Extra special staying out late on a Monday night dispensation last week as we headed over to our favourite cinema come music venue - The Mayfair - to see Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra.
What's this, a cinema hosting live music? It seems so, and not for the first time. Mayfair seems to have a pleasing side-line in gigs and also the burgeoning, new yet old genre of re-soundtracking whereby a film screening is accompanied by live music (and live voice acting in the case of Night of the Living Dead). It's a bit strange having an all-seated gig, but we're well past our pogoing heyday so it's all just fine and dandy to be sat and listening to some fine sounds.
The evening started off with Memoryhouse. A very pleasing dreamy synth-tinged sound, redolent of Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine and, sometimes, Boards of Canada. We definitely want to know more of this group.
Already it was getting late, but not too late to have a second support act. I confess that I have no idea who they were, and have been googling in vain for the last few minutes trying to figure it out. Anyhow, they were just fine and dandy, although not so much to my tastes these days. They reminded me of early Verve stuff with some pleasing, drifting guitar which, once in a while, really kicked into gear.
Now, the main event. Not until 11 pm, well past bedtime, and oh so hot in the cinema, but, but, but... what are these trivialities compared to the ecstatic power of Thee Silver Mt. Zion? Nothing, that's what: nothing. The show was stupendous. The group comprised guitar, two violins, cello and drums, providing that satisfyingly complex post-rock sound which fuses everything from classical to metal (Pichfork mention "chamber-punk" and "orchestro-folk" in their review of the recent album). There's something amazingly compelling and transcendental about the music, it really sounds like nothing else. This is what music can be, what it should be; not the anodyne pennings of some tight-trousered Simon Cowell-alike, custom designed to fill bland pop radio and pass the time of day, but guttural, from the heart: born of life, not the boardroom.
So they played, and played some more, and it was fantastic. The audience was hot but enthused, apart from all those that seemed to have an 11.30 curfew and traipsed out of the room after the 2nd song. One guy even made the effort to get up and dance in vest and pants for most of the gig, which was possibly the non-musical highlight of the gig, if not a little disturbing. The other non-musical highlights were the impromptu Q&A sessions between songs (presumably there to fill in the longer than usual equipment fiddling required in this unusual venue and infernal heat) in which the usual rock group between-song ramblings/pontifications were replaced with "anyone have a question...?" and soon threatened to descent into playground arguments.
"What do you read?"
"Books man, books. We read books."
"Why are you so bitter?"
"Why do you think I'm bitter, you don't know me man...."