Slim Cessna & The Auto Band With The Wrong Reasons @ Great Scott 11.9.10
by Aadil Sulaiman (Undeclared), published November 19th 2010
photos by Aadil Sulaiman (Undeclared)
It was a pretty grey night. It had been pouring for most of the day and the train ride out involved being shoulder-to-shoulder with Boston’s best as well as a chance run in with a fellow Tastemaker. My destination, Great Scott, was a rather dark and crowded venue with a pretty standard setup for dive bar performances. There’s a stage in back. It has speakers. And they’ve probably never worked as hard as they did that night.
Tired Old Bones, a quartet straight out of Arlington, MA, opened the show. Their distorted progressive rock vibe with stripped down intricate drum lines resembled Godsmack-with a distinctive dark folk presence. They had a rather notable performance for an opening band, with attention-grabbing choruses which showcased the lead singer Bridget Nault’s strong vocal range and a respectable amount of showmanship.
Between the beginning and end of Tired Old Bones’ set, the crowd had multiplied probably three or four times. The standing room had gotten fairly crowded by the time The Wrong Reasons, a folk/country band from Providence, RI, had taken the stage. This isn’t the folk of Good Old War or Fleet Foxes though, invoking equal parts Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Chuck Berry, front man Joe Fletcher brought the audience along a harrowing tale riddled with romance, superstition and despair. This was by no means downer music; it was impossible to get by without at least tapping your toes to the infectious chorus of ‘Every Heartbroken Man,’ and from the all around solid rhythm section of bassist Joe Principe and drummer Dave Hemingway. A strong breakdown during ‘A Better Place’ brought out the best in guitarist Damian Puerini as well who helped transform the songs beyond dive bar one-offs and into something with a little more character and a lot more depth.
By the time The Wrong Reasons had come off the stage, the standing area was absolutely packed. There’s no good estimate as to how many people were there, but let it be said that while Great Scott is a small venue, there were enough people there that I had a hard time getting out from the third row. There must have been 30 minutes between the end of The Wrong Reasons’ set and when Slim Cessna came on stage with The Auto Band.
Hailing from Denver, CO, these guys have been active since their self-titled debut in 1993 and were coming down from their Canadian leg to play their only New England show in Boston. With a sound that can only vaguely be described as a blend of Primus and Gogol Bordello, it’s a little hard to pin them down as anything. Cessna pulls out all the stops with a similar style of singing and phrasing as Les Claypool but the choruses, backing band, and stage performance feel like they draw from Bordello- who they predate by almost a decade- and the folk music of the prospector West. Within three songs, the entire crowd was moving in a near-mosh, absolutely sedated by the anthemic quality of most of the songs. There was a lot of passion coming out of the six-piece band consisting of a dual-neck guitar, banjo, keyboard, slide guitar, bass and drums.
The highlight of it all was the brotherly behavior between Slim Cessna and Jay Munly, who lit up the stage and the audience with lead and backup vocals that produced what truly can be described as music-induced love. It can also be attributed to how tight they all were with each other. With so many years of history and such a strong handle on each of their songs and instruments, it seemed impossible to find any fault as they powered through bits of their extensive back catalogue, including ‘Americadio’ and ‘This Is How We Do Things In The Country.’
Truth be told, I had to leave before Slim Cessna’s set was over to catch the last train back home. It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, deciding between self-preservation and the absolute aural ecstasy I was experiencing. That said, catching these three bands together is something I’m glad I didn’t miss. When Slim Cessna makes his eventual return to New England I will be there, and I recommend you go as well, and then, maybe, I can hitch a later ride.