Ceremony: an L-shaped band led by an L-shaped man. A dynamic so powerful that each member has their own shining moment on stage from the band’s rambunctious lead singer, Ross Farrar, to the band’s bassist, Andy Nelson, who seems to work more with the guitarists than the drummer to create a lush rhythm section for Ceremony’s on-stage performance.
This all started when I made the long trek down from Santa Cruz to the Echoplex in Los Angeles just to see a band whose latest record I’ve been hyped about since the first single was released. After listening to Ceremony’s latest album, “L-Shaped Man”, over and over again, I wasn’t sure how this show was going to go. The last time I saw them was about a year ago when Ceremony still primarily retained a very punk sound, but I wasn’t sure how a crowd was going to physically react to songs off of the more post-punk “L-Shaped Man”. Still, I went regardless of any other persons opinion but my own. After the opening sets of Mrs. Magician, Gun Outfit, and the fantastic Negative Approach, I wasn’t even sure if the crowd would have enough energy for Ceremony.
As Ceremony’s set time was approaching, the crowd that stayed in the lowly dark rear corners of the venue crept out from their dreary depths and doubled the size of what I thought was a full crowd. There was so much anticipation building in that room. Any person present at the show could feel a strange aura of anxiety and excitement as Ceremony’s gear was being tuned and placed. The crowd even falsely cheered for what they thought was the set starting when it was just Ceremony’s guitarist, Anthony Anzaldo, checking messages on his phone. After a few more minutes of an empty stage, it was filled.
As I sat in the press pit/security barrier that was set up at the Echoplex and the band was walking on-stage, the security team was walking behind the barrier. There were about four other press people there besides myself and each security guard there said, “three songs, then out”. As disappointed as I was, I completely understood why after the first song. The opening song Ceremony opened their set with was “The Separation”, the first single released off of “L-Shaped Man”. While the song is a very dark, emotional, somewhat mellow post-punk song, the crowd would have said otherwise. Everybody in the band exploded on stage with massive amounts of energy, and the crowd reciprocated the energy right back at the band. Crowd surfing, stage diving, mic grabbing, punching security in the face, and a broken pair of glasses all happened within the first few songs. Then, when Ceremony played their more hardcore stuff immediately afterwards, the crowd went even wilder. Most of the songs, rather than hearing lyrics from the lead singer, were sung by punk choir complete with its own mosh pit. Ross Farrar was well aware of this and did occasionally cross the security barrier to let people take their turns at the mic. Although there was chaos, the band was in complete control. After 2-3 songs, I was already on the outskirts of the security barrier so I wouldn’t be in the way of security being able to turn back crowd surfers.
Although I was off to the side for most of the show, I didn’t lose my front row seat to an amazing show. Ross Farrar was one of the most active stage presences I’ve ever seen. There are two types of hardcore singers, the strong stance singers and the ball of energy singers. Ross Farrar was definitely a ball of energy freely dancing around on stage while singing, taking breaks whenever necessary but still retaining the same vocal energy, and being in complete control of the mic as he was passing it around to various audience members. Anthony Anzaldo was just as, if not more active, than Ross Farrar but was flawlessly playing a guitar while moving around. Despite his limited range of movement on stage, Anthony was still able to match the intensity of Ross’s movements and nail down the guitar portion of the song while doing it. Anthony’s movements were at times reminiscent of Elvis’s swinging hips but so much more energetic. Andy Nelson, once a bassist, is now a guitarist and a great one at that. Andy has a more intimidating presence on stage reminiscent of Henry Rollins. Andy will stare you down and will make you regret your existence while his glare meets your eyes. I didn’t want to look at him for most of the show because he legitimately scared me. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but that all changed when he went on stage. Justin Davis profusely sweated through his job of playing the bass throughout the set. He was wearing a long sleeve shirt at the beginning of the set, but by the end it became more of a towel. Still, it did a fantastic job of playing the bass which is all the more important on Ceremony’s latest record. Then, there was Jake Casoratti. A drummer so passionate that his drums are beat so hard to the point where the drum heads sound like they’re about to break. Jake sounded like he was hitting and kicking boxes through the entire set, but in a way where it worked with everything the band was doing.
For one hour and fifteen minutes, it was their world. Covering their entire discography and even doing a cover of “California Uber Alles” that had me singing along, they nailed it. Now I wish I would have remembered where Ross said the after-party was at.