It was pouring rain in Toronto the night of the Choker concert at Drake Underground, but this was perhaps the perfect setting for this show; rain, at times, makes you want to stay inside and cozy up with a book, sometimes it gets you down and you are crying to Grey’s Anatomy, and sometimes you just want to go dancing in the rain — this range of emotions is fitting for the genre-bending enigma that is Choker.
For those new to him, Choker is a 23-year old singer, writer, rapper, and producer based out of Michigan. He does almost all of the production on his tracks, ranging in genres from pop to alternative R&B to dance to hip-hop (sometimes within the same track). This experimentation leads to the production on some tracks sounding at times amateurish and unpolished, but it lends itself to the raw and genuine storytelling of Choker. His sound and voice are often compared to Frank Ocean, but there are definitely parallels to Kevin Abstract and Blood Orange mixed in there — give some tracks a listen and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
The night opened up with a DJ set by Tyler, who has close ties with the artist as the DJ, photographer, and as a cameo in music videos. He delivered an energetic set that got everyone in the mood for a fun night. The Drake Underground is a small venue so once everyone gets warmed up, the good vibes are contagious.
Once his set was finished, the lights dimmed and the bright instrumentals of Suzuki Peaches started playing. Choker stormed on stage from behind the curtains and won over the crowd immediately. Donning a white mesh t-shirt and loose fitting overalls, his flowing wardrobe mirrored the effortless flow of his music and performances.
Throughout the night, Choker would perform tracks from his multiple projects; a deeply emotional rendition of Lush, the silky smooth embrace of Petrol Bliss, and the crowd singing along to the rebel’s anthem in Starfruit LA with “It’s my party I can die if I want to / It’s my party I can shine like a starfruit”. Juno is one of my favourite tracks from Choker and I was curious to see how he’d perform it with its pitched down vocals, but I was impressed as he serenaded us with an intimate rendition.
Choker has said in an interview that he wants people to attach memories to his music and is probably the motivation for how he performed his final track of the night, Starfruit NYC. Stepping down from the stage, he came into the middle of the crowd and asked for two syllables that are short for Toronto (T.O. was decided on). Instructions were then given: Choker would do his verse then we would all join in with our now-personalized version of the chorus. Tyler hit the instrumentals and the crowd waited in anticipation. As soon as his verse was done, the whole crowd was jumping and chanting “T.O. is an airport with no walls / T.O. is an airport with no walls / Never pop the bubble”. You should’ve seen the smiles in the crowd. It was (petrol) bliss. He finished the rest of the track on the stage and shortly after, was at the merch booth helping with the sales and signing autographs. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed he didn’t perform Lucky, my favourite track from him, but it was still a wonderful experience.
Choker’s mentioned in the interview that he chose his stage name because the aggressiveness was in direct contrast to his music. From his music to his aesthetics, he seems to revel in doing something outside the norm. He enjoys defying expectations. He doesn’t overly pay attention to genres or song structure — he’s just here to make art and music that sounds and feels good. It’s almost as if to say: sit back, let go of any preconceived notions, and enjoy the ride. And it’s liberating.
As Choker continues to churn out projects and evolves as an artist, let’s hope he makes an exception and instead lives up to the high expectations we fans have for him.