I spoke too soon.
Recently, I was quick to declare that Ceremony‘s latest LP was enough of a departure from contemporary hardcore to qualify as constructive abandonment, to borrow from the divorce law parlance. Not quite vested in the scene, Zoo finds the California band shapeshifting like Wire did on Chairs Missing or when loudmouthed Johnny Rotten reemerged as visionary John Lydon for Public Image Limited’s debut. Though I dig the new record tremendously, I harbored some disappointment to the a-changin’ times.
Yet Ceremony’s midnight Mercury Lounge gig on Monday provided a suitable counterpoint. Whether disheartened or emboldened by the reported lackluster reception they’d received mere hours before opening for Refused at the cavernously un-punk Terminal 5, the band showed zero indication of fatigue or disengagement as it burned through material from the new record interspersed with Rohnert Park cuts and even a few covers. The engaging set showcased the band coping well with its newfound popularity while relishing the familiar comfort of a hardcore audience.
If they had sold out or moved on or whatever, nobody bothered to inform the audience, carelessly swept up in the thrill and thrall of the moment. New bangers like “Hysteria” and the jerky “World Blue” sat nicely with slightly older favorites “Sick” and “Open Head.” Save for when a barely-introduced vocalist emerged from the wings to lead a faithful version of Vile’s darkly comedic “5 To 10,” the sneering ever-presence of frontman Ross Farrar carried the proceedings. Pit vermin devotedly clawed and snapped at him, his t-shirt ruined track-by-track. At one point, Farrar stumbled in the audience, suffering further well-intentioned abuse.
More self-deprecating comedy bit than hardcore band, oddly-monikered openers Violent Bullshit did little to pump the gathering crowd up. Mustachioed singer Jayson Green–formerly of Orchid and its successor Panthers–seemed almost disinterested in the audience, gasping out hip updates of Henny Youngman one-liners (topics included: kale, nausea) in the breaks between short sputtering spurts of moderately enjoyable backward-nodding punk. Nobody moshed, not even as a joke.