By LEAH COLLINS
cover Illustration by Raymond Biesinger
vue site link here
Whitey Houston takes on Cmon in a live, song-versus-song rock n roll deathmatchFor once, the biggest, loudest rumble of the year wont be found on pay-per-view. Rather, come next Thursday night, New City will become the closest thing to a sweaty Las Vegas ring that you can get in Edmonton, as the heavyweight rockstars of Torontos Cmon and the hometown boys of Whitey Houston share the stage to battle each other song for song in a winner-take-all rock n roll showdown.
But this Saturday afternoon, more than a week before the bell sounds, Whitey Houstons got no time for calisthenics and raw-egg breakfasts. In fact, with the mad pace of prepping for the May 19 release of their first LP, Whitey (bass and vocals) and Gravy (drums) have only just enough space in their schedules for a little gloves-off conference call with Cmon opponent Ian Blurton. Still, in between the day jobs and outside gigs (Whiteys been putting in plenty of hours with newfound side project the Wet Secrets, while Gravys been hitting the drums alt-country style with Cordoba), the two have been keeping tabs on the status of their upcoming release, a 14-song collection of the sort of raw and fuzzy bass-and-drum action that the band is known for.
The Whitey LP was supposed to be on display at local record retailers last March, but things changed course when their Edmonton label Rectangle Records Toronto partner, Indestructible, partnered up with Universal/Maple distribution. So now, after months of waiting, Whitey Houstons part of what they call a monster company, which suits them fine, so long as their record gets into the stores.
But after five years together as Whitey Houston, one year since they went into the studio and two months since their LP was supposed to be released, the bands understandably impatient to see the thing completed. A little more than a week from the release party and theyve yet to see the finished CD (though the vinyl edition, Gravy notes, has arrived), which has the band working on plans for a last-minute special edition self-printed CDfeaturing a few bonus goodiesin case of emergency.
Saturday afternoon, though, Gravys been waiting for more than his completed album. Hes been sitting around on the steps of downtowns Vue Weekly offices waiting for his teammate to make an entrance. Theres no way Whiteys letting him down, though; you can hear the emphysemic sputter of his giant green van wheezing from a mile back. And when he does pull into the parking lotstumbling out of the van after a late night playing with the Wet Secrets to 14-year-olds clutching Colt 45s at the Shark TankWhiteys voice is as roughed-up as his rides semi-deflated wheels.
But a gravelly voice is all the better to trash-talk with. By the time the bands settled into the cluttered comforts of the Vue production office (where youll find Whitey most days of the week fulfilling his production manager duties), theyre ready to take on whatever Cmons Ian Blurton can bring, as the three launch into a discussion of their upcoming battle.
This shows pretty shameless, says Blurton over the phone from Toronto. But you know, we dont really believe in shame, really, that much. Were really willing to do anything.
Youre going to have to do anything, catcalls Whitey, causing Blurton to start a slow laugh as grizzly as his infamous rust-coloured beard.
Hey, weve got some magic tricks weve been working on, Blurton strikes back, still chuckling.
Like what? Youve got a pyrotechnics display or what? demands Whitey.
Oh, card tricks, deadpans Blurton.
Okay, card tricks. Thats cool, says Whitey. I think thats an awesome shameless thing. Sort of like hopping on a bands CD release and headlining it.
Headlining it?! What are you talking about? says Blurton with a bit of unexpectedly earnest exasperation.
And trying to outrock a band on their own CD release show, Whitey continues.
Thats pretty shameless, agrees Gravy.
Whitey takes round one, but considering Blurtons rock CV, he promises to be quite the contender onstage. Blurtons been the force behind now-classic CanRock bands like Change of Heart, Bionic and Blurtonia, and now, with the help of former Blurtonia drummer Randy Curnew and ex-Nashville Pussy bassist/special ladyfriend Katie-Lynn Campbell, hes heading up Cmon. The groups debut album, Midnight Is the Answer, came out last fall to a rapturous reception from those critics who fancy their rock straightforward and extra-special loud. And on the strength of that recordand almost neverending touringtheyve just released a fresh EP, Blown Speaker.
