Tag Archives: The Tragically Hip

The 30-Day Song Challenge – Days 11-17

June 13 – Day 11 of the 30-Day Song Challenge

A song from my favourite band

Ah! What to do? There are three bands that jump immediately to mind when someone asks me who my favourite band or artist is: Rush, U2, and The Watchmen. I listed them in the reverse order of preference  🙂 Rush was my first fanboy experience, U2 was there throughout some of my most enjoyable and memorable experiences as a teenager, and The Watchmen has been my fave from 1993 onward. Ken is one of the finest folks you’ll ever meet (and one hell of a musician) and I have a truckload of good memories from their shows.

They don’t have a lot of stuff online and my friend Alex loves the band but hasn’t seen them play live in decades. I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite so I’ll pick a song that is his favourite. You can get a feel for how awesome it is to see these guys perform in this video. They don’t play often, but if you can see them I’d recommend going.

“The second night without you is no better than the first. I hope the third one won’t be worse.”

June 14 – Day 12 of the 30-Day Song Challenge

A song from a band I hate

It really pains me to do this. Even writing their name makes me cringe and all I can think of is the picture of the lead singer standing with his arm around Stephen Harper (coincidentally enough the Canadian Prime Minister I hate the most). Chad Kroeger from Nickelback shares a birthday with a tattoo artist that has done a lot of work on my wife and I. We were getting work done one say and this fact came out and he went on a classic rant about Chad and Nickelback, most of which can’t be repeated.

“And what the fuck is on Joey’s head? Fuck you, you asshole! It’s a fucking yarmulke! He’s Jewish!” – Wayne

June 15 – Day 13 of the 30-Day Song Challenge

A song that is a guilty pleasure

Okay, so here’s the thing. My formidable years were in the 80’s. Big hair, fantastically ugly gym shorts with matching tube socks, and lots of synthesizers and electronic drums. Did I mention the big hair? During that time I had what could only be described as a “diverse” taste in music. The first cassettes I ever bought were The Box (self-titled, 1984) followed by Fleetwood Mac (Rumors, 1977), and Pink Floyd (The Wall, 1982).

The height of hysteria came in the form of Michael Jackson and I was a huge fan and got Thriller on vinyl. I wasn’t alone in this craze, however. Nor was I alone in my appreciation for Culture Club, Cindy Lauper, Corey Hart, Gino Vannelli, Gowan, U2, The Who, Bryan Adams, or the American Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen 😉 and of course, Madonna!

To this day, I know at least the chorus to more Madonna songs than any of the other acts I’ve mentioned with the possible exception of Pink Floyd and U2. A personal favourite of mine happens to be Material Girl and you’ll find me singing out loud (chorus only – see a previous post on me not knowing the lyrics to anything)  in my car and then looking around to make sure nobody heard me  with that look on my face that kind of resembles a cat that just fell off the couch while licking its butt and is now strutting across the floor all, “Yeah, totes did that on purpose.”

June 16 – Day 14 of the 30-Day Song Challenge

A song that no one would expect me to love

I don’t know what people would not expect me to love. There are some that stand out that are obvious choices for songs I *do* love but I tend to like a wide variety of music with the exception of gangsta rap and a good amount of country. Jodi is the true music lover and I end up liking quite a bit of what she downloads. I fill my iPod with what I like and then tell it to fill the free space with random stuff from the library.

A few years back we went to see Jason Mraz (we had pretty good seats too) and as is customary with Jodi she had all the music from artists we were going to see in concert loaded into a playlist. So, on the way down to the show (about an hour’s drive) we were listening to Jason Mraz as well as the opening act for the tour, Christina Perri.

Jason Mraz was okay. He certainly did nothing to turn me into a fan, though the guys he had playing the brass instruments were fantastic. Christina Perri, on the other hand, absolutely wowed me. She put on a great show and sounded equally as great. When her songs come on the iPod when I’m driving the volume goes up every time. Avery and I sing this one together if I’m driving her to the bus. It’s my favourite Christina Perri tune and a song I think no one would expect me to love.

 

June 17 – Day 15 of the 30-Day Song Challenge

A song that describes me

Me in a nutshell:

  • I am fiercely and proudly Canadian
  • I love hockey and I married a woman who doesn’t give a fuck about it (and I never saw someone say that before)
  • In grade school, I was a pro at the flexed arm hang
  • My temperament is like a firework. There’s a short fuse that burns too quickly and then there’s an explosion. 

 

June 18 – Day 16 of the 30-Day Song Challenge

A song that I used to love but now hate

I don’t like this category. I’d prefer if it was a song that I used to hate but now love, but rules are rules so I’ll take a crack at it.

I had a hard time coming up with anything that I used to love but now hate. I have found that if I like a song I like a song and that doesn’t change much over time. There are some songs that have lost a bit of luster and a bunch of these songs are Counting Crows songs. Remember how I mentioned that we’d put the Counting Crows on at bedtime? Since there were only so many low key CDs out there the Counting Crows were played a lot. So much Counting Crows.

I guess after so many years their music has just lost a bit of its allure. This song was big when I was in university and I “danced” to it. I’m sure I had a jolly ole time singing along, but now if it comes on I turn it off.

 

June 19 – Day 17 of the 30-Day Song Challenge

A song I hear often on the radio

In the morning when I’m shaving and in the shower, we will listen to Magic 106.1 out of Guelph, Ontario. Their website says they play “Today’s Best Mix”. At dinner time and other meals spent eating as a family we listen to 96.7 CHYM FM who proclaims to bring us “Today’s Best Music”. If I’m to believe their slogans both of these stations will be playing me the best of music currently being put out by artists, however, he genres are fairly narrow. I think for the most part they can be considered “Top 40” with a few less current tunes thrown in every now and then.

