To Cirrhosis, With Love

The spirit of the lonesome Mr. Williams pervades Hankfest.

Not only does the Carioca Cafe boast an Eye Opener Special during its 7 a.m. happy hour (a Bloody Mary shot and a draw of Pabst for $2.25), but it's also home to a jukebox that emphasizes honky-tonk. In honor of country icon Hank Williams, the rail-thin legend who fell off stages and shot up televisions long before Elvis got around to it, the bar will host its 2nd Annual Hankfest on Friday, September 16.

Actually born September 17, 1923, Williams shares a birthday with country tunesmith John Nathan, the evening's featured performer. Backed by the Rotten Gamblers, Nathan plans to wrap his own seasoned tenor -- one smooth as Kentucky branch water -- around such classics as "Hey, Good Lookin'," "Jambalaya" and "Your Cheatin' Heart."

"We'll do every Hank Williams song we can think of," says Nathan, a native of Santa Rosa who spent most of the '80s in L.A. (even rooming with provocateur Perry Farrell for a year) before landing a carpentry gig in Denver. After honing his chops on open stages, Nathan secured a weekend slot at the Carioca three years ago -- along with a spot on the jukebox: Party of One, engineered by Cricket on the Hill luminary Baggs Patrick, features "Instant Heartache," a tune that earned Nathan song-of-the-year honors from the Colorado Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002. "It's abysmal in a humorous way," Nathan says of his own songwriting style. "That ol' black humor: Willie Nelson layin' down in Nashville to get run over, you know. So I'm trying to inject a little levity into the situation."

Derek Rippe

Details

Faturing John Nathan and the Rotten Gamblers, Ellie Mae's Roundup and Denver Joe, 9 p.m. Friday, September 16, Carioca Cafe, 2060 Champa Street, free, 303-296-1250, www.carioca.homestead.com, www.instantheartache.com

While faithfully covering Hank's weepers, Nathan still has one good reason to smile: The Carioca's landlord has reopened negotiations with club owner Tim Fink about extending the historic watering hole's lease beyond December 1.

Says a gruff, bearded barkeep who goes only by the name of Ron: "We served Pabst in the can before it was even popular. People who come in here really appreciate socializing, no matter if they just hopped off a train, or if they're coming off a graveyard shift, or if they got their cart locked up outside."

 
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