The Tragically Hip
Gord Downie was 53. He was the lead singer and songwriter for The Tragically Hip, my favourite band of all-time.
I'll never forget the day I heard Blow at High Dough on Q107 back in '89. I picked up Up To Here and never looked back. I've since seen them twelve times, meticulously documenting the setlists each time. I was lucky enough to see them one last time on August 12, 2016, a show I'll never forget.
I'll also never forget watching the final Tragically Hip show in Kingston from Ingonish with my oldest daughter as we openly wept together. Gord wasn't just a rock star, he was our national poet, our conscious. Most importantly, he was ours. Hip fans get it. If you don't, it's probably better for us that you don't understand.
We all knew this day was coming, but that doesn't make it hurt any less. And damn, does this ever hurt.
I didn't know what to do, so I went down to my podcast studio and recorded something for Toronto Mike'd subscribers. Just 26 unscripted minutes of me talking about the Hip while playing some Hip.
I had one more story I wanted to share. This is my Hallelujah story.
I just watched the Juno Awards. As I type, Sarah McLachlan is actually still performing. It was a pretty good show with a brilliant tribute to Leonard Cohen by Feist. I don't know where she's been, but I'm glad she's back.
A short while ago, The Tragically Hip won group of the year, and Rob Baker and Paul Langlois accepted the award. While Paul was speaking, they started to play him off. Thankfully, Paul ignored that and continued speaking. Then, just as he was about to talk about Gord Downie, they cut his mic.
That's right, as Paul Langlois was about to speak about Gord Downie, the Juno Awards cut his microphone so we couldn't hear a word.
Some power tripping award show director needs to remember what it's all about. You let Paul Langlois talk as long as he wants to.— Toronto Mike (@torontomike) April 3, 2017
If you absolutely can't run long, & of course you can, cut one of the shitty comedy bits. All we want to hear is Paul talk about Gord.— Toronto Mike (@torontomike) April 3, 2017
If the purpose of the Juno Awards is to celebrate Canadian music, and you have two members of The Tragically Hip on stage after the year they've had, it is not okay to cut their mic. Consider for a moment what this band means to this country, and the thoughts that are with Gord.
Who makes this decision? Who decides there's no time for such things but has Bryan Adams and Russell Peters awkwardly vamping a short time later?
Such bullshit from CTV and the Juno Awards. We can now collectively wonder what Paul was about to say about Gord and his battle.
Paul said it best as the Junos played them off. "This is our arena, not yours."
On New Year's Day, Strombo shared four hours of Tragically Hip covers via his show on CBC Radio 2. I shared an MP3 of all four hours the next day.
Yesterday, Kevin Archibald left a comment on that entry.
What's better than a single, 4 hour MP3?
How about it broken into songs and tracks? 86 MP3s in all for your enjoyment.
That offer was too good to resist, so I downloaded the zip file and found 86 MP3s that I've been enjoying ever since. This really is incredible.
I tweeted about this several times yesterday, but thought I'd give it a little more exposure in the hopes you'll enjoy this as much as I do.
George Stroumboulopoulos invited some of Canada's best musicians to his home and had them cover Tragically Hip songs. The result was four awesome hours of what he calls Hip 30.
All four hours of Hip 30 audio is available to you here.
Enjoy this most excellent playlist.
