I’ve lived in Denver for almost six years now, and along the Front Range for almost 20. But there are a few ways in which I have failed in the rites of Colorado residency: I’ve never toured the Denver Mint, nor have I been to the Molly Brown House. And until last night, I’d never seen Slim Cessna’s Auto Club play live…shame on me.
Following openers A. Tom Collins (who are rapidly becoming a favorite of mine, with their “Small Change”-era Tom Waits feel and lively stage act) and Drag The River (rather, the two members of Drag the River who could make it in the icy conditions), Slim Cessna’s Auto Club proved why, even after a solid decade of playing New Year’s at the Bluebird, they are still one of Denver’s most exciting live acts. On a stage decorated like an eccentric Victorian’s dusty parlor, the elder statesmen of Denver goth-Americana brought the feel of a tent revival to the Bluebird Theater.
Choosing to forgo a themed show (like last year’s “Popeye” New Year’s), Slim and the crew decided instead to simply dress for the occasion in vintage tuxedos. This simple choice let the music shine forth, especially with their classically evangelical delivery on songs like “Americadio” and newer choices like “A Smashing Indictment of Character.”
There is something so primordially Denver about the sound of Slim Cessna, a sound in which it doesn’t take much effort to hear echos of all great Colorado bands past and present. For this reason, it was as exciting as it was apropos when venerable Denver blues diva Erica Brown joined Slim for several songs, and when Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys was suddenly onstage accompanying the band for “This is How We Do Things In The Country.” While Slim Cessna’s sound is entirely their own, it meshes just as well with Brown’s bluesy wails as it does with Biafra’s “California Über Alles”-style bleating.
After a raucous, crowdsurfing finale with “Everyone is Guilty,”, Slim and the crew left the stage only briefly before returning for an encore. The band then finished out the night with “Thy Will Be Done,” and “He, Roger Williams,” a paean to the founder of the first Baptist church in the U.S. As the lyrics claim, Williams was a man of the cloth who nevertheless liked to rock and roll. With their intricate religious imagery and near-apostolic enthusiasm, Slim’s admiration for Mr. Williams seems particularly apt.
And on the night before new years, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club won one more Denver congregant to their fold: me.
Cassandra Schoon is a Denver freelance writer and regular Reverb contributor.
John Moore founded The Denver Post Underground Music Showcase in 2001
Read the originally published review here