By MATT SAINCOME
Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012
Better than: Going to the zoo.
A drumbeat and bassline slowly start to build, breaking the silence and turning heads toward the stage as the crowd cheers. The projector screen rolls up, revealing the Bay Area hardcore-turned-indie outfit, Ceremony. The band then tears right into a set of mostly newer material from its Zoo LP, inspiring singer Ross Farrar into perhaps the weirdest dance moves to ever grace the stage of Slim's.
Farrar has got
moves confidence like Jagger. He looked like one of those inflatable dancing balloon men that car dealerships have -- if it had a broken back. But not in a cool way, just in a "What is going on here?" kind of way. His vocal style is like someone packed a fist full of hate and took a swing at him so hard upside the head that now he thinks he's a weird country version of Jello Biafra.
Ceremony's music has drifted so far from what attracted its original fan base that the band almost seems like an elaborate practical joke on hardcore kids at this point. Many of these kids danced and stage dove the night away during the set, but the music was so non-stage-dive-inducing that it was awkward to watch, like someone doing the Charleston to Katy Perry. Or the Jitterbug to Skrillex. Or twerking to Elton John. Or, you know ... stage-diving to new Ceremony songs.
The set did have some high points though. "Hysteria," the one song that really complimented Farrar's vocal style, sounded great, and ended with the singer laying on top of an enthusiastic group of crowd members singing along to the "ohs!" And the band also played "Kersed," their hardcore teenage angst anthem. Farrar, who apparently no longer relates to the song, let the crowd sing all of it except for the last verse, which he replaced with "na na na na na na!"
After all that it was Fucked Up's turn. The Toronto hardcore band -- whose last record is a self professed "rock opera" -- has a lot of praise to live up to. They are SPIN magazine's band of the year. They won the Polaris Music Prize. And they do not disappoint.
Playing a mix of old and new, but mostly new songs from their critically acclaimed album David Comes to Life, Fucked Up had the crowd in a fever pitch from start to finish. With songs about love everyone can relate to, and obscure pro-wrestling references in between that almost no one can relate to, the Fucked Up experience is a unique one. They have the big-band performance skills with a small-band feel.
Singer Damian Abraham engages the crowd in a way other singers don't. He puts on a show by running through the crowd all the way to the back of the club to sing from atop of a table, or even out on the street. But he also connects personally with as many audience members as he can, taking time to hug and thank individual crowd members mid-song. It even became a trend last night to jump on stage, engage in a sweaty and back-hair-filled hug with the singer, and then stage-dive off.