Choke Starlite Room, Edmonton AB June 9

Choke Starlite Room, Edmonton AB June 9
"Some of these guys here have been at — what? — eight shows this tour,” the mountainous Clay Shea bellowed. He stopped for a second, his voice crumbling with emotion, then smiled and said, "That’s totally fucked up, man!” The crowd roared, as it had been roaring all night like a solid, tattooed, ballcap-wearing lion frenzy — the most "Edmonton” moment in ages. The energy there was fantastic, expectant. A lot like your high school grad, really. For 13 years these four musicians — Jack Jaggard, Clay Shea, Shawn Moncrieff and Stefan Levasseur — have defined a petulant skate-punk-to-working-class sound, boyish and hopeful while at the same time intricate, heavy and deeply introspective. As the set times whittled down the openers one by one, everyone began to seriously freak out, expressing disbelief at having to redefine themselves as "Chokeless.” Jaggard looked like the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve: simultaneously old and reborn. At centre, snarling Moncrieff kept eying his cohorts with digital-age instant nostalgia as big Shea alternated between head-banging salty man drops into the front row’s eyes and hugging his fiancée for soul support. Impossibly, everyone was singing every word to every song all night, like the recent Police concert except not as shitty. Jonah and Jamie from Regina’s Ghost of Modern Man came onstage for visits, an old friend took over drums, and local boozer Mike Casemore sang, then couldn’t escape hugs from the band. It sounds corny, but people were already crying. First songs became last ones ever. The slideshow ran with that weird funeral vibe found at weddings. That was it for Choke, then, the engine deliberately seized at exactly 1:50 A.M. It was a human mass where most of the audience was onstage screaming, flash after flash after flash. Finally, totally surrounded, Levasseur laid his drumsticks down and surrendered. And then Choke died.