a little bit and ultimately crashing back to a slower pace as the band went on.
Watching Ceremony play is really surreal for a few reasons: it’s always humbling to see an actual American Hardcore band play, as it makes things seem a little more authentic when a band comes from the same country or state where a genre originated and made a name for itself. Australian groups of the same genre undoubtedly have talent, but a lot of our attempts at different genres with distinct appearance and sound can easily end up looking like a band dressing up in a uniform for a costume party based on what we’ve seen on the internet or TV, usually stemming from examples of American or British bands (thus comes the age-old claim that Australia doesn’t have any original culture - of course, this is all nonsense, but it does feel relevant when comparing an Adelaide hardcore band to a Californian one that’s been plugging away for ten years).
The other strange part is watching band members like Anthony Anzaldo or Ross Farrar, screaming and strumming away, covered in tattoos, riling the pit up with a genre filled with such angst and raw energy it’s been dubbed a name like powerviolence, then going to their newer post-punk indie material and, in Anthony’s case, dancing like a white girl. You can’t knock a band that helped drive the modern hardcore movement along for dancing or playing their sound a bit differently (and, quite frankly, how they want to), but it does make you think about how weird 2016 is.
An Australian example of a similar sort of contrast between a band’s sound and appearance comes from Sydney Britpop band DMA’s; when DMA’s come on stage they, for all intents and purposes, otherwise look like the kind of people who would try and roll you for a smoke at a bus-stop — next thing you know they’re singing harmonies and laying down poppy guitar riffs. Ceremony’s new sound means they have a similar sort of contrast in appearance at times, except they weren’t afraid to justify any contrast in their sound by showing the audience how they made a name for themselves with back-catalogue tracks such as Sick and Open Head, as well as more palatable tracks from Zoo like Citizen and Nosebleed. Still missing from the set was heavier pit material such as Throwing Bricks or He God Has Favored Our Undertakings. Perhaps for this reason, the crowd was a little bit underwhelming for a band who had just flown half-way across the globe to be here (admittedly, only because their European tour was canned last-minute, though).
All in all, it is actually refreshing seeing a band like Ceremony develop their taste into a mature, refined post-punk sound. Many fans of Hardcore naturally transition to lighter, post-punk styled indie bands in their own time, the only difference is Ceremony are taking the wheel and doing it as a band to show what they can do with the depth of lighter genres, after placing themselves in the restrictive box of Hardcore Punk for so long. Frankly, they do a good job. The Californian band book-ended their set with part two of their opening track, playing The Understanding, before leaving the small stage at Enigma for the beer garden (no doubt to be approached by fans who haven’t handled the band’s transition to lighter material as easily).
You can catch Horror My Friend at Jive this Friday for their Stay In, Do Nothing album launch, less than thirty-five tickets remain!