LIVE: Ceremony / Bad Breeding / Chain Of Flowers @ Moth Club, Hackney

By Glen Bushell

When any bands sound moves further away from its original starting point it can push their fan base to opposite poles, but for better or worse, it is an important part of a bands growth. With that in mind, there are few bands that have grown as much as Rohnert Park, CA punks Ceremony. Their most recent – and undeniably finest to date – record ‘The L-Shaped Man’ was a heart-wrenching masterpiece that is a world away from the visceral powerviolence of their earlier work, and on this Friday evening in East London, they bring it to London for the first time.

The show also marks the opening of Moth Club in Hackney, which is a working men’s club turned live venue. Decked out in gold glitter, tinsel, and fairy lights, it would probably have seemed a bizarre venue for a show like this, but as we would come to witness, it provides the perfect setting for what would turn out to be one of the most special shows this year.

Opening proceedings are Welsh post-punk band Chain Of Flowers, and the new songs aired from their forthcoming self-titled album show a more refined sound. New single ‘Crisis’ sits comfortably alongside the raw energy of ‘Deaths Got a Hold One Me’ as frontman Joshua Smith writhes around the dance floor like a young Ian Curtis. By the time they end on a blistering cover of Spectrum’s ‘How You Satisfy Me’ there’s no denying Chain Of Flowers have truly come into their own.

Following them with a completely contrasting style are Bad Breeding from Stevenage, who are a powerful force to be reckoned with. Combining a classic hardcore punk sound akin to Negative Approach or NoMeansNo, with a distinctly British flair, they waste no time in making their mark on tonight’s show. They are a feral beast, with ‘Age Of Nothing’ and ‘Burn This Flag’ refusing to be contained, and they leave Moth Club a sweaty mess in their wake.

By the time Ceremony take their place on stage, the venue is practically bursting at the seams as they launch into ‘The Separation’ and any preconceived notions about them alienating their fan base with their progression in sound are instantly put to bed. The crowd hangs on every word front man Ross Farrar utters, singing every syllable back at him. ‘Sick’ incites the first signs of pandemonium of their set, and the brittle punk rock anthem ‘M.C.D.F’ still works next to the bleak post-punk of ‘The Party’.

Naturally, their set is very heavy on ‘The L-Shaped Man’ but it’s impossible not immerse yourself in the sullen vibe the songs, which translate perfectly in a live setting. They give a brief reprieve to the unbridled chaos during ‘Hysteria’ and ‘Citizen’ but Ceremony put 110% into every one of their compositions when playing live, so even ‘Bleeder’ feels just as engaging. Of course, the band never forget where they came from, and they tear through ‘Kersed’ and ‘I Want to Put This to an End’ from debut album ‘Violence Violence’ which sends the crowd into a frenzy. They bookend their performance with a similar elegance to how it started with ‘The Understanding’ and leave a sea of smiling faces in the audience.

Over the course of the last 10 years or so, Ceremony have clearly transcended the hardcore scene in which they started, but by doing exactly what they want with their art embodies the real spirit of what hardcore should be. They have lost none of their intensity, and after a jaw-dropping performance like tonight Ceremony have cemented their place as one of the most important punk bands of the modern age.