It seems like just about every Canadian has some kind of Tragically Hip memory. When I put out the call on-air and online, the response was overwhelming. Instead of a couple of lines, people posted and sent me full essays on the subject. Here are a few of those stories.
The first time I saw The Hip, I was 14 years old. I went to my very first alternative rock concert – Edgefest. Co-headlining the concert was Our Lady Peace and The Tragically Hip. I managed to weasel my way to the front of the crowd and got to watch two of my favourite bands (OLP and The Hip) just a few feet from the stage. It was so memorable that every time I hear “New Orleans is sinking” I think of that moment. It changed my life. Since then, I had the opportunity to see The Tragically Hip 4 more times. It’s an experience I am honoured to have had.
I have been a solid fan of the TTH since before my first Molson Park Show in 1990 (see attached ticket stub).
Since then I have seen them bordering on 20 shows all over the world New York, London, England, various parts of Ontario (including attempting to see them by gate crashing Edenfest; another good story), Fort York and last year Vancouver.
My favourite TTTH moment was the Trouble at the Hen House tour in 1996. My good friend Kathy Watters and I scored tickets for us to get into the special “Hen House” event for fans. Turn in your tickets for a front row seats; the announcement was a live radio event for the location in time qualify for limited number of tickets. Kathy listen to the radio on her Walkman (remember those?) sitting in a cab outside her office in Downtown Toronto ready to book over to the announced spot (which turned out to be the Sky Dome). As you can imagine being close enough to the stage we needed ear plugs, we thoroughly enjoyed the show. After we stayed back to try to snag a set list. At the time noticing a crowd with backstage passes slowly gathering in the front few rows. Well, loitering can pay off….it’s a bit of a long story, but we managed to follow that crowd to the final destination and meet the entire band. We are now both the proud owners of band signed Doug Gilmore Leaf Jersey’s and some truly great memories (see photo). I don’t remember what he said when I met him, but I do remember he was kind and calming to two fans who were without words and entirely freaked out. Maybe I am lucky, but meeting your Hero’s was not what they say… he was the most gracious person and everything I thought he would be.
Last summer I hoped a plane to BC where Kath now calls home to watch the second nights show. I paid through the nose for scalper tickets to the second Toronto show when the bots gobbled up my fan presale seats (argh!!). And for the final show, by the kindness of a Tragically Hip Fan Forum member my husband and I got a last minute hotel and watched the show in Market Square. It has been a 27 year love affair with this band, and I am truly heartbroken at the loss of Gord and our precious TTH.
In last week, I was listening to Live Between Us and I think I nailed what I will miss the most. Hip live shows are rife with fans who like me have been fans for years and know the ebbs and flows of their music. In that Live show moment when the crowd reacts as the few first notes are played… goosebumps …“The beautiful love, the dangerous tug…” I along with 20,000 other voices collectively belt out those lyrics. So much love and as he says “I get a sense of connectedness…”
I have many great stories related to The Hip as I developed a passion for the band in the early 90s that took me to many shows whether they be full blown concerts or invite only gigs but one that stands out took place late spring/early summer of 1993. MCA was holding a conference of some sort, in my hometown of Huntsville, Ontario. I was back home from university for the summer and I caught wind that the group was in town and there was a function taking place at the indoor tennis courts at Grandview Resort. I showed up and walked in like I belonged there, no one said anything. I went right up and leaned against the stage as The Hip walked up and played a few tunes off of Fully. I was in heaven. The previous concert I was at leading up to this show was at the University of Buffalo, in a mosh pit (a show cut short due to some clown throwing a boot/shoe at Gord) and here I was now looking up at my favourite band with tons of elbow room.
I was nervous about meeting the band after they stepped off the stage for fear that they might have an attitude if I approached them. It was the complete opposite, each one of them gave me the time of day as I shook hands and they expressed their gratitude for me being a fan. They couldn’t have been any nicer to me. I hung out with Gord as another band took the stage. I asked him, “who are these guys?”, he said, “they are another band from Kingston, they’re called ‘The Headstones’”.
As a young university aged kid, this was like a dream. An additional bonus from that night surfaced a few days later when someone approached me with a photo they had taken of Gord and I standing together. This was well before people carried a camera in their pocket. I was ecstatic that someone captured that moment. I will forever cherish photo. Rest in peace Gord. To the rest of the band, thanks again.
My friend and I needed a ride to the Hip concert in Red Deer. We were both 17, lived in Airdrie about 60KM away and neither of us drove. We got another friend who was going to visit his girlfriend in a town just 10KM from Red Deer anyway.
