Otto’s first horns, Slim Cessna and Turdus Musicus


by Chris Aaland

Otto threw his first horns a few weeks ago. My wife and I were driving back from a friend’s 40th birthday party and had a rock mix going on the ipod. Otto started the side-to-side head shake he often does when dancing in his car seat. I made the universal heavy metal sign of solidarity by holding down my middle and ring fingers with my thumb and extending my index and pinkie fingers … the devil sign that Ronnie James Dio made popular after replacing Ozzy Osbourne as lead singer for Black Sabbath. Ozzy famously flashed the peace sign at Sabbath shows. Dio wanted to connect with fans in his own way, and the rest is metal history.

Several songs into the mix, Otto was trying to figure out what we were doing. He was waving his arms wildly in the air, trying to grab his fingers to make them stay down. We glanced into the mirror during the Doors’ “Wishful Sinful” and saw our 18-month-old grooving along to the beat and rocking the goat.

There are self-righteous types who will likely take offense to our baby learning what they consider a nod to mysticism. Never mind that Dio’s grandmother — a God-fearing and superstitious Catholic from Southern Italy — taught him the malocchio to ward off evil when he was a kid. These social conservatives, as the mainstream media likes to portray them, still like to think Dee Snider, Frank Zappa and that über-Satanist himself, John Denver, are employing Lucifer’s music to fill youngsters’ heads with evil notions of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll … just as they claimed in 1985 during the Parents Music Resource Center’s Senate hearings in which this unlikely trio argued against censorship.

Rock music isn’t what some church lady thinks is evil. If anything, its rebellion is usually aimed at the social ills of society, be they warfare, prejudice or environmental devastation. Most rockers are spiritual; some are downright religious. Like all great artists, they pit good versus evil in their songs, questioning morality and the social norm.

One band that has walked that tightrope is Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, a group that returns to Durango on Friday for a gig at the Summit. Slim Cessna, the Auto Club’s nearly 7-foot-tall, gold-toothed frontman, was born to a Baptist preacher. Jesus and Satan each influence his words, while Johnny Cash and the Misfits shape his music. The Denver-based outfit employs banjos (at times, lots of them), pedal steel and yodeling at ear-splitting volume. Once they were a straightforward country & western band, albeit a strange one. But with each great album — from 1995’s self-titled debut to recent classics like “Jesus Let Me Down” and “Cipher” — they’ve risen to the top of a genre that is best described as “goth-country.” At last year’s Tour de Fat, several hundred moshed on Main to the Auto Club. Slim will save you or damn you this Friday, whichever you choose.

I vaguely recall the last time the Lawn Chair Kings played El Patio, but hazily remember several pitchers of a watery substance that may have been Budweiser and Nordstrom’s girlfriend, Jackie, trying to teach me to two-step. If you haven’t gotten your fill of drunken versions of “Ice Cream Truck” and Ramones covers, drop by El Patio at 5:30 p.m. for pre-Slim Cessna debauchery — the Kings’ last gig of the summer in the outdoor shell that overlooks Main and College.

The Belleville Outfit stole the show at June’s inaugural Pagosa Folk’n Bluegrass Festival. The Austin-based sextet plays its first-ever Durango show at 7 p.m. Friday at the Henry Strater Theatre. Mixing gypsy swing, big band and more, the Belleville Outfit sports three lead singers, guitars, violin, piano, drums and bass. Their debut album, “Wanderin,’” has been played heavily on Americana stations across the country, while their live performances have earned them the honor of “Best New Local Band” by the Austin Chronicle.

Hardcore and punk take over the Summit tonight (Thursday) in a mega-bill that features Turdus Musicus, Underminer, The Logan and Freeman Social. Turdus Musicus is the king of Norwegian hardcore. Underminer is a Fort Collins punk band featuring Karl Alvarez from the Descendents.

The Summit’s schedule this week also includes Denver rock band Lords of Fuzz, with an opening set by The Formless on Saturday and all-girl band Razzm’tazz on Wednesday.

This week’s Top Shelf list is provided by someone who’s walked the line between rock’s good and evil. Bryant Liggett, the program director at KDUR, can be heard Tuesdays from 9 a.m.-noon at 91.9 and 93.9 FM. Here are Bryant’s Top 10 punk albums of all time:

10. X, “Los Angeles,”1980: Helping put L.A. on the punk map and proving that a punk band could have duet voices, one that was female.

Slim Cessna's Auto Club 

10. X, “Los Angeles,”1980: Helping put L.A. on the punk map and proving that a punk band could have duet voices, one that was female.

9. Iggy & the Stooges, “Fun House,” 1970: A complete early original, influencing all others on this list and sounding like it could be made next week.

8. Sex Pistols, “Never Mind the Bollocks: Here’s the Sex Pistols,” 1977: Certainly not the best, but timing was everything, and this was the record that made people aware. And it turned folks onto bands like the Damned, Stiff Little Fingers, the Clash and countless others.

7. The Clash, self-titled, 1979: “London Calling” may have been their definitive album, but this is the release that made them “the only band that mattered.”

6. Bad Brains, “Rock for Light,” 1983: The Ric Ocasek-produced release was extremely influential on later punk records, and Bad Brains set the bar pretty high, in the studio and on stage.

5. Stiff Little Fingers, “Inflammable Material,” 1979: The debut from the most important band to come out of Ireland. This is fast and furious.

4. Black Flag, “Damaged,” 1981: Henry Rollins’ debut in Greg Ginn’s band was nothing short of pure anger and fury.

3. Ramones, self-titled, 1976: The N.Y. quartet’s songs were fast, catchy and undeniably huge.

2. Minor Threat, self-titled, 1984: The first Minor Threat record is the stamp of D.C. HarDCore.

1. Minutemen, “Double Nickels on the Dime,” 1984: This hardcore/jazz/psychedelic record of 30-plus songs defined frontman D. Boon’s statement, “Punk is whatever we made it to be.”

Bryant’s runner-up bands: GBH, Television, Christ on a Crutch, Dead Kennedys, Germs, Teen Idles, Fugazi, Necros, DOA, Circle Jerks, Cro-Mags and many more. •

Don’t wanna go down to the basement? E-mail me at



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows