Music News

So long, Slim.

A perhaps little-known fact about Slim Cessna: Despite the aeronautical implications of his surname, the Auto Club leader is, in his words, "horrified of flying."

He's gonna have to get over that right quick.

Cessna has announced that, come January, he's moving to the East Coast -- specifically, to Rhode Island, the former bastion of anti-Puritan ex-patriotism known during colonial times as Rogues Island. And although that might make the itty-bitty state seem like an appropriate new home for the subversive songwriter, Cessna's motivation for the move has more to do with the fact that the island is also the native land of Slim's wife, Victoria. See, Slim may be the leader of one of Denver's most popular bands, but he's also a family man -- a father of two little Cessnas who says the move will allow him to "take care of my family in a way that I can't do here."

Auto fans needn't prepare to have their beers diluted with tears in light of this news, however; Cessna promises to keep the country-revisionist band's engine purring despite the distance. It's a long plane ride between Rhode Island and the white canvas tepees at DIA, but Cessna intends to make the trek every two or three months to play live gigs and work on new music with Club comrades Munly, Dan Grandbois and John Rumley (who's been playing with Slim since the band's first incarnation in 1994). Consider it a long-distance relationship in which both parties have vowed they'll never, ever find another. And though experience usually dictates such arrangements are ill-fated, Cessna's not worried about his band's ability to keep it together.

"At first it seemed a little difficult, but then we figured out it's quite possible to keep the thing going," he says. "There shouldn't be much of an impact, except I won't actually be there for rehearsals. But the idea is I'm going to set up a studio, and we'll still be working on creating music. I'll send the guys tapes of stuff that I come up with, and vice versa."

Cessna, who was born in California and raised in Boulder, met his wife while living in Boston. And though he seems slightly vexed about the weather ("It's damn cold there"), Cessna claims he harbors no other worries about being a Western boy on an Easterner's island. "I know that I'll like it there; it suits me fine," he says. "But certainly one of the great things about the new arrangement is that I will be back, to eat burritos and do the things that I like to do here in Denver."

Cessna says he's not the only one who'll be doing some traveling in the name of Auto Club preservation -- Rhode Island's proximity to Boston, New York and other East Coast cities makes it a good location for the band to spread its gospel outside of its current Denver stronghold. In the meantime, there's plenty of work to be done: The bandmembers are putting the finishing touches on a full-length CD, tentatively titled Always Say Please and Thank You, which they hope to wrap up before Cessna's departure and in time for a spring release. The band's final two performances -- as a band composed exclusively of Denverites, at least -- are as follows: Thursday, December 9, at Coors Tavern, 3400 Navajo Street, a benefit for the children of Grandbois's cousin Kako Lanford, who was killed in an auto/pedestrian accident this summer; and on the last day of the world, Friday, December 31, at the Gothic Theater, with the Kalamath Brothers.

Peter Ore of nobody in particular presents isn't thrilled about the prospect of Cessna's relocation. "Now all we need is for Space Team Electra to leave town," he says, expressing some palpable apprehension about losing out on the 400 or so faithful who regularly flock to the Bluebird for shows by the Auto Club, one of few local bands capable of consistently racking up such numbers. Yet Ore will only need a handful more than a hundred folks to fill the deliciously divey environs of the Lion's Lair, 2022 East Colfax Avenue, when he takes over full-time booking responsibilities in January.

The club, which has until recently been booked jointly by Ore, nipp head and Lair owner Doug Kauffman and a collection of bartenders and Lair employees, has of late peeved more than one local musician with its somewhat haphazard booking practices. Bands would show up to discover they'd be sharing a bill with other bands -- and when they're paid based on revenues from the door, that usually translates into a reduction of an already meager pie. And because nipp often booked bands into the Lair that were too small to play its other venues, specifically the Bluebird or the Ogden, shows received far less promotional push than their larger-drawing counterparts. Case in point: A recent outing by the Kimball/Roeser Effect, which even featured members of Mule and the Jesus Lizard, drew something like seventeen people who were lucky enough to spot one of the very few posted fliers announcing the show. Ore acknowledges that the mistakes of the recent past have had much to do with the booking methodology.

"Because I was here booking national acts for nipp, we would just book bands in [the Lair] and let it ride," he says. "Fliers didn't really get made or hung, and there were no press releases sent out. It was kind of an afterthought."

And from now on, while at the Lair, you are encouraged to tip your bartender, but don't ask her to book your band. "We decided it would just make more sense for us to have the [club schedule] at the nipp office so that when people call up, they're dealing with one person," he says. "The way it's been, people called up and said, 'Oh, do you have this date open?' and the bartender would hold it for them, but we never knew about it. It will be much more organized this way."

"The Lion's Lair holds such tradition in Denver," Ore adds. "They've done a lot renovating, put new sound in, ripped out those crappy booths. We're trying to make it the kick-ass local club that it totally can be."

Local musicians who've ever gone through the process of recording and pressing their own independent CD know how trying -- not to mention expensive -- it can be. Many overlook the fact that each disc must carry the all-important bar code, which enables sales to be tracked and charted and is required by many national distributors and retailers operating on a non-consignment basis. Bar codes, sold only in blocks through the Universal Code Council, can cost even the most indie of indie bands around five bills (that's hundreds, not singles) -- an expense that's often too hefty after other elements of production have been bought and paid for. The people at the Colorado Music Association (COMA) have found one way to remedy the situation, at least for those who claim membership in the volunteer-run community organization that works to promote the music scene in Denver and beyond. COMA has acquired a large block of thousands of bar codes and is offering them to members as part of a new and improved membership package. According to COMA vice president David Barber, local bands seem to think the deal is even harder to resist than buy-one-get-one-free hams at King Soopers. COMA's membership has gone up since the association announced the codes acquisition at its November meeting, with most of the new recruits citing the bar codes as their primary motivation for joining. You can learn what other fun stuff is happening with COMA at the next meeting, to be held at 6 p.m. Sunday, December 12, at the Soiled Dove. And don't forget to say hello to president Dolly Zander's dog, Cosmo.

Michael White hosts the fourth annual Bella Ball, a fundraiser for Santa's Toy Bag named after "a friend's dog," which begins at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 11, at Seventh South. Emmas, Pils for Sampson, Twilight Motel, Product 626, Bella Coyote and Sol Mission will provide entertainment for the evening, which White describes as a "society event where everyone should dress to the nines" to raise toy-buying money for children in crisis situations; $5 at the door gets you a night of good music, not to mention that warm fuzzy feeling.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Laura Bond
Contact: Laura Bond