Slim Cessna and his group have played “for all the good people of Ottawa” (as he invariably describes us) on several occasions. The Auto Club’s raucous performances have won the group a lot of fans in a part of the world that’s already quite keen on country rock. Combined with popular local country rock combo Greenfield Main, even the Arctic weather couldn’t prevent a full house. 

Greenfield Main had a slight injection of ZZ Top-style boogie the last time they appeared at the Dom (opening for Vancouver’s the Buttless Chaps). They returned to a more traditional sound for their opening slot,. The impression was reinforced by the presence of country chanteuse Casey Comeau , who dueted with Main mainman Jon Bartlett on the three final numbers, including a Buck Owens cover.

Their performance was brisk, and in a very short while Slim Cessna’s Auto Club were up and playing.

Part of the band’s success is due to its versatile musical abilities: Cessna and his cadaverous sideman, Jay Munly, are a vigorous singing tandem. Both also play guitar, and Munly occasionally picks up the mandolin. Rev. Dwight Pentacost, a slight bespectacled fellow, makes up for his unassuming appearance through music, providing a feedback heavy banjo solo before switching to his red-velvet -upholstered doubleneck guitar (the one with Jesus on the pickguard). Keyboard player Rev. Glasseye also played slide guitar on a resonator. Timothy Mahern, who also serves with Rev. Glasseye and his Wooden Legs, was behind the drum kit. Judith Ann laid down the bottom end on a standup bass.

The band a has a considerable repertoire of songs, drawn from three studio albums (they also have a live album), mostly focused on the repeated failure to live the Christian life, all played with the energy that made them the only country band to be signed to Dead Kennedy Jello Biafra’s  Alternative Tentacles label.

Most importantly, the band has a dedicated following in the Ottawa area, one happy to clap along, dance, send up shooters and generally offer encouragement. The band got up a considerable head of steam interacting with the audience, whether it be Munly wandering through the crowd microphone in hand, yodelling, or teasing the occasional audience member (after taking several pictures of the band, I was a prime target). Slim and Munly also went into the audience together for some impromptu holy rolling — the audience didn’t need much prompting to get down on the floor with them.

Though the year was barely more than a week old, several members of the audience confidently predicted that it was the best show they’d see that year. No one seemed willing to argue.

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