Music

Review: Into the Spirit World with Ceremony and Choir Boy

I keep ending up at Thalia Hall. It’s my siren. Calling and cooing me in yet again. On the heels of my review of The Hold Steady I find myself back within Thalia’s walls. This time I was back for Glitterer, Choir Boy, and Ceremony. There’s a lot of ground to cover here so it’s best to just five into the thick of it and hope we all make it out together. No stories up front to set the scene this time, just cutting to the chase. 

As with all In the Round performances there’s always something electric and special in the air when a band moves from center stage to the center of the room with fans surrounding them as opposed to directly viewing them. The first set by Glitterer was loosely held together by the energy of the somewhat sparse early evening crowd. I know little about Glitterer, beyond having an ex-member of Title Fight, this was really my first exposure to their material in a live setting. Cueing up songs mostly from a laptop (and drum machine combo perhaps) and then singing over them Glitterer ripped through a ten plus song set with no resistance. It’s hard for me to land on whether or not I liked the band — I enjoyed the energy, the sort of maligned attitude meets bedroom pop aesthete, and spotted several people in the crowd singing along but didn’t personally connect to it in any way. Can’t pass judgement beyond saying I enjoyed the energy that went into those songs but found it hard to connect in any kind of personal way. It happens. That said, I would recommend people see Glitterer because the performance is as interested as it is jarringly emotional. 

Quickly setting up after Glitterer were Choir Boy, a band who I’ve seen at Thalia before with Cold Cave last year. In the time between shows I’ve grown to be a huge fan of the band constantly waiting for new material but still spending ample time with what already exists. Choir Boy switched up arrangements on some of their material this time around, either speeding it up, fleshing it out with saxophone, or letting more atmospheric parts breathe a little bit. Vocalist Adam Klopp’s voice remained wonderfully angelic intermingled with shrill screams as certain songs picked up or swirled toward an ending. What made this performance a bit cooler than the previous show with Cold Cave was that it felt as though the band were having an easier and fun time playing their songs without the abject pressure of entertaining a crowded floor. That is probably my favorite aspect of Thalia’s In the Round performances; the ability to be a part of the crowd without the performative pressure of pleasing droves of people whose faces you cannot see. That said, Choir Boy were deeply satisfying. Curious to hear new material from them as their live show is fantastically arranged musically, moving from fast danceable goth hymns to more slower, meditative, wandering songs that feel emotionally engaged while also distant somehow. 

Finally we’re onto headlining band Ceremony who just launched their most recent record In the Spirit World Now. Without getting too deep into their history this band has been fascinating to watch grow over time. So much of the evolution of this band can be accredited to the band simply aging as growing as people. Earlier albums present themselves as fast, pissed-off, breakneck records that can capture the immediacy of violence and isolation in ways their hardcore peers couldn’t quite whittle down to fine, sharp points. Moving onto Rohnert Park you see a band coming to terms with anger and putting it to bed in a magnum opus centered around their hometown of the same name. This is where many early fans of the band drew the line between “good Ceremony” and “bad Ceremony” both of which are entirely vacuous statements. Ceremony are Ceremony.  On the heels of Rohnert Park came Zoo, a record bathed in crisper, cleaner musical arrangements. After Zoo came The L-Shaped Man a record that was considered by many to be Joy Division-adjacent (mostly in name only) as Farrar continued to change his vocal style and meditated on a break-up and interpersonal estrangement. Older now, Ceremony have arrived at In the Spirit World Now and it’s a summary of who they are not as a band but as people. They’ve grown. 

Their performance was an audio history of the band up until this moment in time. Their show managed to effortlessly incorporate stage dives, singalongs, the crowd’s gang vocal chants, and then slow moments of poetry. It is because of this that I find myself wondering why anyone bothers to ding the band for changing their sound at all because the core message is still there: we are all isolated feeling people with a chip on our shoulder or pain point in our heart and it needs to come out by whatever means necessary. That in mind their performance was massively appealing to everyone in attendance; hardcore kids had their moments of old Ceremony, new fans and those who are less hardcore inclined got newer material. And that’s what Ceremony shows should be — these flashing moments where your old life atomizes and reassembles as your current life. 

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