Couldn't have come at a worst time.. A Farewell to the Hip
Updated: May 29, 2019
My earliest memory I had of the Tragically Hip was when I used to be a regular at the local pool hall called, Rack N’ Roll. Mock the name if you will, but that was the best place to go in Welland when you were in high school. Obviously well before the smoking bylaw that came in and crashed that business, but there was a guy there who always played the Hip when he was there. Even after speaking to an old friend about it, he couldn’t remember the guy’s name. He was Italian, maybe Dan knows him. Anyways, I was introduced to the hip like most people were, the hit “New Orleans is sinking” on repeat on the jukebox at the bar. But at the time, I was into a lot of thrash/death metal and wasn’t really interested in the meaning of a song. Just adrenaline rush that came from it. So for the longest time, I disregarded the band as a nobody bar band. I heard their classics like Ahead by a Century, Wheat Kings, Fiddlers Green, and Grace, too. But never stuck.
Wasn’t until my later years when I moved away from full time thrash/death metal is when I started to appreciate the message that came from songs. Especially in Canadian artists. That is when I came back to the Hip. Conveniently it was during a time where things were not going my way and the music kept me going against all odds. The song I will always relate to is Courage. It reminds me of the hard trials and long days of what my family went through in my younger years. When I was very young, my father was diagnosed with Throat cancer and will always live with a trichotomy. My father went from a good paying job to a reduced monthly LTD payment to support a wife and 2 kids. My mother went and worked a minimum wage job to carry the family. And we survived. My parents raised their child and we have grown into respectable and loving adults. It was the courage of the family that kept us going through those years.
As I write this, I still fight back the tears. It hits home because of what is happening with Gord and it took a tragedy to unite Canada in such a large scale. It shows that there is people in this world that still truly care for others and would do anything to show their support during someone’s dark hours. They didn’t need to do this tour, they wanted to do this tour. Gord wanted to serenade us one last time and have his final hurrah. But I bet he would have never imagined the amount of support he received. I knew it was going to be big, but nothing like this. Also, this starts his journey into battling cancer. A journey I have/currently witnessed first-hand with multiple friends and family. I know the road looks grim and dark but if there was anyone that could be the light, it would be Gord Downie.
Our country has been divided in so many ways over the years. With the ongoing issues with terrorism, politics, and other trivial things, the Tragically Hip did one thing that not even the Prime Minister could do. They united the entire nation for 4 hours, uninterrupted and with pure patriotism. Canadian flags were raised, notices were sent out via social media that Canada would be closed at 830PM and people gathered in their local town squares to pay tribute. Roughly 20000 city’s aired this epic event across Canada. Kingston was originally expecting 6000 thousand people in attendance for the live show. They never expected people from across the country to drive/fly in to see the Hip’s final performance. I believe the announcer said well over 25000+ showed up.
At 8:31PM EST, Canada went into a shutdown status and prepared to spend the next 4 hours saying goodbye to one of their greatest Canadian Poets. I myself attended the gathering at City Hall in Welland(regardless it was poorly ran, not loud enough and people were more preoccupied with talking than watching, but that’s Welland for ya) where a few thousand gathered to watch the Hip on the city’s new $100k TV. There we saw the sheer excitement from Kingston as waited for the Hip to take the stage. I haven’t felt Canada this excited since the last time the Blue Jays won the World Series in 92-93. 4 hours flew by minutes for most of us. I celebrated the show with a pack of cigarettes(quit smoking 4 years ago this month) and one of my Cuban cigars that I have been saving for a special occasion. A farewell to the Hip clearly fits that criteria. After almost a 3 hour set list, a pop for the Prime Minister by Gord and 3 encores, it was time to go home. The crowd was saddened but content with the goodbye. It was a perfect farewell to the band that exemplifies what is to be Canadian. This could not have been done in any other way.