What The Hip Mean To Me
I am a Tragically Hip fan.
I was introduced to the Hip when booting across Toronto back and forth on the Gardiner / Queensway from Scarborough to the 427 for a family event. My brother (my prophet of music wisdom) loaned me two tapes (tapes! That’s how long ago it was) to entertain me: Up to Here and Road Apples. It was an incredible combination: the excitement of a huge family event, me from a small town in the big city of Toronto, me with a fast rental car and blazing solos on tunes like ‘Blow at High Dough’, ‘She Didn’t Know’, ‘Little Bones’ and so on. And no traffic like Toronto has now.
And then there was Fully Completely – a cool, concise soundtrack of my early independence in Ottawa where nights at Maxwell’s on Elgin Street would routinely result in me and group of friends monopolizing floor space pretending we could move like Gord.
Day for Night and Fully Completely became the soundtrack of my travels. I was lost and eventually found myself and they were my connection to Canada. It was 1995 and Quebec was threatening to separate and I was in Turkey, embedded in lyrics for ‘Wheat Kings’ and ‘Courage’, reminding myself that I might come back to a fractured country, but aware that the DNA of creative perpetuity and the soul of my country would always be there. Regardless, it struck me how people not from Canada either loved or loathed the Hip and on many occasion more of a ‘myeh’ response simply because they just didn’t really ‘get’ them despite my efforts to act as their apostle or ambassador in countries like Turkey, Jordan, Israel and Egypt. In the grand scheme of things, it would be very ‘un-Canadian’ to to hold it against people if they didn’t soak up Nautical Disaster like I did.
The soundtrack of my life continued to be played out in albums like Trouble at the Hen House, Music @ Work (the finest use of the ‘@’ symbol) and more. I sometimes embarrass myself with un-Canadian thoughts that I would accomplish great things in life and an amazing tune like ‘Ahead by a Century’ might apply to someone like me one day.
I’ve seen the Hip play live many, many times. I would have loved to have seen the Hip this summer. However, I know myself and I know that it would have been too emotionally draining to watch the Courage of the crew as they play to the bitter end.
Perhaps I didn’t want to be a part of this summer’s tour because I didn’t feel like saying goodbye. Or maybe I was just angry that scalpers and programmed ticket buyers were able to scoop up the bulk of seats, unyielding in my frustration and annoyance to spend a penny more than what the Hip (or I suppose, their managers) decided were fair prices.
To balance things out, I’ll choose to donate to the Sunnybrook Foundation Brain Tumour Foundation instead as a last F-U to the gougers.
But back to tonight. Even tonight as I watch the Hip on the CBC in London, I’ll tell myself that there will be a next time. There must be. Like visiting a dying relative, pretending to live by different definition of ‘terminal’ where it just means ‘something you go through’ as opposed to ‘death sentence’.
And if there isn’t a next time, I’ll be sad, like so many other people in this relatively new country still seeking its identity. But I’ll know that their words are now a part of my living DNA and I truly believe that for those that give, this is the greatest way to acknowledge what they mean to me.
When I think of the Hip, I think of good times. I think of friends, new beginnings, challenges and exploration.
And for that, I will always be a Tragically Hip fan.
Thank you Gord Downie as well as Paul Langlois, Rob Baker, Gord Sinclair and Johnny Fay. You are all ahead by a century and your courage is unstoppable.