"Slim Cessna Auto Club (SCAC) is a very important band in Denver Rock Culture," Scott LaBarbera, owner of the Oriental Theater, tells me as 2013 begins and the New Years Eve show at his venue comes to a close. "It's a big deal for us to have this show here, it legitimizes the venue." The palm tree graced walls of the Oriental rocked for hours and gave 2012 a proper boot out the door. In my opinion, if the rest of 2013 is as good as Slim's show I will still be grinning when 2014 rounds the bend.
Endless varieties of colorful flannel and band hoodies wrap up crowds that fill the floor and balcony level. Real, beautiful, tattooed and grooving Denverites celebrate both spiritually and carnally. The Sterling Sisters, from Baltimore, do a great job opening up the show, playing their own version of the hipster-billy accented rock music that is the nights theme.
Munly and the Lupercalians are led by Jay Munly, whom also adds his talents to Slim Cessna's ensemble. Munly's stark, narrow face was the only one visible in his band of masked and cloaked musicians. Munly's group put on a show and create an aura.
Three percussionists perform in striking masks behind Munly while one black robed keyboard/laptop jockey sits on either side to the front. Both of these robed individuals sit behind wooden framed screens in conical hoods that are black like their face paint and robes. The whole is like an underground meeting of a secret humanist church of dance, with Munly's wizened visage at the helm leading us through the dark tides of time.
Slim Cessna celebrated 20 years on the scene in April, and seems ready for another 20, judging from his set. Slim is in fact a tall, slim, gentleman, in a white suit with a bright orange shirt and matching baseball cap. He has a dapper but vigorous posture and attitude. He has that ineffable front man energy that draws attention from across the room, and never seems to be caught unprepared during his bands set and three encores.
Slim and Munly work a theme of religious references and commentary into their music and set. I'm honestly not done making up my mind about how it relates to me personally, but it creates an element of high drama in the Oriental as Slim kneels and leans back into Munly as they have a lyrical exchange. Plus with all of the references to hymns and gospel music in the mix it seems like an organic extension of those elements.
Slim's band, the Auto Club, are tightly integrated and hard rocking. With an aggressive country bass sound supporting a country/Americana influenced rock band, the house quickly begins to groove. The band has a firm handle on the skill to shred skulls and play loudly but with an awareness and cohesiveness to the overall sound that you do not always hear in town. One of the (all-male) group was playing some sort of keyboard that sounded with a huge bow. This musician, John Rumley, made several of the instruments that SCAC use. SCAC are worth checking out next chance you get.
Scout, of The Sterling Sisters, told me afterwards that her seven inch solo vinyl was "lost in the mail." Order it here now that she has found it and before she runs out of it. Find information to track down any remaining copies of the limited edition New Years Eve pressings and albums from all of the other groups at the links above.
After the last encore, and a touching thank you from Slim, the crowd leaves slowly, many of them taking time to wait for a chat with Slim or Munly. 2013 is properly welcome, at least as far as this group at the Oriental Theater are concerned.