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Concert review: Ceremony presents new album Zoo at the Rough Trade East

  Wednesday 21st March 2012

The in-store Hardcore gig is a fine, upstanding tradition, from the chaotic matinées of Black Flag and their ilk to F*cked Up’s legendary 12-hour concert in New York a few years back, and California ne’er-do-wells Ceremony did their forebears proud during this short but sweet set at Brick Lane’s Rough Trade East – the physical HQ of the London record label releasing their new album Zoo in the UK. For all their mythologising, record stores such as Rough Trade tend to be quite studious, introverted places, and when a real flesh and blood Punk band appears out of nowhere (only a handful of people in attendance seem aware of the gig beforehand), the effect is exhilarating and unnerving at the same time, akin to the protagonists of your favourite book actually materialising in your local library.

Ross Farrar of Ceremony onstage at the Rough Trade East

All the more so given that Ceremony are as intrusive and in-your-face as they come – described by one particularly tactless critic as “Hardcore’s equivalent to Hiroshima”, on stage they are an overpowering whirlwind of pounding rhythms and unspoken exhortations to rage against the dying light – or against anything you like, really. Frontman Ross Farrar wastes no time in marking his territory, thankfully only metaphorically, by setting up shop right down in the front row, and flailing wildly at the brave nearby fans, all the while shouting in the vague direction of his microphone. With a quiff that lends him an uncanny resemblance to a punk Morrissey, Farrar is a magnetic presence, often wandering off into the crowd during the slower numbers and finally ascending onto the stage for the last song, only to semi-successfully try and scale the scaffolding overhead.

His band mates, meanwhile, manfully churn out one withering blast of noise after another, although more melodic punk influences definitely come into play on the newer material. Recent single Citizen is dispatched early on with unrivalled venom, and closing song Sick is a vitriolic, rousing catch-all for Farrar’s many grievances, bringing the set to an ungodly crescendo before the band scuttles off to nearby XOYO, for the evening’s main event. The tracks are all but indistinguishable and the levels are all over the place, but the crowd is on their feet, the show is great fun and even if brash guitars and barked vocals aren’t your cup of tea, the whole thing is over in less than twenty minutes. Brevity is the soul of wit, and, it seems, of successful Hardcore in-store appearances as well.

Verdict: •••

Freddy Powys

Photos: Damian De La Ferra

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