The San Francisco Examiner from San Francisco, California on August 21, 2019 · A12
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The San Francisco Examiner from San Francisco, California · A12

San Francisco, California
Issue Date:
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
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When Rohnert Park native Ross Farrar enrolled at New York’s Syra- cuse University to finish his English degree, he hoped it would enhance his other prime pursuit, as cata- comb-creepy vocalist and lyricist for post-punk outfit Ceremony. But, three years ago, as he began to compose “In the Spirit World Now,” the band’s bracing new sixth album — which they’ll play at August Hall in The City this week — he found that academia and artistry proved mutu- ally exclusive. “It all turned out to be separate, very separate things,” says Farrar, who taught three courses in Syra- cuse (a research class, introductory English, and the Living Writers Pro- gram covering contemporary fiction) and now resides in Marin City, seek- ing a teaching job. “First, Syracuse was like living on this island with winters of 20 below. I felt very alienated, with no friends around to help you figure things out. But I managed to write this record there, where I was studying poetry, but in this dark little basement where the computer was. And it was difficult, going from one mode to the other.” English and songwriting were worlds apart, he quickly learned, particularly since he was penning words to fit his bandmates’ visceral, Buzzcocks-thumping instrumentals. “It was hard, actually,” he says, still slightly taken aback by it all. He began to view trips to the cellar as painful acts of self-flagellation, and he never found any parallel patterns that he could use. “So I just pushed through and gritted my teeth the SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER · SFE X AMINER.COM · 12 W E D N E S DAY, AU G U S T 2 1 , 2 0 1 9 CULTURE COVERAGE FOR SAN FRANCISCO & BEYONDARTS & ENTERTAINMENT Ceremony is back with ‘Spirit World’ By Tom Lanham Special to S.F. Examiner IF YOU GO: Ceremony Where: August Hall, 420 Mason St., S.F. When: 9 p.m. Friday Tickets: $20 Contact: (415) 872-5745, www. whole time,” he adds. “I was practi- cally down there on my knees each time.” But eventually, Farrar fashioned bass-heavy anthems (“I Want More,” “Presaging the End” and “Turn Away the Bad Thing”) into a linear, qua- si-concept album. And through his Living Writers work, he had met, and parsed tech- nique, with Sigrid Nunez, Terrance Hayes and George Saunders. He finally mapped out “Spirit World” in a poetic manifesto. In between songs are snippets of spoken word; “California Jungle — Dream States End” is inspired by the verse of Brooks Haxton, one of of Farrar’s professors. “My theme is this person in California, going toward the beach, but they’re walking through hard times,” says Farrar. Farrar isn’t lyrically tilting at windmills, but he loves capturing fleeting impressions, of, for exam- ple, the smell of fresh rainwater on concrete. “Did you know that there’s an actual term for that?” he asks rhe- torically. “It’s called petrichor, and one of my classmates actually used it to title his poem. Everybody made fun of him at first, but once I looked it up, I was quite impressed.” COURTESY RICK RODNEY Ceremony (songwriter Ross Farrar is center) has a new recording, “In the Spirit World Now.” Rocks off! Rolling Stones sound great in Santa Clara Solid No Filter Tour serves up classic hits By Leslie Katz S.F. Examiner Staff Writer As the Rolling Stones were nearing the end of their truly satisfying, two- hour concert at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday night, Mick Jagger told the capacity crowd that the band’s first visit to the Bay Area was in 1965, and that they’ve done 40 shows here. “I’ll always remember the smell of the Cow Palace,” he said, as rock’s most classic group rounded out the concert with great versions of “Start Me Up” and “Brown Sugar.” At 76, having handled his rock-star status for more than half a century, he knows how to treat an audience. He made it a point to touch on local stuff: he knew he was in Santa Clara, mentioned Apple, Facebook and Google in Silicon Valley, the Buena Vista and Irish coffee in San Fran- cisco, thanked the opening band Vista Kicks (from Roseville) and asked if folks came from as far away as Stockton. He even apologized for postponing this stop on the band’s No Filter Tour. He didn’t mention it was because of a medical issue, and in no way did he look, sound or move like anyone who had a heart valve replaced several months ago. (Admittedly, his strutting was slightly less frenetic than on pre- vious tours; it was simply exhausting to watch him when the Bridges to Bab- ylon Tour hit town in the late 1990s.) Mostly, though, the show was about the songs. The stadium sound was unusually great, and the English band offered a solid, hit-filled set, starting with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and “Tumbling Dice” before moving to “Out of Control” (from the aforemen- tioned “Bridges to Babylon” album). “Rocks Off” was done at the audi- ence’s request, Jagger said, before launching into a sing-along on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” In an “intimate” section of the show at the 50-yard line — “it’s like being in your auntie’s parlor but with more people,” Jagger said — he pulled out a harmonica and, with gui- tar mates Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood and drummer Charlie Watts, played mellower tunes, including “Sweet Virginia” and “Let It Bleed.” Richards got a few lead vocals — on “You Got the Silver” and the under-rated “Before They Make Me Run” — before the band blasted into full versions of the excellent “Miss You,” featuring bassist Darryl Jones, and the blues rocker “Midnight Ram- bler,” with more harmonica. With its awesome, hypnotic, unmistakable opening (though so many Stones’ tunes are terrifi- cally distinctive from the first few notes), “Sympathy for the Devil” got a delicious rendition, with Jagger appearing in a top hat and tailcoat with sparkles. (He changed shirts several times.) The full band — particularly sax- ophonist Karl “The Fog” Denson, Jagger called him — sounded great on “Honky Tonk Women” and the sitar-y “Paint It Black.” The group also includes Matt Clifford on key- board and percussion, Tim Ries on sax and keyboards, Chuck Leavell on vocals and keyboards and Bernard Fowler on vocals and percussion. Soulful vocalist Sasha Allen got her big moment in the spotlight on perhaps the Stones’ best song, “Gimme Shelter.” Closing with “(I Can’t Get No) Sat- isfaction,” the concert exemplified just how great these guys are, and that it’s hard to top the combination of artistry and professionalism — even in rock ‘n’ roll. ALL: CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO/ SPECIAL TO S.F. EXAMINER Top photo: It was hard to escape the Stones’ famed logo in Santa Clara on Sunday. Left photo: From left, The Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards brought their No Filter Tour to Levi’s Stadium.

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