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SXSW regional preview: Northern California and the Bay Area

Joe Gross
jgross@statesman.com

Northern California/ The Bay Area

Ceremony

Ceremony started out as an orthodox hardcore punk band made up of high school kids. Guitarist Anthony Anzaldo Jr. — known to the folks who saw the band at Fun Fun Fun Fest last fall as "the guitarist who was dressed kind of like Prince" — wants to make this very clear. "When we started, we had a very specific sound, and we wanted to sound exactly like that," Anzaldo said. "Anything other than that was not OK." This is in the tradition of roughly a bazillion hardcore bands started by high school kids since the genre was stapled together, back when America was moving from Carter to Reagan.

And Ceremony draws on that tradition. They are young enough — band members rang in age from 23 to 30 — that high-speed internet has been virtually a given the entire time they have been a band.

"(Singer) Ross (Farrar) graduated in 2003, and we started rehearsing in 2004 and played our first show March 5, 2005," Anzaldo said.

Which means all of punk history is a few clicks away. "We loved Dead Kennedys, Negative Approach, Black Flag, DC stuff, late '80s stuff like Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today and modern stuff like American Nightmare," Anzaldo said.

But they are way past that now. Ceremony's music now has a recombinant quality, and their newest album, "Zoo" (Matador) might be their savviest blend yet.

"We've grown a lot as people, but it bothers me when people say ‘They've grown out of hardcore,' " Anzaldo said. "I still love that music, but you do want to grow."

The music recalls the moment when a punk band decides that all sorts of sounds and song-forms are theirs for the understanding.

"When you start a band like that, it's very easy to grow because you are not starting out with much," Anzaldo said. "The sky was not the limit! So to try and bring in another element of punk and rock music is a big deal. When you start with only a dollar in your pocket, it's a lot easier to get more money percentage-wise."

Official showcase: 8 p.m. Saturday at Red 7.

More from the Bay Area

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Online: www.howlinrain.com

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Could share a bill with: Grand Funk Railroad, Santana, Mastodon

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Online: sean-smith.org

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Could share a bill with: The (Expletive) Champs, Pink Floyd, Gong

DJ Amen

From: San Francisco

Online: djamen.com

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Could share a bill with: Rapid Ric, Green Lantern, DJ Boogie

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Online: prizehog.net

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Lumerians

From: San Francisco

Online: lumerians.com

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Could share a bill with: Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, Oneida