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Live Review + Gallery: Ceremony, Sydney 2016

Ceremony / Choke / HANNAHBAND
Red Rattler, Sydney 20/03/2016
Review: David James Young | Photos: Gwendolyn Lee

Such is the chameleon-like, genre-shifting nature of tonight’s headliners, a support bill sporting two acts at completely opposite ends of the spectrum does not feel alienating or jarring in contrast. Rather, it makes perfect sense; with each serving somewhat of a balancing act to the other. HANNAHBAND, for instance, sit quite at home in the more garage-dwelling, post-punk-flavoured corner of indie rock. The duo has carved quite a niche for themselves through their use of baritone guitar and unisex vocal layering, as well as flipping on a dime between robust rhythms and cymbal-crashing wig-outs. A sneak preview of material from their upcoming third album, Quitting Will Improve Your Health, indicates there is still uncharted territory for them to venture through yet.

It’s reductive to think of Central Coast punks Choke as less artful in their approach than HANNAHBAND, but let’s be frank here: This is a band with all the subtlety of a swinging hammer. They deliver furious, all-guns-blazing hardcore at a break-neck pace, all snarling riffs and focused aggression recalling acts like Extortion and even fellow countrymen Staunch. Taken primarily from their debut LP, last year’s Left with Nothing, Choke are quick to draw the crowd in closer and even get a few of the more sprightly and boisterous amid the crowd to throw down when the time comes within the song structure for them to do so. To relate once again to tonight’s headliners, it’s all a bit more Violence Violence than The L-Shaped Man – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The last time Ceremony toured Australia, they arrived at the Hardcore 2012 weekender with a half-dozen fucks and promptly left with six. Sandwiched between acts like Break Even, Mindsnare and Terror, the band performed whatever they wanted to and didn’t care if it left a bemused windbreaker or two standing around waiting for earlier material. A few things have changed since that time, mostly concerning the band’s conversion to a five-piece with the inclusion of new bassist Justin Davis, moving Andy Nelson to second guitar. This aside, things are still happening very much on Ceremony’s terms. Thankfully, an audience there specifically to see them are much more welcoming of the band’s new material: opener “The Separation” sparks a loud sing-along, while “Your Life in Paris” and “The Party” even get quite a few punters to trade in their mosh shorts for dancing shoes. It’s clear that Ceremony have invested a lot into the creation of The L-Shaped Man, the album from which these songs stem, and they perform the songs with energy and confidence.

With all respect given to this material, however, all bets are off once the band dip into their back catalogue. “Sick” whips up a pure frenzy, while “Hysteria” sees the crowd stomp out the floor as the drums authoritatively kick in. As for their signature finisher, “Kersed”? Fuggedaboudit: as soon as Davis lets the opening bass notes rumble out, a riot promptly ensues. Perhaps what’s most exciting about the performance overall is that, despite the constant shifts in sound and genre, the band never lets up for a moment. They’re incredibly proud of what they have achieved in their decade or so together, and tonight allows them to celebrate that with an audience that has never even once entertained the idea of giving up on them.

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