Photos By: Josh Claros

By: Brian Stephens

Thierry Amar, bass player for Thee Silver Mt. Zion, happened to be reading Graham Greene’s “A Burnt Out Case” prior to their San Diego show at the Casbah

The novel is about an architect that no longer finds meaning or pleasure in his work. But if Thee Silver Mt. Zion feel “burnt out”, their music says otherwise, as it seethes with energy.

According to Efrim Menuck, creator in both Thee Silver Mt. Zion and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, their songs were mostly about death and dying young. Dying young is not a hard thing to do in a plutocratic American society resisting even the paltriest raise in the minimum wage. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom that night as Efrim took a break between songs to let the audience ask questions. One concertgoer asked with requisite sub-culture glibness “when do we revolt?” No reply. Another question: “What was your first cassette tape?” to which Efrim responded  “Something by Billy Joel probably” before launching into something very un-Billy Joel like.

I talked to Efrim after the show about Billy Joel and he freely admitted that he was a genuine influence on his music development. Joel knocking over the piano during his Russian tour is pure punk we both agreed. Ironic smirks were not exchanged. But genuine interest was present. This is the kind of dude Efrim is. The kind of dude you can have an un-ironic conversation with about Billy Joel.

The highlight of their set was “What We Loved Was Not Enough.” Beginning slowly, it gathers weight and intensity like a snowball rolling down the slopes of our lives. The drumming is just right. Sparse and vast enough to encourage the bleeding guitar and prodding bass to mournfully ponder those things we love. Our cell phones, tablets, and our “followers” might be some of the things Efrim is alluding to. Efrim and company sing “The day has come when we no longer feel” and perhaps the glut of technology and social networking are part of the numbness that keep us overlooking the “war in our cities” and the “blood on our doorsteps.”

And this reviewer, unlike Billy Joel, is no Innocent Man. So, when Efrim wails “all our children gonna die” amidst the elegant cacophony and supporting vocals of Moss, Trudeau, and Amar you realize that although amusing, the flippancy from the guy wondering “When do we revolt?” is out of place.

After the unsettling yet majestic “What We Loved Was Not Enough, TSMZ close with “Little Ones Run.” The subdued and gentle vocals belie lyrics that are fraught with a dread that somehow avoids being alarmist. When they sing “the big ones hunt the little ones, and the little ones run” you know that this is just a sad truth they know doesn’t have to be the truth. At least during the show we could all take momentary refuge in the feeling that we were all little ones loving an experience that was for a couple of hours “enough.