May 19th, 2017 | Photos

Ceremony_The_Echo_Lower_Res_0005 Photos by Joey Tobin Words by Zach Bilson

Few hardcore bands last over a decade, much less pack those years with enough musical variation and artistic merit to warrant a retrospective. NoCal five-piece Ceremony are a notable exception, and five albums in, they’ve booked three sold-out nights at The Echo dedicated to revisiting their entire catalog. The first night featured a spread of tracks from throughout their discography, focusing mostly on their hard-as-nails debut Violence Violence and their latest, 2015’s sorely underrated The L-Shaped Man. The latter’s producer, John Reis of Drive Like Jehu / Rocket From the Crypt fame, graced the whole set with a glittering Gibson Les Paul, complementing axemen Anthony Anzaldo and Andy Nelson on powerhouse riffs like “Open Head” and “Hysteria.” His history with the band was revealed to go back a little further – singer/screamer/graphic designer Ross Farrar introduced their cover of Red C’s “Pressure’s On” by admitting they had heard RFTC’s version first.

Nevertheless, the packed crowd went ballistic for the Violence Violence rendition, as well as for similar era cuts like the stage-rush-inducing “Kersed,” something of a classic in mid-aughts hardcore. After the mosh pit from their anxious rant “Sick” died down, Ceremony closed with the languid “Your Life in America,” a soft landing after an hour of relentless heaviness. “Thanks for coming to night one!” Farrar gushed, drenched in sweat but smiling ear-to-ear. “We’ve got two more nights – who knows what’ll happen.” Judging from the three-day passes’ instant sell-out, most of the crowd will be back to find out.


With a band called The Coltranes, you’d think they’d be responsible for the two saxophones in the green room, but they ended up belonging to Oakland’s The World, who wooed fans of Ceremony’s experimental side with their dissonant post-punk. Alexa Pantalone and Stanley Martinez skronked along with Bay legend Andy Jordan’s circular riffs, while singer/bassist Amber Sermeno managed to anchor the group and command center stage at the same time. She also invoked the night’s sole political moment by dedicating a track with a chorus of “You’re going down!” to “Our president’s inevitable impeachment,” eliciting some cheers and hopeful grins.

They may have been sax-less, but Temecula crew The Coltranes certainly scored the “best merch” award – $100 at their table could net you a whip or a bondage hood. Their noisy punk rock was similarly dark and punishing, with a twisted sense of fun – they aped Black Flag’s “Rise Above” intro at one point, a subverted rookie move that worked like a charm in between chugging breakdowns. In a serious moment, vocalist Walt Cassidy also paid respect to the recently deceased Chris Cornell, who the room full of tattooed punks cheered loudly for.

Orange County’s Leisure World kicked off the night by blitzing through a 14-minute set of feedback-laden hardcore. With snotty vocals, squealing guitar and a thrashing rhythm section, they evoked memories of Ceremony’s powerviolence heyday.

Ceremony setlist:
Exit Fears
Open Head
The Separation
Your Life in France
Plutocratic Swine Rake
Twenty Four Hour Fever Watch
Pressure’s On
(new song)
The Pattern
The Party
Mothers and Fathers
Your Life in America