To Infinity and beyond… 

Choke launches new tour in Whistler

Who: Choke with Ghosts of Modern Man and The Reason

What: Smallman Records Tour

Where: Boot Pub

When: Sunday, March 27

Tickets: $12

Spring break totally rocks. If you’re a trust funded U.S. college co-ed it means a Daytona Beach party and pussy fest. If you’re a bunch of Canadian high schoolers it means forming your own punk rock band.

This is especially true in places like Edmonton, where the spring break weather can be anything from merely chilly to blizzardly frigid. Either way there’s too much gravel and road salt around to skate; might as well hang out and play NoFx covers in the basement.

High school spring break specials usually break up when spring break ends and fail to reform once the street sweepers clear the gravel off the road. But there are exceptions to the rule, and there is most definitely a story to this moral.

Eleven years ago four E-town high schoolers congregated during spring break to jam and they’ve been holding onto each other’s necks ever since as Choke – today considered one of the most respected punk bands/independent touring acts in the country.

They’re set to launch their latest cross-country journey this Sunday in Whistler on account of brand spanking new album Slow Fade: Or How I learned to Question Infinity released this past Tuesday on Winnipeg’s Smallman Records.

Much has been made recently of Choke’s longevity and fidelity. A January 2005 feature in Exclaim Magazine held the decade-plus union up as a marriage. Through 11-years, six albums, uncountable live shows and all that getting to them entails, Choke has remained guitar player Jack Jaggard, bass player Clay Shea, drummer Stefan Levasseur and vocalist Shawn Moncrief. They’ve even held down the same downtown E-town jam space for the past seven years – an institution of sorts for that city’s scene and a hatchery for multiple new acts over the years.

"It doesn’t feel that long at all. It’s hard to even look back and count all those years and figure out which ones are which. I’m sure they’re all there… but it doesn’t feel that long at all," Shea says, forced to muse, once more, on the subject of Choke’s longevity.

It’s true, years can slip by, but obviously the band is not completely oblivious. "Slow Fade," "Question Infinity," the new album’s title is suggesting the boys are starting to contemplate how much longer things can go on.

There’s no better excuse to shut ’er down than stagnation, but the thing is, Choke keeps progressing sonically, putting out inspired recordings like Slow Fade. Not content to rehash the SoCal punk/hardcore of their youth, Choke’s sound has gained nuance over the years with the latest album more than dipping it’s toes into the prog-rock pool.

"We can’t deny the prog influences," Shea says. "We’ve got more dynamic style soundscapes. We just got more into effects and trying to create certain moods."

It’s a progression without being a complete departure. This is still a punk band and the irrepressible energy that has endeared music fans to Choke for, well, 11 years, is still in effect.

Shea says the mood going into the Whistler show is high. It’s a new tour, on behalf of an exciting new album, and they’re coming back after last year’s Frostbite Tour show, which he describes as a great night despite the fact they were playing with a substitute guitarist for an injured Jaggard.

This time around, it’ll be all Choke. All the original members. For ever and ever. To Infinity, and beyond.

Choke headlines the Smallman Records Tour at The Punk Night this Sunday evening at the Boot Pub with labelmates Ghosts of Modern Man from Saskatchewan and Ontario’s The Reason, both of whom have played past Punk Night gigs. Tickets are $12 at the door. For information call 604-932-3338.


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