Air Canada Centre, Toronto ~ August 10, 2016
“Mom, why do you like the Tragically Hip?”
Well, most of those memories I will keep to myself as they span my late teen and 20 something years and those were the days that you will not likely hear much about from me. I can, however; tell you about how when I heard the Hip in those first years it was usually because I was hanging around in a basement, at a cottage, in the car, in a dorm room or at a bar. You see, the Hip were from a small University town which is the same University your uncle went to in Kingston, Ont. A lot of people from Toronto choose to go to Queens University because it is one of the best in the country and you’ll hear more about it when you’re older.
When I was growing up in the late 80s and early 90s rock was much more common and popular than it is today. Sometimes I tell you real instruments vs bubblegum pop are quite different because with real instruments you see someone playing right in front of you and singing right in front of you. It’s organic and anything is possible such as Gord Downie’s ever-changing lyrics to songs my generation have all come to know extremely well.
As we know from Daddy’s brain tumour it is very difficult to remember many things after surgery. A brain injury occurs and unlike other cancer treatments the brain is permanently affected and needs much sleep, rehabilitation and slow stimulation. It is beyond incredible that Gord Downie and the band can pull together mere months from diagnosis, surgery and treatment. Although, the pull-together seems true to the band’s organic roots, its timing is something that proves there is greatness, goodness and kindness collected en masse when needed and Canadians should be most proud of this show of support.
In the early days, the Tragically Hip was the first bar band I knew to get the wallflower boys onto the dance floor to jump, fist pump and sing loudly only to apologize if they bumped into you and slopped beer on your shirt. Even in its early roots, The Hip and their small town appeal brought out the best in the fans and the fans have been one of the most wonderful aspects about the band. In a time when Canadians had difficulty supporting homegrown talent we seemed to want to make the Hip larger than ourselves and keep them close to our hearts as we freely exhibited a newfound national pride. For me, this was apparent when I traveled to Australia or camped out at Another Roadside Attraction. You always felt safe at a Hip concert and likely made a new friend who would tell you you were awesome and that you’d be friends forever.
I guess that’s how we all feel about Gord’s diagnosis. We feel that connection in a “friends forever” way and we don’t want our era to be a bygone time. Many of us fondly remember being with friends, family or alone on an open road listening to their music and celebrating a reason to live. When Daddy and I learned about Gord’s seizure which led to the discovery of his tumour we were very sad to know that he, his family, friends and bandmates would have to go through all the physical and emotional turmoil that affected our family. When the news of his illness broke publicly, I felt a much more overwhelming sense of loss as the country came together in its shock, grief and unyielding love.
It is very painful to so many of us that our quirky, thoughtful, poetic frontman is suffering this cruel nightmare after he opened a door into our collective hearts all the while teaching us about our country. The Tragically Hip connected us to our landscape, history and potential future within their lyrics and pulsing beats which always incited smiles on our faces and put our hands in the air.