Velcro Shoes and Moons Over My Hammy

By David DiazFebruary 29, 2024

Velcro Shoes and Moons Over My Hammy
CEREMONY with INFEST, GOUGE AWAY, and friends, Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles, February 24, 2024.

There’s something serene about a diner after a show. When you saunter through the front door of a Denny’s, belly already full from two overpriced tall cans, the bottoms of your shoes like tape from the paste covering the venue floor, your shirt covered in sweat of various origins, and you’re very ready for a coffee, a club sandwich, and onion rings, it’s almost like a moon hitting your eye. As I slouch towards geriatrics, seeing bands that helped shape my twenties perform at venues that I grew up going to, I feel a little less dead. And last Saturday while Ceremony played their third album, Rohnert Park, in its entirety at the Hollywood Palladium, I was even more reanimated than usual.

The show started at seven on the dot, which is pretty uncommon for a punk show, but not outrageous for a venue still in the chokehold of a ’90s-era curfew that not even Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch could curb. The night opened with Blazing Eye, a four-piece Los Angeles band with an almost classic kind of extreme hardcore punk reminiscent of ’80s anarcho-punk greats like G.I.S.M. and GAUZE, and they made sure no one was asleep. The Fort Lauderdale five-piece Gouge Away followed by dousing us in their brand of hardcore. With a lovely mix of post-hardcore, noise, and a fuzzy, grungy, sometimes dancy punk, they’ve been a mainstay in my rotation since their 2018 release Burnt Sugar, and if I ever missed their set because the boys and I took the wrong freeway and couldn’t find parking, I’d surely write a strongly worded letter to the White Star Line.

Soul Search was next, and they sustained us into the last two acts of the night. Trekking from the Inland Empire to Hollywood on a Saturday evening is no easy feat, and the singer reminded us in typical L.A. traffic-obsessed fashion as they delivered their stompy, beatdown, crossover-adjacent hardcore. Then they handed things off to powerviolence icons Infest. Since they don’t play very often, seeing their name on the bill was kind of shocking. They’ve had such a huge impact on an entire music scene and general aesthetic I’ve been obsessed with since high school, so it was like seeing Lauryn Hill or Jesus play their hits for 30 minutes. As they’re probably not in the habit of playing giant venues or behind barricades, it was also great seeing their singer Joe Denunzio jump the barrier as they rattled off songs from their catalog.

Then finally, around 9:30-something, our headliners took the stage. Known for their effortless blend of genres like powerviolence, hardcore, and punk, as well as their later use of elements of post-punk and new wave, the legendary and sometimes infamous Nor-Cal band Ceremony first began to navigate new territory with 2010’s Rohnert Park. There was something about that album, the stylistic shift from their previous records and to those that came after, that continued to develop the elaborate vision of heavy and emotional music that they sought to create. Now I wonder, knowing the current iteration of their project with more experimental albums like The L-Shaped Man (2015) and In the Spirit World Now (2019) and weighing each member as individuals who make choices based on tastes, favorite bands, and relationships, what if everything they did with their earlier albums—unbridled and throttling hardcore—was some grand irony or satirical gesture? Not in a gross, clunky, contrived way, but conscious and meticulous with the art they planned to create, contribute to, and propel forward. Seeing them play the entirety of their junior opus for the first and final time last weekend, while weaving in songs from their newest and oldest albums, was nothing short of brilliant. Like anything created by seasoned, scrupulous artists, with intent, nuance, and grace, they really did something magical.

So at the end of the night as I recount the show, laugh with friends around a table, and slam single vanilla creamers like shots of tequila—yes please, garçon, one more coffee refill to wash down this Tabasco-ketchup and help me brave the 110 home.

¤


Photo of Ceremony by contributor.


LARB Short Take live event reviews are published in partnership with the nonprofit Online Journalism Project and the Independent Review Crew.

LARB Contributor

David Diaz is a writer and educator living in Los Angeles, who holds an MFA from CSU Long Beach. His poetry has been published by Tia Chucha Press, San Pedro River Review, Querencia Press, and Tiny Splendor, and his freelance journalism can be found in Locale Magazine and L.A. Taco

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