Saturday, January 15, 2011

I have an ongoing love affair with Gord Downie

Well, in my head I do.  Hrm.

It's probably a little sad, all told.

It all started when I was about 13 years old watching MuchMusic, I happened across the video for At The Hundreth Meridian.  It was one of the lesser known singles off what was at the time The Tragically Hip's fourth and best-known album Fully Completely.

In my pubescent mind, I could not have imagined that I'd be so taken with a strange lanky man in a truck cap and a hawaiian shirt, or that I'd embark on a lifelong fascination with the music this man and his equally talented bandmates created.

The video was not so much an introduction as an awakening.  Sneaking into my sister's cassette collection, I was thrilled to not only find Fully Completely but the band's previous endeavour, Road Apples.  Upon listening I found I already had songs like Little Bones and Locked in the Trunk of a Car embedded in my subconcious.

One thing people may not know, but the band, consisting of Gord, Rob Baker, Johnny Fay, Paul Langlois and Gord Sinclair, still tours with their original lineup, after almost 30 years.  In January of 2007, a good 14 years after my initial awakening to all things Hip, I was finally able to see the band live in concert, with original lineup intact.  But getting there wasn't easy.  I am always amazed at stories of them playing in half-filled clubs, where here in the Great White North, tickets tend to sell out within minutes of going on sale.

Then, as young bucks - Photo Credit

Once in 2000, when I was living with the ex-hub in our shit-tastic little room in hell .. erm .. Barrie, I came home from work, tired, pregnant, sore and just sick of life in general.  I was greeted at the door by the ex-hub grinning ear-to-ear.

"I have a surprise for you!" he exclaimed.  I groaned, as usually a surprise meant that he had bought something we didn't need and couldn't afford.   At this time MuchMusic was running call-in-and-win contests on the station.. one of the few luxuries we did have in the shit-hole was cable, which was included in the rent.

"I won tickets to see the Tragically Hip".

I blinked.  I blinked again.  Then all horomonal hell broke loose and I began sobbing and slapping him about the shoulders (I'm not proud of this, bY the way).

"THAT'S NOT FUNNY!! THAT'S NOT SOMETHING YOU JOKE ABOUT!!!  YOU DON'T JOKE ABOUT THE HIP!!  WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???!!!  WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT???!!!" Somehow he manages to calm me down and convince me that it was true, the tickets were on the way in the mail, the show was on the 23rd of December.  Merry Christmas indeed, right?

Sadly no.  As I have mentioned previously, the time in Barrie was a blackhole of suck and we had no money, no ride, and no one who would drive us to Toronto two days before Christmas.  We weren't even able to find someone who could use the tickets.  They went to waste.  I have the unused tickets to this day.

Have you ever seen a sadder sight?  I think not.

Fast forward to 2004ish.  I'm living with my sister, who at the time is the head bartender at the local bar/home away from home.  I've come home early after attending a street party where I was having a marginal time, but really not feeling it.  I've hemmed and hawed about going out to the bar, but decide to stay home instead.  The next morning, my sister asks where I was as she had tried to call me with important news, and that I should come to the bar.  Turns out the owners daughter had tickets for a Hip concert the following weekend that she had brought in with the idea that the bar could give them away as a spot-dance prize.  Knowing of my obsession, my sister talked to manager and told him about my lifelong desire to the see the Hip live, and they had come to an agreement that if I came in that night, they could see about me winning.  But she was unable to get a hold of me.

Why she didn't leave me a bloody voicemail message, I don't understand to this day... because I was even considering going that night anyway.  If I had know, I would have ran in a second.  *sigh*

Finally in 2007 I had both the money, vehicle and deft enough typing fingers that I was able to procure one single solitary ticket to a Barrie show.  Have you ever seen those clips of girls on the Ed Sullivan show with the girls screaming and crying in the audience?  That was pretty much me at my first Hip Show.  It took me a good two hours to come down after the performance.  I was by myself in the audience and I couldn't have given a shit.
Me at my first Hip concert.  Not really, but you get the idea.  Source

It.  Was.  Fabulous.