He promised he’d be there after the concert. Gord sang Ahead by a Century but, it was before Trouble at the Henhouse was released so he was still working on the lyrics. He did it upside down hanging over the stage and instead of the pleasant lyrics that are on the album, he sang a funny oversexed version that would make a gangster rapper cringe. I thought it was hilarious and had remembered a bit of the lyrics because I thought it would be a good story.
At the end of the concert, we looked for our ride. He forgot about us. Seems he was having a similar time with his girlfriend as Gord was singing. We decided to hitchhike home. It was past midnight when we hit the highway and we did not look like the type your family wants to pick up. Everybody ignored us until what seemed like the last van out of town pulled over.
It was a white van. It was full of men. Big Men. I was nervous for a few seconds but once they told us they were the security for the concert I was game. We had a great time learning about concert security all the way home. The Tragically Hip Concert was one of the best I have ever gone to.
One of the first times I saw the Tragically Hip in concert was at the Ontario Place Forum in the summer of 1991 – for me the highlight of that show was during New Orleans is Sinking (with the Killer Whale Tank story), where Gord lay down on the outer railing of the circular stage and pretended to swim (after the final lyric of “…and I don’t wanna swim”). For those who didn’t attend a concert there, the stage at the Forum very slowly rotated – slow enough that you didn’t actually notice that the stage was moving. Anyways, while Gord was pretending to do the front crawl they must have jacked up the speed of the stage rotation to its max, such that it looked like Gord was really moving along through the air at a good clip with his swimming – it was excellent! (and the Skydiggers opened for them, so it was a doubly-excellent concert)
At the end of that summer I moved to Kingston to attend Queen’s University, and I stayed for 9 years. I would cross paths with various members of the Hip so frequently that it *almost* became an ordinary thing. I think I lived fairly close to Bobby Baker during my grad student days, as I saw him almost every day (when the weather was nice), for years, either walking down the sidewalk with a baby stroller or him driving his vehicle through the neighbourhood, near Johnson & Wellington Sts. I always wanted to say hello to him and speak with him about the Hip, but I figured he got enough of that as it was and he was home in Kingston to be away from all that, so I didn’t ever bother him, but from the look that must have been on my face every time we passed by each other he must have known I was bursting to say something to him. I also saw Johnny Fay a fair bit in Kingston, at one point in the late 90s he had a girlfriend on the same soccer team as my then-girlfriend (now wife), so it was a kick to see members of the Hip (and I think Dan Aykroyd was there too) come to watch a recreational league soccer game – but it also really showed that the members of the band were very close friends; I mean, how many of us ever went to watch a rec league game simply because one of our buddies had a girlfriend on one of the teams?
I saw the Hip over the years at various venues (e.g. 1992 Canada Day concert at Molson Park in Barrie – with 54-40, Leslie Spit Treeo, and SPINAL TAP!), but living in Kingston during my student years gave me some interesting opportunities to see the Hip live – one year during the Limestone City Blues Festival the Hip made a surprise appearance at the stage at Kingston’s downtown city square; my girlfriend’s apartment overlooked the square, and we’d heard a rumour that the Hip might be playing, so we camped out in her apartment and because the apartment building entrance was within the festival’s security cordon we simply walked out of the apartment lobby and walked about 100 feet to the area just in front of the stage to watch the Hip play in front of a highly enthusiastic and appreciative Kingston audience. I was so grateful to get to see them at the Hamilton concert in their farewell tour. The Hip’s music has been an integral part of the entirety of my adult life, and I love them to the depths of my soul.
Being an extra in the Music at Work music video!! Got to watch them film the “bar/concert” scene (my stepdad worked at the bank they filmed the “work” parts in and got us invited to watch filming of the concert scene), and then was invited into the crowd with the other extras. I was only 15 at the time too, and I got to meet Gord afterward. Such a special experience.
First time seeing The Hip. 2006 Sasquatch Festival at The Gorge, Washington State, Memorial Day weekend. Broke out in a hail storm late afternoon that drove Neko Case from the stage due to safety concerns. The whole crowd was cowering from the loonie-sized hail. Eventually it subsided and they squeegied off the stage. Everyone that rode out the storm is just soaked but the show continues and The Hip come out. Immediately every Canadian in the audience leaps to their feet confusing the hell out of everybody else in the Gorge. What do they start with? “Nautical Disaster.”
Feel free to add your memories below.