Whitey Houstons still confident theyll give Cmon a run for their money, thoughthey did, after all, suggest the rock deathmatch to Blurton (who theyve been palling around with since 97) in the first place.
It was in Texas, eh? When you came up with the idea? Blurton asks.
Yeah, says Gravy. At SXSW I ran into Ian and Katie at an Illuminati show and told them that they should headline our show and Ian kiboshed it. So I said, Lets do a song-by-song thing.
I think its a fun angle, pipes up Whitey.
I dont think Ive been to a show where thats happened, says Blurton.
I havent either, so itll be interesting to see how it plays out, says Whitey.
Its totally like The Dating Game or something, muses Blurton. We should have a barrier on the stage between the two bands so you cant see the other side.
And then youd have to pick bachelor number one or bachelor number two, adds Gravy. Im thinking that Im going to get a bleacher, and the other band can put on their warm-up jackets and while theyre not playing.
Blurton starts a low, raspy cackle before suggesting some Gatorade should be in order, too.
Yeah, Gravy agrees. And well get the big bucket of Gatorade so you can pour it on the coach after were done.
Were bringing a coach, Blurton boasts.
Youre going to need a coach, snaps Gravy, leaving Blurton laughing and just a mite flabbergasted.
At this point in the conversation, it may be Whitey Houston: 2, Cmon: 0, but Blurtons still confident that hell be in fighting form once hes got a guitar in hand. Any other kind of tear-up, though, hed prefer to avoid.
He looks like a tough guy, but hes a big teddy bear on the inside, says Whitey. Ol teddy bear Blurton.
Who, me? asks Blurton. Im a teddy bear, period. Im all about the hugging and the loving.
That isnt to say, though, that Blurtons kept his combat onstage; a couple years back, Blurton says he found himself defending his girlfriend and her then-band, Nashville Pussy. It was in Haarlem, the Netherlands two years ago, Blurton says. It was at a show and I was standing in the audience and Nashville Pussy was playing, and this guy, like, two feet away from me started spitting on the band. He spit on Ruyter, and then he spit on Blaine, and he tried to spit on Jeremy, and when he spit on Katie, I just lost it.
Yikes, adds Whitey.
I actually ended up being circled by numerous guys, continues Blurton.
Yikes, adds Whitey again.
Yeah, but the roadie from Nashville saw it from the stage; he was waiting for the first punch to be thrown and he jumped in.
Blurton lived to laugh about it later, but hes no fighterunless, of course, rock is involved. Whitey and Gravy cant help but agree, so it wouldnt be surprising if the two bands negotiate a ceasefire Thursday night and combine their powers of rock for a song or two. Besides, adds Whitey, they havent figured out any rules for the rock-match and they sure havent had a trophy made up. Technically, he says, they wont even proclaim a winner; all signs point to Whitey Houston and Cmon joining forces.
Such an alliance could be put to good use, the way Blurton sees it; he says theres a million examples of bands that could use a good thrashing, bands that he says call themselves rock bands but really arent, and all those young upstarts of the new New Wave. With a Whitey/Cmon rock army, those whippersnappers wouldnt stand a chance. Wed rock them off by sitting around backstage, says Blurton. Itd be like theyd just see my guitar and know Id rock harder than theyll ever rock. So why rock off against each other when there are bigger battles to fight? Well, were not actually good friends, says Blurton. In fact, were mortal enemies. Get that straight right now.Adds Whitey, Theres a thin crust of good cheer over a bubbling cauldron of hate.
A thin crust, I like that, says Gravy, laughing. That, and Id want to rock off against anyone we can beat. Thats why I planned it with these guys. V
Whitey Houston vs. Cmon
With The Mark Inside New City Thu, May 19