Why The Last Tragically Hip Concert Matters To Me
Like all good Canadians I grew up aware of The Tragically Hip. The Hip were everywhere in the 90s, or so it seemed to those of us growing up, listening to their parents music, listening to Canadian rock radio stations. All Canadian bands bless the Canadian content laws.
As I grew up, I realized that, although they were all over Canadian stations, The Hip weren’t actually everywhere. The Hip were rock stars, but only in Canada. And that didn’t matter to them or to us. They were our Canadian band. They sang songs that resonated with us, spoke of places that were far more relatable to a lower-middle class kid than the exotic locales of Boston or LA. They sang about Canada and life in Canada and, while it was not always pretty, it was us and ours. And we made The Hip ours.
In my house, I grew up listening to music. The radio was always on and, on special occasions, there were records on the turntable playing. We listened to a lot of radio and played along with the games, trying to win free stuff. My parents won a CD long before they ever got a CD player. The first CD player was a big deal for our entire family, it was a five CD changer and for a long time, Fully Completely was a mainstay in it.
My dad really liked The Tragically Hip and, as a kid I listened to everything he did. As a jaded teenager though, I disliked a lot of the music my dad liked. In fact, I was proud of how different our music tastes were and of how much I professed to disliking The Hip. I always sang along to Bobcaygeon, At the Hundredth Meridian, and Ahead By Century though. Teenagers are silly sometimes.
The song that really got me into The Hip, was Gift Shop. I remember the first time I heard Gift Shop. I was sitting in my room, listening to the radio with my finger on the record button on my tape deck waiting for another song to come on so I could record it(a song by Rush, if I remember correctly). Gift Shop started and I wasn’t paying attention. As soon as Gord Downie started singing though, I sat up and paid attention. That song put goosebumps all down my arms and I fell in love.
I didn’t fall madly in love with the music of The Tragically Hip and it certainly didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t immediately go through my parents CDs and record all their songs but I learned a quiet appreciation of their songs. The poetry of the beautifully written lyrics, the melodies that resonated with my childhood, and the guitars.
Jaded teenagers grow up and, my generation at least, became nostalgic 20-somethings. I moved away from home and a lot of the things I knew. I drifted and began to miss the music I grew up listening to. My iTunes list was extensive I still bought CDs though. I bought The Tragically Hip’s Yer Favourites and immediately downloaded the songs. I listened to it every day in my car on the way to work and home. I’m in my 30s now and every time I listened to certain songs, I remembered listening to it for the first time with my parents.
I lost my dad this past spring. It was very sudden and unexpected and it still doesn’t always seem real. And when I hear certain songs, there is a jolt in my chest, a shot straight to the heart, and it hurts. But I keep listening to remember.
When The Hip announced Gord Downie’s terminal cancer, I felt lost. My heart dropped. I couldn’t believe it. The Hip are a Canadian staple, they are supposed to be around forever. And even worse, dad loved this music. Losing The Hip would be like losing my dad all over again. I wasn’t ready. I’m not ready.
They announced his cancer, then immediately announce their final tour which made me laugh. Instead of wallowing, The Hip and Gord Downie are chosing to go out with a bang. To push as far as they can. To go as far as they can. To entertain and give Canadians one final hurrah.
I didn’t go to any of the concerts when they were in Edmonton which I regret. But I’ve followed along with their tour. I read every article I can about their tour, songs, and how they touched others along the way. My chest tightens with emotion, my eyes feel hot and dry, and I have to look away. I cannot believe that tonight will be the last concert for The Tragically Hip. It fills my heart with love and delight to hear about all the places across Canada that will be streaming the final concert. I love knowing that this band, this Canadian pillar, will be celebrated across the country.
My heart is filled and I am so happy and proud of Canadians, celebrating ourselves.
I will be joining all of Canada as we celebrate but for me, tonight will also be about my dad. Through the joy and the pain, I will listen to remember.