CEREMONY & NOTHING
531 North 12th St.
Philadelphia, PA, 19123
Doors 7:30 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is all ages
Breakup albums mark a turning point for a band: the moment when their sound completely changes and reaches a new level of emotional clarity. All that heartbreak and malaise condensed into any single record often makes for a defining piece of work, no matter the genre. The best records explore the nooks and crannies of sadness, learning it inside and out — celebrating it.
Ceremony’s fifth studio album, The L-Shaped Man, uses singer Ross Farrar’s recent breakup as a platform to explore loneliness and emotional weariness, but it is by no means a purely sad album. Rather than look inward, Farrar uses his experience to write about what it means to go through something heavy and come out the other side a different person.
In order to tell Farrar's story, Ceremony have almost completely stripped back the propulsive hardcore of their previous records, turning every angry outburst into simmering despair. “We’ve always tried to be minimalists in writing, even if it’s loud or fast or abrasive,” says lead guitarist Anthony Anzaldo. “It’s really intense when I hear it. Not in a way where you turn everything up to ten. Things are so bare, you’re holding this one note for so long and you don’t now where it’s going—to me, that’s intensity.” That intensity is apparent on “Exit Fears,” the first full song on the record. It meticulously pairs Justin Davis’ loping bassline, which pulls the track along, with Anzaldo's icy, minimal guitar work. It brings to mind some alternate version of Joy Division that hasn’t quite lost all hope. It gets close to exploding, but instead plays the shadows, never quite rising above a nervous simmer.
“A lot of the content has to do with loss, and specifically the loss of someone who you care deeply about,” Farrar says. “There is no way for you to go through something like this artistically and not have really strong emotions of loss and pain. There’s not really any way to hide that.” Farrar, for his part, is singing with a new kind of intensity, his baritone swooping and retreating from stressed angst to unsettling near-mutter as he sings, “You told your friends you were fine/ you thought you were fine too…” and later, “nothing is ever fine/ nothing ever feels right/ you have to tell yourself you tried.” It’s the first of many lyrically direct moments, and it should be hard to listen to, but Ceremony have so effortlessly nailed the sound of sadness that it feels great to live inside for awhile.
The sound is abetted by producer John Reis, who honed his sound in seminal bands like Rocket from the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, and Hot Snakes. Much of the gravelly aggression he experimented with in those bands is present on The L-Shaped Man.
There's a story behind the title too. “I was speaking to our driver Stephen while on tour,” Farrar says. “We were talking about men in general and what shape they are…their body type. I said, ‘I guess men are in the shape of an L. The torso is straight. Vertical. And then you have the little feet at the end.’ There’s this painter named Leslie Lerner who was living in San Francisco in the ‘70s and ‘80s and made these beautiful paintings. He died on my 21st birthday. A lot of the record is about the similarities in our ideas. In what we’re trying to make. Things that have to do with love and losing love.”
“I don’t feel as though I’ve grown less cynical by any means– maybe just more comfortable knowing that I’m no longer using existence, existence is using me”, chuckles Domenic Palermo when speaking of NOTHING’s third installment, Dance On The Blacktop. Palermo first discovered the title, taken from ancient prison slang meaning a fight or hit during outside recreation, in the works of urban fiction writers Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim. Known for their popularity throughout the prison system, Palermo became acquainted while he was incarcerated, later finding it to be a symbolic interpretation of the album’s philosophy. “I've learned to bask in the absurdity of it all– in the chaos,” preaches Palermo. "There’s beauty in the confusion if you can learn to hold its hand.”
The story of NOTHING began in 2010 with a simple demo tape in a Philadelphia apartment. The project, which started as a therapeutic outlet solely for Palermo, snowballed into a polished machine with a chance meeting with guitarist/singer Brandon Setta and the eventual addition of Kyle Kimball on drums. Sharing a musical bond, the trio weaved melancholic tales of imprisonment, broken bonds and lost youth as the centerpiece for their 2014 debut, Guilty Of Everything. The world post Guilty served as the focus for the entirety of 2016’s Tired Of Tomorrow – painting a Schopenhauerian tragedy in vivid color and sound.
Dance on the Blacktop is the next chapter of NOTHING’s story and like its predecessors, pulls from all corners of life in its contents. Stories of self loathing, self destruction, and a general disdain for humanity and its, “insignificant” role in Palermo’s vision of the universe are met with his poised amusement and tranquil hysteria being one himself. All of this told through the eyes of a recently diagnosed Palermo suggesting he is dealing with the early stages of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), a neurodegenerative disease found in people with serious head injuries. And as they packed themselves in a coffin-sized NYC apartment for 23 days to demo songs it became abundantly clear that the ripple effect left upon his psyche from dealing with these newfound symptoms would leave its mark on the material.
NOTHING sought out celebrated producer John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr, Breeders, Sonic Youth, Kurt Vile) to help accentuate the band’s love for all sounds 90s, from rock to shoegaze to pop realms and on both sides of the pond. The next month was spent tracking at the historical Dreamland Studios in Woodstock, NY with newly appointed bassist Aaron Heard. As days moved by, Palermo spewed songs of heightened confusion, anxiety, paranoia, depression, and chronic battles with physical pain– a result of his unstable past and more recent illness. These themes, spoken in a lush angelic language are juxtaposed against the band’s now signature apocalyptic, reverberating wall of shimmering sound, all captured beautifully by Agnello and the open room.
Throughout the course of their history, NOTHING have brought their signature heavy live performance on the road with a diverse cast of acts like Dinosaur Jr, Jane's Addiction, Failure, Hum, Power Trip, Baroness, Torche, DIIV, Merchandise, Car Seat Headrest, Thursday and AFI. They've appeared at the world-renowned Governor’s Ball, Lollapalooza, Primavera, Made In America, Levitation, Osheaga and Sasquatch, becoming a staple of the festival set, all while garnering widespread critical acclaim from the likes of Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NPR, NME and more.
While sticking to the sound that has now become their own, you can still hear the band testing their boundaries and creating a plethora of genre-bending, yet widely accessible songs. As a band, NOTHING manage to muster a smile in the face of the illogical, and there is no denying that Dance On The Blacktop is a brave walk into the absurdity.
RAW, GLITTERING, PSYCHEDELIC...OLIVIA NEUTRON JOHN, is a NON-BINARY, POST-BRO one person music/dance declaration of war on the accepted and the expected.
"BUBBLE BOBBLE MEETS MALARIA!" -James Fella, Gilgongo Records
"LIQUID SKY FOR THE 21st CENTURY!" -Chris Callahan, Sexual Milkshake
"I LIKE YOUR MUSIC! SO GOOD!" -My War Yuichiro, Conceptual Artist
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Wednesday December 20th