Ceremony - Rhythm Room - 6/4/2013

By Eric Ruchensky Ceremony
Rhythm Room
June 4, 2013

For indie-rock-loving dudes who required something harder-edged than the Generationals show at the Crescent on Tuesday night, Stateside brought four -- two local, two touring -- hardcore heavyweight bands to Phoenix's premier juke joint, The Rhythm Room.

Veteran locals Move Forward kicked off the proceedings, with frontman Brent Duncan saying they'd rocked so hard during their first rave-up that the stage had actually moved. Their set consisted of fairly straight-ahead four-chord hardcore punk, with occasional lead guitar flourishes. It was enough to rouse the mostly still, heavily male crowd into a loose, messy mosh pit for their last few songs.

Next, hometown hardcore heroes Gay Kiss brought their fierce, brooding sound to the stage.

Frontman Roger Calamaio, sporting a Star Wars Rebel Alliance tattoo, did his best Henry Rollins, prowling the stage and tossing the mic to the few diehards who shouted along with every lyric. Gay Kiss' songs were brief, as was their set, which lasted a mere 20 minutes.

But it was long enough to leave an impression. Guitarist Mitch James was the band's highlight -- at least for those punk dudes not wholly focused on moshing -- peppering his straight-ahead punk riffs with tasteful bursts of feedback and other effects wizardry.

Australians Total Control might've momentarily fooled concertgoers into thinking they'd get a reprieve from the fast, loud punk-loyalist licks of the first two acts. But after a relatively calm first three songs, they lurched into a staccato shouter, sparking the most intense moshing of the night thus far. They also introduced a novel instrument -- for a relatively purist punk show -- into the evening's mix, a keyboard.

It fit their Joy Division/New Order and Tuxedomoon-esque post-punk vibe. This was also the first time in the night one could appreciate the Rhythm Room's impeccable sound system and top-notch soundmen, with every tapped note ringing through loud and clear over the PA. Total Control weren't just loud post-punkers, though, fleshing out their last song, a simple bass groove, into a five-minute long jammy epic (by punk standards, anyway.)

"Do you know much about Ceremony?" I was asked by a no-nonsense hardcore fan next to me after the band's second song.

"Is this the same Ceremony as the old hardcore band?"

I paused for a moment and then, as if on cue, Ceremony frontman Ross Farrar announced, "This one's for all the hardcore kids."

The band launched into the straight-ahead hardcore tune "M.C.D.F" from their 2010 LP Rohnert Park. Evidently feeling it was time to release some pent-up energy, at least 20 kids stormed the stage, some embracing Farrar.

Security -- who struck an admirable balance all night between protecting the performers and facilitating fans' fun -- nudged a few of the invaders away. The rest of the kids got the message and politely left the stage. After that song was over, Farrar, hardly taking a breath, exclaimed, "This song is about the police," and launched into "Hysteria," another burst of raw hardcore energy that spawned yet another in a series of stage invasions. The band took it all in stride and hardly let up their aural assault for the remainder of the encore-less show.

If Ceremony had somehow been at a loss for energy (and despite tonight's evidence to the contrary, it's gotta happen sometimes), they'd have made up for it with musical chops. Bassist Justin Davis and Drummer Jake Cazarotti kept the rhythm tight all night, not venturing their bodies or eyes away from their stage rear alcove.

Pompadoured, shirtless guitarist Anthony Anzaldo was similarly workmanlike, leaving the guitar hero antics to Justin Davis, whose role seemed in part to divert some attention away from singer Farrar.

With its fleshed-out melodic jams, Zoo, their latest Matador album, might be Ceremony's finest release, but it's also something of a departure from their purist hardcore roots. That must be why the band were careful not to rely solely on Zoo for their set, including plenty of older fan favorites. Even while broadening their musical horizons, Ceremony know where their bread is buttered -- with the loyal legions of polite, post-adolescent hardcore punk lads across the land who form the core of their fanbase.

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