THE TRAGICALLY HIP NATIONALLY BROADCAST LAST CONCERT FROM KINGSTON, ONTARIO, CANADA, Saturday August 20, 2016
On watching the concert there was something that had never really occurred to me before. My son Brendon belongs in the same generation as Justin Trudeau and as such was exposed to the music of the Tragically Hip during his high school and University years. My son was raised in Cranbrook, graduated from the Engineering School at Simon Fraser University and the MBA Program at UBC. He went on to work in the Caribbean, Ireland, Vancouver and Silicon Valley. He is married to an American girl (Ashley) who he met while going to school in Britain. They have one daughter and are currently living in San Jose, California. Here is some email correspondence we kicked around following the historic Tragically Hip Concert broadcast from Kingston Ontario.
Way back when, I decided that rather than try to follow the in and outs of pop/rock music I would just go on my merry way and ignore it all. My philosophy was, then and now, if the music had any real merit I would get to hear it eventually. By and large I think it worked. I didn’t waste time sifting through a lot of dross and the quality stuff usually won out in the end. Case in point : The Tragically Hip – it seems that they have finally penetrated my conscious and I now get it. They are the sound track of your generation. I just got back from my gig with SHEVA in Rotary Park in time to pick up the second half of the Kingston concert. Some of the tunes I am familiar with because they pop up at open mics sessions (Ahead by a Century and Wheat Kings). The sound of the broadcast was not good, but what can one expect from a hockey arena, but on listening to some of their recorded stuff I was much more impressed. So I am placing their CDs on my Christmas wish list.
In response to my comment “They are the soundtrack of your generation”.
Too right. Watching Saturday night was fairly emotional, on many levels. Thinking back, I’ve followed The Hip since somewhere around 1991, so about 25 years. I think I had heard a few of their songs on CBC and the like, but it wasn’t until I listened to Road Apples (I borrowed Kirsti Medig’s copy), that I really started paying attention. And later it was their songs I played at open mike nights, or played with my buddy Drew when we go together. So yes, some part of it was emotional because here was a band that I had followed for most of my late teens and adult life. And now it was coming to an end.
On another level, I think everyone watching was also contemplating their own mortality in the face of Gord’s imminent demise. We had all thought The Hip would go on forever, and here it was: The End.
And on yet one more level, a big piece was that there was something definitively Canadian about the moment. I was watching Twitter during the concerts, chatting with friends all over the world as we watched the concert. There was drone footage of the town of Bobcaygeon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VS8UeF2pok&sns=tw), showing the incredible extent of the turnout for a town of only 3500 people. A friend of mine attended a viewing up in SF, and the crowd spontaneously broke out into “O Canada” at the conclusion of the concert. Positively seditious. 😉
As Trudeau rightly pointed out, there was always a singular thought in the back of mind of Hip fans: when will they “break out” and go big, go global? The Hip’s somewhat bizarre appearance on SNL (fellow Kingstonian Dan Ackroyd had made it a requirement of his willingness to appear on the show) was not the leaping off point everyone expected it would be. There was Gord, all weird, fronting a band that looked like they accidentally shuffled out of a bar gig and onto stage at Rockefeller Center. And the song choices – “Grace, Too” and “Nautical Disaster” – were not exactly the rocking numbers that Hip fans wanted the world to hear. And yet, at some point I think Hip fans realized that sure, they could go big, they could be an international stars, etc…but in the words of Joey “Da Lips” in “The Commitments”, “that would have been predictable”. Instead, they stayed uniquely ours. They were a gem of Canadian-ness that we were happy to let the world ignore.
I found it especially interesting to hear Ashley’s perspective on The Hip. Of course she’d heard the music from me, and we’d gone to a few of their concerts (one of which was a ludicrously small event at the Fillmore in SF). But I never really expected her to get them, or have much of a connection to them, given how briefly they had been a part of her life. But she too was quite emotional about it. To her, she saw The Hip as one of the main takeaways from her time in Canada. They were, in many ways, what she knew of Canada and reflected the country she had come to know. Even the affection shown by the band before the show (you didn’t see, but there were hugs and kisses on the mouth from Gord to the band members) showed a group that was clearly comfortable with themselves and their place in the world, as weird and awkward as it might appear to outsiders.
While the Hip may not have been a big band on the world stage – none of that mattered. They were a big band on the stage in our hearts, and in our minds. They have earned their place in Canadian history.
Here are some images off the web:
Outside the arena in Kingston
Justin Trudeau at the concert