CEREMONY Thurs 7/16 Analog Café
Shawn Brackbill
THURS JULY 16

Ceremony w/Tony Molina, Creative Adult, Private Room; Analog Café, 720 SE Hawthorne

Bay Area trendsetters Ceremony are not the same band they were a decade ago. Four years ago, they inked a deal with Matador Records, trading in the brand of angular, unsettling powerviolence they had long perfected in favor of moody rock 'n' roll that sounded unlike anything they or any of their peers had previously done. The transition was hinted at on 2010's Rohnert Park but not technically actualized until 2012's Zoo. In the world of modern punk, Zoo was a total game-changer, a record that iconoclastically eschewed technicality-for-technicality's-sake and explicit aggression in favor of something much more subversive—a glammy swagger that would have made more sense in an arena than a basement.

Ceremony deliberately challenged the willingness and loyalty of their fans, and they succeeded through the power of conversion. Critics and punks alike ate that shit up (as they should—Zoo's a great record), and now people who dress in all black think mid-tempo rock is cool again. The group's latest, The L-Shaped Man, feels in some ways regressive and trend-jumping for a band that's historically been so innovative—it's thick on the chorus effect and the chilly, Ian Curtis worship, a trend I sort of hoped was on its way out. Nonetheless, it has its moments ("Exit Fears," "The Separation"), and is admirable for being yet another divisive curveball from the most stylistically restless rock band since Ween.

SAT JULY 18

Graham Nash; Aladdin Theater, 3017 SE Milwaukie

Graham Nash is the black sheep of Crosby, Stills & Nash, which consequently means his material has endured the best over the past four decades. This is not to say that David Crosby and Stephen Stills couldn't hit it out of the park—they could, it just wasn't on fuckin' "Almost Cut My Hair," a song that's only remarkable for earnestly employing the line "I feel like letting my freak flag fly." But whenever Crosby or Stills got carried away with hopelessly idealistic, Summer of Love-hangover bloviating, Nash brought us back down to planet Earth with a quaint, quintessentially British flair (left over from his time in the Hollies). This is best exemplified by the introspective escapism of "Marrakesh Express" and "Our House," the most poignant, gut-swiveling portrayal of domesticity ever penned, in spite of its overplayedness. Even his preachier contributions like "Teach Your Children" are ambiguous and apolitical enough that they're possible to extricate from the Woodstock era. (Nash's first solo LP, 1971's Songs for Beginners, is also pretty terrific.)

In 2013, the singer/songwriter published his autobiography, Wild Tales, and it's full of tasty anecdotes and thinly veiled shit talk. He's also apparently in the process of recording his sixth solo record.