Jello Biafra has been quoted as saying of Slim Cessna's Auto Club, from Denver, Colorado that they are " ... the country band playing in the bar at end of the world ..." This feels accurate and I now know where he is coming from but I would add that this bar is also inhabited by the likes of Waits, Cave, Cash, Iggy, Hunter S. Thompson, Harry Dean Stanton (RIP) and a whole host of Lynchian misfit characters. The band has a pedal steel, upright bass, drums, two banjos, two vocalists, and a double necked guitar adorned with the image of the Virgin Mary. I knew this was going to be interesting.
First up though was support from Dan Allen of Ducking Punches, playing a last-minute, almost secret slot with an earnest and heartfelt, passionate solo set, whilst Brix Smith and the Extricated were playing Fall numbers downstairs in their support slot for The Jesus and Mary Chain. Not entirely sure what to expect, within the first song or two Slim Cessna's Auto Club already had me totally hooked. Quite unlike anything I have ever seen before, a bearded and horn-rimmed glasses and stetson wearing singer was vocally duelling with another compelling character who looked liked he'd only recently been exhumed and was channeling Nick Cave, The Virgin Prunes, and Ian Curtis, whilst adding some yodelling, Native American chanting and even Mongolian throat-singing! Seriously, you had to be there. Playing their hearts out to a crowd of no more than 50 people this felt like seeing an early country-ish incarnation of The Birthday Party or The Bad Seeds for the sheer otherness but they are actually quite unique, and to their immense credit they made it feel like we were all in on some exclusive and dark apocalypse party in that seedy bar at the end of the world, with celebratory dancing in free abandon and for almost half the set the vocalists rested their hats on the mic stands, jumped down off the stage and performed among us on the floor.
I'm not very familiar with their catalogue but I loved the set and particularly memorable for me were This is How We Do Things In The Country, and Commandment 7 (There is a Hole). For the encore the whole band stood in a line at the front of the stage clapping in what sounded like a gospel death march, followed by a solo country farewell from Slim whilst the rest of the band dismantled and packed away their kit during the song itself. I've never seen the like. Fantastic theatre to the great songs. While some legends were playing downstairs at The Waterfront, some more American legends of 20 odd years were in the Studio above performing some extraordinary and special drama to a select few who won't forget what they witnessed. This is the band you didn't realise you needed in your life.