George Cessna Upholds an Historic Denver Lineage

George Cessna Upholds an Historic Denver Lineage

January 28, 2019 Off By Billy Thieme

Local heroes The Red Tack and Blindrunner supported the local progeny at Lion’s Lair

Local music – and love of the local scene – were flowing last Friday night at the Lion’s Lair on Colfax as recent Baltimore, MD transplant George Cessna headlined an intimate evening filled with longtime Denver local figures. The small, pretty much legendary dive was comfortably and intimately filled to about half-capacity, but each soul there showed their deep and obvious love for the performers they’d come to see, and those performers paid all who came in kind, and then some.

George Cessna at the Lion's Lair

George Cessna, son of Slim Cessna of the famous Auto Club fame, and – more recently – of DBUK fame (arguably one of Denver’s most exciting bands at the moment with a new record out, dropped just days after this show), took the small stage at the end of the night and played solo on his guitar, backed only by recorded tracks played on his phone, which was wired into the sound system. His minimal presence onstage belied a large sound – sometimes sweeping and sad, other times warm and passionately anthemic – but always intriguing and solid.

The younger Cessna held up his end of the Slim Cessna’s Auto Club legacy beautifully

George Cessna, while the his elder watched on from the well-warn bar, played a set of maybe eight songs, each enveloping a twist of what used to be called the “Denver Sound,” with just a little less dependency on the gothic country that runs through it, and a little more emphasis on smooth rhythms, psychedelic-tinged guitar and brilliant hooks. And then there’s the voice – a near-trademark George Cessna’s father birthed onto the Denver scene decades ago – smooth crooning, on the verge of yodeling, easy and broad as the plains east of Denver, and hopeful. In short, the voice of youth, maturely singing about the heartbreak and hope of the trail ahead.

Thacker has a way of making your living room appear anywhere.

The Red Tack – which is local indefatigable music man Ted Thacker’s latest persona – owned the stage for an all-too-brief period before Cessna, playing his signature lonely knight tunes. Thacker threw in a few from past bands like Veronica, as well as some of his own hits, bringing the entire place to laughter here, inspirin a few tears there, with nothing but his voice, his guitar, and his endless songwriting talent. He made – and makes – the time in front of the crowd feel like an evening chat in your living room, the kind you’ll remember for lifetimes – if only because of the connection you’ve noticed as you and your companion speak about everything and nothing.

Talk about faithfully representing the talent Denver both nurtures and inspires.

And before all of this local brilliance, the two-person juggernaut known as Blindrunner took the stage, belting out a sort of near-electronic rock that came – loudly – from some sonic landscape somewhere between Big Black and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, with a healthy dose of pop sensibility thrown on like a sugar coating.

Blindrunner are on a mission to wake you up

Anchored by the huge drumming of John Call – also a longtime denizen of Denver and friend/bandmate of Thacker’s (from both Baldo Rex and Veronica) – Blindrunner were on a mission to awaken us, led by Owen Beard’s frenetic guitar work and deep, threatening vocals. Together the duo whipped up the growing early crowd with their fast-moving and desperate pop songs, likely making everyone feel like they’d just begin feeling the effects of some speed they’d taken on their way into the Lair. Beautiful.

If there’s any questioning the health – the voracity, even – of Denver’s music scene, it’s constantly and repeatedly put to rest by evenings like this one. Small, intimate, warm, comfortable – but also challenging, inspiring, and – in exactly the right dose – a tiny bit scary, these are the shows that show off the true lifeblood of this city’s scene. And they support the lineage and strength of that scene with each note and every bout of raucous applause, reminding us all just what we love about it, and just why we stick around.


  • Billy Thieme

    Aging punk rocker with a deep of all things musical and artistic, enough to remain constantly young and perpetually mystified. Billy has journalistic dreams, but of a decidedly pastoral, Scottish nature.