I picked a song that I seem to hear on the radio a lot, but couldn’t pick which station I think I hear it playing on most often. So, I went to the respective websites and looked at their recent songs and lo and behold in the hour before I wrote this post (Sunday afternoon) the song had been played on BOTH stations (48 and 50 minutes respectively). Aside from Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” I don’t think there’s a song I hear more often, and since I like this one better it’s the one I’m picking.

 
~ Andrew
 

Grace, too

In December 1991, Canadian rock legends RUSH started their Presto tour in Hamilton, Ontario with Jeff Healey as the opening act. It was thought that a couple nights later in Toronto, that Healey would open as well. Ticket sales were slow, or so the story goes. A friend of mine scored us a pair of tickets in the sixth row, just off center, and on the day of the concert my high school walls were buzzing. At least, the dozen RUSH fans in the two thousand student body were buzzing. A rumor was circulating that Jeff Healey wasn’t going to open, instead, it was going to be The Tragically Hip.

I was a counselor in training back in the summer of 1990 when The Hip’s first full album, Up To Here, was making waves on the shores of Sparrow Lake – and Lake Ontario, and pretty much any other lake, small town, city, or metropolis in The Great White North. At the time it was one of my favourite albums. The album that outdid it, though, was their next one. The 1991 gem, Road Apples. So, by the time December of that year rolled around The Tragically Hip had become Canada’s band, and I was going to get a front row seat (okay, it was the sixth row, but who’s counting) to see them open for the band that previously held the title.

That concert was everything it promised to be, and then some. I watched Gord Downie belt out hit after hit of hard hitting, good old fashioned rock-n-roll married with lyrics that were pure genius. When he lay down with half his body hanging over the stage and screamed the lyrics to New Orleans Is Sinking while pretending to do the front crawl I knew I was witnessing something truly unique. Part man, part machine, part poem, Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip were rewriting the national anthem.

Twenty-five years later an entire country was collectively winded from the gut-punch news that Gord was suffering from an inoperable brain tumor. Doing what I can imagine only a few people in the world could do, Gord and the band decided they would go out the way they came in. That is, with a bang, and they set out do play a series of gigs – exclusively in Canada – with their magnum opus to come in a six-thousand-seat venue in their band’s birth city of Kingston, Ontario.

The Hip could have sold a hundred thousand tickets to that show. Hell, they could have filled Downsview Park in Toronto and close to a million people would have shown up. Interest was so high in tickets for these concerts that, after the debacle with getting seats (tickets going up on Stub Hub for thousands of dollars within seconds of going on sale), the national broadcaster, CBC, committed to airing the concert free of editing and commercials as well as streaming it live on their website, YouTube, and Facebook. Over four million people watched the entire broadcast and almost twelve million tuned into it at some point.

Let that sink in.

A rock band from Kingston, Ontario, population roughly 120,000, had one-third of the entire population of Canada tune in to watch a portion of their final concert.

Several politicians from several levels of government and all party affiliations were in attendance but the one that stood out the most was none other than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who in addition to clapping and cheering in a concert t-shirt, showed his love and appreciation for Gord and the band in a series of tweets:

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Praise, well wishes, prayers, and thoughts came from all over the world but I think former Saturday Night Live cast member and king of late night television, Jimmy Fallon, said it best:

And Pearl Jam took a moment out of their concert at Wrigley Field to say a few words:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J10F17ed9mo]

Articles much better than this one were written and I have got to tell you, the list of news outlets covering this event blew my mind. A partial list (each linking to the article):

Personal stories were in abundance. So what is mine? Aside from the above introduction, I don’t really have one except to say that The Hip went from being the best-kept secret in Ontario to having throngs of loyal fans. I described it to a coworker today as having this feeling that in 1990 they were this obscure band that had a few good songs I liked and in 1991 it was as if they had always been playing on the soundtrack of my life.

After that night in Toronto, I only managed to see them a few more times but their music was everywhere to be found. My good friend and former physics lab partner is a big fan and when we shared an apartment not many hours would pass without a Hip song being played, or strummed on the guitar, or sang poorly over Kraft Dinner being eaten straight out of the pot. I remember listening to their album Phantom Power on the radio in the car on the way up to the cottage with my then girlfriend now wife. There’s a lyric in the song Fireworks that goes, “She said she didn’t give a fuck about hockey and I never saw someone say that before,” and that pretty much summed up our relationship right there. She always sings that part loud and proud when we’re together and we hear that song.

The stories, they go on and on and on and on. Throw a rock at a group of Canadians and you’ll hit someone with a story about the Tragically Hip. So what is it about them that brings together millions of people to say goodbye?

For starters, the lyrics are masterfully woven from the threads of Canadiana, set to guitar, drums, and bass that make you want to sing along and move, and delivered with the rawest of emotions. For a good number of Canadians, the band speaks directly to them using tools and talent a rarified few possess.

The online Canadian encyclopedia gives us a glimpse into the poetic genius of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip with an exhibit outlining the stories behind of a handful of the band’s most popular songs. For people who have never heard of the Tragically Hip to people that have committed every lyric to memory, this is a must see. They lifted the name of the exhibit from a song off the album Fully Completely.

What sums it up most aptly for me is lifted from two lyrics from one of my favourite Hip songs off the album Day For Night (which, in a sick and twisted bit of coincidence features the song titled Inevitability of Death):

“Armed with will and determination, and grace, too.”

“Armed with skill and its frustration, and grace, too.” 

Gord Downie did it all. He did it with will and determination and even with all his skill, he showed us his frustration. And he did it with grace, too.

~ Andrew