- The Tragically Hip, “Grace Too”
- Blue Rodeo, “Bobcaygeon”
- Cowboy Junkies, “Little Bones”
- The Tragically Hip, “Are We Family”
- Harrison + Friends, “Poets”
- Amos The Transparent, “Gift Shop”
- Tanika Charles, “Boots Or Hearts”
- Annie Sumi, “Fiddler’s Green”
- Donovan Woods, “Lake Fever”
- Daniel Romano, “Something On”
- Born Ruffians, “Fireworks”
- Darcys, “Vapour Trails”
- Hawksley Workman, “Emperor Penguin”
- Sarah Harmer, “Thompson Girl”
- The Tragically Hip, “Vapour Trails”
- PS I Love You, “Small Town Bringdown”
- The Tragically Hip, “So Hard Done By”
- Kasador, “So Hard Done By”
- Los Poetas, “Thugs”
- The Trews, “Family Band”
- Arkells, “My Music At Work”
- The Tragically Hip, “Are We Family”
- The Pack A.D., “Gus: The Polar Bear From Central Park”
- Sebastien Grainger of Death From Above 1979, “Grace, Too”
- The Dears, “Tired As Fuck”
- STARS, “What Blue”
- Gord Downie, “Elaborate”
- Hannah Georgas, “Vancouver Divorce”
- Barenaked Ladies, “Chancellor / Ahead By A Century”
- Willie Thrasher + Linda Saddleback, “Budget Shoes”
- The Sadies, “Long Time Running”
- Iskwe, “38 Years Old”
- The Tragically Hip, “New Orleans Is Sinking”
- D-Sisive, “Killer Whale Tank”
- The Tragically Hip, “Fully Completely”
- GREYS, “Courage”
- Woodpigeon, “Pigeon Camera”
- Kalle Mattson, “Wheat Kings”
- Limblifter, “50 Mission Cap”
- WEAVES, “Blow At High Dough”
- The Dirty Nil, “No Threat”
- Steven Page, “Honey Please”
- Hey Rosetta!, “Stay / Now For Plan A”
- Skydiggers, “The Depression Suite: The Rock”
- Choir! Choir! Choir!, “Last of the Unplucked Gems”
- Etiquette, “Escape Is At Hand For The Travellin’ Man”
- Silver Pools, “Nautical Disaster”
- The Tragically Hip, “Nautical Disaster”
- Charlotte Cornfield, “Morning Moon”
- SATE, “New Orleans Is Sinking”
- Said The Whale, “The New Maybe”
- The Odds, “Yer Not The Ocean”
- The Tragically Hip, “Flamenco”
- By Divine Right, “Ahead By A Century”
- Jim Bryson, “Scared”
- Julie Doiron, “Titanic Terrarium”
- Rheostatics, “Bobcaygeon”
We're a couple of weeks removed from the final Tragically Hip show in Kingston and I'm still digesting it all. Certain images are etched in my psyche and keep pushing their way to the forefront. One such image is Gord Downie in his Jaws t-shirt.
Gord wore that t-shirt throughout the tour. When I saw it during the Toronto show I attended, I started wondering about the symbolism. There's no way that's a random choice of shirt, our poet laureate was saying something.
The Dark Canuck refrerences Jaws.
In the clouds of blood at the end of Jaws
In the misted cars honking their applause
At the drive-in double feature
At the heart of dark enough
It's Jaws and The Dark Canuck
Should we stay for The Dark Canuck?
Then, there's the obivious. The shark is Gord's cancer and the swimmer is Gord. He can keep swimming, but the shark is looming, preparing to pounce. It's only a matter of time...
I've decided I need to buy a Jaws t-shirt, exactly like the one Gord wore. I'd rather buy one in person than online, so if you know a place in Toronto that's selling these shirts without charging an arm and a leg, let me know.
Because I was in Cape Breton during the final Hip concert, I only recently saw Michael de Adder's "For Canadian eyes only" cartoon for the Toronto Star. It's fantastic.
One of the four iconic images de Adder chose was Terry Fox running in his Marathon of Hope. I'll be running for Terry later this month and would be honoured if you'd pledge my run. Here's the link: http://www.terryfox.ca/torontomike
This shark, swallow you whole.
Much respect and love to the Tragically Hip, my favourite band of all-time.
I attended a Hip concert for the twelfth time last night. I fear it may have also been my last.
It's the first time I've gone solo to a Hip show, so I jumped on my bike at 6:30pm and head east to the ACC. It was hot, tailgaters were having a blast by Ontario Place and Jays fans were collecting near the dome. I locked up my bike, bought a tee shirt and got to my seat by 8pm.
The Hip opened with Courage and didn't let up for 2.5 hours. It was an incredible performance with a stellar playlist. What struck me as a huge fan for 27 years was how heavy certain lyrics sound when sung by a man with terminal brain cancer.
Use it up
Use it all up
Don't save a thing for later
~ Use It Up
Okay, you made me scared, you did what you set out to do
And I'm not prepared, you really had me going there for a minute or two
He said, you made me scared too, I wasn't sure I was getting through
I got to go, it's been a pleasure doing business with you
This one thing probably never goes away
I think this one thing is always supposed to stay
This one thing doesn't have to go away
See when it starts to fall apart
Man, it really falls apart
Like boots or hearts, oh when they start
They really fall apart, well fall apart
~ Boots or Hearts
The Tragically HIp closed with Ahead By a Century. In '99 I heard them play this song at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve. Then, it felt hopeful, but last night it felt like goodbye.
