Canadian Music Week 2005 at various venues, Thursday through Saturday (March 3-5). See club listings for complete showcase information. Individual shows free-$26.50, wristbands $30, available through Ticketmaster (416-870-8000, www.ticketmaster.ca). Note: some shows have limited wristband access. Check www.cmw.net for further conference event information, details and updates.
VAILHALEN with shoot the moon, femme generation , paper moon , gentleman reg , republic of safety and les six as part of CMW at the Reverb (651 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, March 2), 9 pm. $8, free w/ CMW wristband. 416-504-6699, www.cmw.net. Rating: NNNNN
Chris Vail may have founded the amusingly named Vailhalen as a channel for his solo music, but the Calgary scene stalwart quickly recruited an assortment of Cowtown indie luminaries to fill out his catchy but malevolent pop.
Though the 'Halen has maintained a rotating cast since its inception, and Vail typically plays faraway shows unaccompanied, the group's starting to recognize what they've built... together.
"We've recently made some group decisions that add up to us turning into a real band," says Vail, who'll be bringing along the whole menagerie for tonight's CMW showcase, which happens to be their first show outside western Canada. "I think the days of playing solo under the name Vailhalen are gone."
The group's first full-length, Pop Violence, is a string of songs that are alternately chilly and airy, or suffocatingly dense. Swollen organ competes with ringing guitars, pulsing drums and Vail's sinewy voice. You can occasionally hear bits of random instruments the group found in the high-school music room they recorded in.
Those songs will be on display tonight at the Reverb, along with some tunes from Vailhalen's next record, a work in progress incorporating every classic monster cliché Vail could think of. Following Pop Violence's blood-transfused lyrics, the new songs are all about haunted houses, witches, werewolves, mummies and vampires, Frankenstein, the invisible man, zombies - even the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
"If I missed a cliché and we finish the record before I realize, I'll be mad," he asserts. "So if anyone can think of anything I missed, let me know!"
That album won't get finished till Vail gets all his bandmates in the same room.
"We're meeting one of our drummers, Joel Nye, in Toronto because his other band, Hot Little Rocket, has been recording with Steve Albini in Chicago. And we'll be meeting up with our guitarist, Carl Lukasewich, shortly before we leave because he had to fly to Geneva last minute for a week to meet with his Rolex clients."
Guess Vail's still got time to track down every last monster cliché.