Slim Cessna's Auto Club @ the BluebirdBy Loren Speer | January 8th, 2008 | No Comments »
Slim Cessna fronts the mostly-local favorites Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, which played two shows at the Bluebird Theater. This picture of Slim, taken from the sweaty and crowded pit, was taken by contributor Loren Speer.
The first time seeing Slim and the boys play floored me. I thought to myself, “Who are these guys? Singing audience-loving anthems about Jesus and Satan, are they for real?” For the longest time I had a tough time describing the band to people who didn’t know them. Here is one of my fumbling descriptions:
“They’re, uh, country, but like rock-country. Wait — no, like punk-rock country. Oh yeah, and they’re dark, almost Gothic. And religious too.”
My friends would furrow their brows and look at me as if I was just being ridiculous. Eventually I’d just say: “Duder, I know it sounds strange, but you’ve GOT to see them live. You’ll love it.”
I don’t think there is another band out there that I can comfortably tell just about everybody that, “Without a doubt, you will love this show.” Slim delivers consistently, so it’s no surprise his Dec. 30 show at the Bluebird Theater was an amazing outing.
For those who have seen the Auto Club as many times as I have, there is a difference between an epic Slim show and a great Slim show. The New Year’s Eve Eve show was only a great show. Slim at the sold-out Lion’s Lair two years ago was epic. Slim with Magic Cyclops and Machine Gun Blues at Bender’s last spring was epic as well. Of course, the first time I saw Slim at the Larimer Lounge many years ago was epic.
At the Bluebird, the band had the fervor of past shows, but Slim wasn’t as gracious and energetic as usual. (He only crowd-surfed once!) Munly didn’t seem as gaunt and creepy as usual. The other members of the band seemed to be on cue. Guitarist John Rumly’s new homemade, double-neck guitar with a painting of the Virgin Mary was particularly memorable.
Still, Slim and Munly are the kind of performers who, even on less-than-epic nights, can whip up a crowd like no band I’ve seen before. Atheists will be singing about the glory of God in “Last Song About Satan.” Doctors and lawyers (a.k.a. “smart” people) will be singing the refrain, “Goddamn I know; Lord made me slow,” from “Mark of Vaccination.” Punk rockers will be yodeling right along with Slim during “Goddamned Blue Yodel #7.”
The irony is beautiful and nobody cares about the contradictions.
The music of the Auto Club digs at and exposes the strangeness of Americana. (Read the lyrics of “This Is How We Do Things In The Country,” and you will understand). This strange and contradicted identity of American consciousness was something that poet Walt Whitman put into verse in his beautiful “Leaves of Grass.” He wrote, “Do I contradict myself? Fine I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.”
In this way, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club embraces the multitude of the American collective identity that Whitman uncovered. This is why critics are hard up when trying to describe the Gothic country band (mostly based in Denver). The Auto Club defines itself as country or folk in interviews; and in the genre notes given in iTunes, it says it is country.
However, it is hard for me to classify Slim in the same genre that currently sings the war cry of the Republicans and the Christian right. Maybe the Auto Club is trying to reclaim the genre. One thing is for certain: Not many people walk away from a Slim Cessna’s Auto Club show displeased. Oftentimes I feel renewed, as if I had gone to a revival to cleanse myself of some insipid taste on my palette.