Stare in the morning shroud and then the day began
I tilted your cloud, you tilted my hand
Rain falls in real time and rain fell through the night
No dress rehearsal, this is our life
~ Ahead By A Century
What I'll remember most is the total and absolute mutual adoration and admiration. All 20,000 were there to let Gord know he's appreciated. I have never, ever heard the ACC that loud, and I was at the gold medal juniors game against Russia. This level of love and respect was something very, very special.
Gord was in good spirits the entire night, full of knowing smiles and delivering the strong performance to which we Hip fans have grown accustomed. When Gord stood on stage after Ahead By a Century before the house lights went on, I didn't want him to leave. I wanted him to stay there forever. I did not want this concert to end.
Loudest I've ever heard it in here pic.twitter.com/6jh7SBBznJ— Toronto Mike (@torontomike) August 13, 2016
Then, in the dark of night, I rode home along the lake, singing Hip songs as I pedaled.
Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)
Locked in the Trunk of a Car
At the Hundredth Meridian
In a World Possessed by the Human Mind
The Dire Wolf
Use It Up
It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken
Throwing Off Glass
New Orleans Is Sinking
Boots or Hearts
Blow at High Dough
Ahead by a Century
This morning at 10am, tickets for the last Tragically Hip tour went on sale for the many of us with a presale password. I was logged into Ticketmaster and ready to rock well before go time.
Then, I started my search for 3 tickets. I really wanted to take my oldest two kids to see their dad's favourite band. I tried for both Toronto shows, the London show and the Hamilton show. I came up empty every time.
I reduced my search to two tickets, and tried for another 30 minutes. Still nothing.
Then, I narrowed my search to one ticket. I figured I'd go alone and enjoy Gord and the boys for a twelfth and final time. It would be a personal, spiritual journey. Cathartic, even. Finally, after the 30th security check to prove I'm not a robot, I got a ticket.
But, for reasons I still don't understand, the final "submit" button was greyed out. There was no way to click it. I spent several minutes trying to figure out what was preventing the submit button from becoming active to no avail. I never was able to buy this ticket.
But I kept trying to find one ticket at any of the aforementioned four shows. I never did.
After 90 minutes of trying, I managed to score a single ticket to the Friday, August 12 show at the ACC. It's in the nosebleeds, but I'm in the building. This makes me very, very happy.
When I awoke this morning, the first thing I did was check email. The first email I read was my Tragically Hip newsletter. I'm looking for them to tour again because I want to take my teenaged son to see his dad's favourite band.
I couldn't believe my eyes. Here's what the email said.
We have some very tough news to share with you today, and we wish it wasn't so.
A few months ago, in December, Gord Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
Since then, obviously, he's endured a lot of difficult times, and he has been fighting hard. In privacy along with his family, and through all of this, we've been standing by him.
So after 30-some years together as The Tragically Hip, thousands of shows, and hundreds of tours...
We've decided to do another one.
This feels like the right thing to do now, for Gord, and for all of us.
What we in The Hip receive, each time we play together, is a connection; with each other; with music and it's magic; and during the shows, a special connection with all of you, our incredible fans.
So, we're going to dig deep, and try to make this our best tour yet.
We hope you can come out and join us this summer - details and dates will be coming this week.
And we sincerely thank all of you, for your continued love and support,
Paul, GordD, Johnny, Rob, GordS
I was stunned. I've seen The Hip 11 times (all insanely documented here) and my Hallelujah hunt remains a personal highlight. The fact is you only have one favourite band and The Tragically Hip has been that to me for almost three decades.
Thank you, Gord.
The weather was perfect... warm and breezy, and the opening bands were stellar. Hey Rosetta! lived up to the hype, Broken Social Scene was their typical solid self and Weezer threatened to steal the show. But on Canada Day, the Hip won't be beat.
I've added the setlist to my personal Tragically Hip page, and I've updated my setlist statistics. We got "At The Hundredth Meridian" again, making it the only song I've seen live 11 times.
It was a great day of tunes, followed by a sweet firework display. Happy birthday, Canada.
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