The show was fabulous.  The pictures, not so much.  But I got this one.

It sounds like a cliche, if you're Canadian and you say you LOVE the Tragically Hip, but somewhere between my burgeoning adolescence and my evolving musical tastes, something clicked and the spastic performance and lyrical content spoke to me.

It was a song of theirs that led me to my favorite book, Hugh MacLennan's The Watch That Ends The Night, after an interview revealed that the third verse from Courage was basically pulled from that book.  I read it, and have probably read it 20 odd times since.

Wheat Kings was the first dance at my wedding.  Yeah, I know. How innapropriate is that, right?  For those who do not know, Wheat kings is a song about David Milgaard, a man who spent 20 years in prison for a murder he was later cleared of.  How Romantic.  DJ didn't have the song we requested so it was a last minute choice of 'Hey, it's slow and we both like it!'

Photo Credit
There was poetry.  I wrote poetry for Gord Downie when I was a teenager.  I know.  No, I'm not posting it, but you can read some of my other bad adolescent poetry here.

There's actually a pretty cool site you can check out that has a bunch of theories and histories behind a lot of the songs, as Gord likes to sprinkle the lyrics with various historical and geographic references.  Kinda like Stompin' Tom that way.

A Museum After Dark

It's pretty cool, you can search by song, or by subject.  But yeah, check it out.  One of my goals in the future is a road trip where i can visit all the places mention in various songs.  Maybe not Copenhagen, that might be a bit of a stretch.  But let's see here..

  • Bobcaygeon, ON (check)
  • Central Park, New York City (home of Gus the Polar Bear From Central Park)
  • Mistaken Point, NFLD
  • Moonbeam, ON
  • Sault St. Marie, ON (check)
  • Springside Park, Napanee, ON
  • Reno, NV
  • New Orleans, LA
  • The Golden Rim Motor Inn, British Columbia
  • Montreal, QC (check)
There's probably more, but it's a start.

I'm not sure what the point of this post is, other than to showcase a severe and long-standing case of extreme fangirlishness.

Okay, so I won't show you the sad poetry, but here's some of my Hip-Inspired artwork.  Incidentally, these are the only two paintings I've ever sold.  Thanks Sharon!

Morning Moon

Gord Downie Portrait


  1. OK. I'm relieved. If you had done another post about the same thing I was thinking, I would have been worried.

    But we're OK this time.

    I confess. Don't hate me! But until this moment, I did not know who Tragically Hip were. I Googled 'em and listened to "We Are the Same," and I went, "Oh, no, I recognize these guys!"

    (Great tune, btw.)

    Nor had I heard of The Watch That Ends the Night. I going to see if the library has it. I followed your link, and it looks like a fine read, so thanks.


  2. Are you U.S. based? If so, than it's not terribly surprising that you may not have heard of them. Despite being one of the biggest bands in Canada, their success in the States has been negligible (although they did do Saturday Night Live a number of years ago).

  3. Well not only am I in the U.S (Fresno, California), but when I was listening to them in the background from your video link, I got to one point and the content was blocked!

    Some country code copyright kaka. Damn it.

    I thought they were sick. Hard enough to get my blood up, poetic enough to merit thought, so thanks... Oh. I already said that. But really!

  4. I am familiar with the Tragically Hip, 89X in Toronto / Detroit used to play them. Amusingly, I just went out and bought Blue Rodeo's greatest hits and that got me thinking about all the grunge rock of my youth. I remember hearing "Courage" many a time.

    I'm glad you finally got to see them :D

    I'm a lifelong Pink Floyd fan. And have tried, many a time, to win tickets off the radio station (because as a teenager — that's the only way my parents would agree to drive us off to a city to see an event — if we could get free tickets)...

    About 3 years ago, I finally shelled out $90.00 to see Roger Waters in concert. I knew every freaking song. I can't say I screamed like a Beatle's fan, because I'm just not that kind of girl — but I know the feeling of the journey.

  5. Nice...

    You also need to go to the Unique Hotel (Thompson Girl).

    Should I tell the truth? