While Whistler’s punk scene may not be what it once was, longtime local drummer Jamie Weatherbie is working hard to showcase some of the best Canadian talent the genre has to offer for this year’s Snowslam show at Merlin’s next Saturday (Feb. 2).
Now in its fourth year, Snowslam has been the premiere annual event for punk fans in Whistler, and this year will only be bigger and better, featuring six bands under one roof, including one of Canada’s most technically sound punk outfits, Choke.
“We’ve had some decent bands play in the last few years, but Choke is for sure the biggest name we’ve had so far,” said Weatherbie, who along with organizing Snowslam is also the drummer for Whistler’s longest running band, Slush, which will also be a part of Saturday’s lineup.
Choke called it quits in 2007 after a long and critically regarded career at the forefront of Canada’s punk scene. Reuniting for a one-off tour, the band added Whistler to their schedule, the only stop on the tour that wasn’t a major city.
“It’s been really great to go back and play these songs that I haven’t thought about for six years,” said Choke’s bassist, Clay Shea. “Listening to (the songs) again as if you’re relearning them, and going through that process has been very enjoyable. We have a bit of a new appreciation for our music.”
While Shea welcomes the love Choke’s loyal fanbase has shown them over the years, he was quick to dismiss certain claims within the scene that they are the best punk group Canada has ever produced.
“I think that’s a little bit crazy, I think that’s definitely a long shot,” said Shea. “The people that like our band really like us a lot, which is great, but I don’t put too much weight into that. I think those are just super fans that someone gave a pen.”
Whistlerites might remember Choke playing The Boot Pub’s final raucous night in 2006. Shea certainly does.
“It was great, I got really scared midway through our set,” he said. “People pulled a big pillar right across the roof … There were spikes in this big crossbeam that was across the roof and I was so worried I was going to get one in the head.”
Playing alongside Choke, hopefully in safer conditions, are five B.C. bands, including local staple Slush, who formed 21 years ago and have been hitting Whistler stages since 1998.
The jam-packed show will also see punk all-star band Precursor, made up of members from Toronto hardcore group Daggermouth, rock-tinged punkers Carpenter and disbanded Mississauga outfit The Fullblast.
Vancouver’s Raised by Apes will also show off their melodic, politically-charged sound that’s been quickly attracting droves of fans with each of their shows.
Another Gastown group, Shockload will build on their up-and-coming status at Snowslam, bringing their high-energy style and traditional punk ethos to Whistler.
Rounding out the show are openers Cliffjumper, a new melodic band from Langley that Weatherbie had never heard of until they approached him about playing this year’s Snowslam. He was so impressed by their music he decided to put them on the bill.
Weatherbie has been supporting emerging punk bands in the region for years, and has been instrumental in keeping the local punk scene alive.
“Since The Boot closed down and the official punk night on Sundays died out, the shows are so sporadic now that it’s hard to maintain an actual punk music scene and keep everyone involved and engaged,” he said. “I like to do a really good show every two months where it keeps people somewhat interested.”
The issue now, according to Weatherbie is that most local venues are unwilling to host live music on weekends — typically the busiest nights for bars looking to cash in on out-of-town visitors.
“Whistler used to be an amazing place for bands and musicians and it’s really suffered in the last five years,” he said. “There’s very few promoters and venues that want to do live music on the weekends, so it’s really hard for any people that can only play on weekends to play Whistler.”
With six established and emerging punk bands expected to attract at full house at Merlin’s on Saturday, there’s hope the local venue promoters will see the potential in Whistler’s long-running punk scene.
Snowslam 4 goes down Feb. 2 at Merlin’s at 9 p.m. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the $18 tickets are available at the venue or online at www.ticketzone.com.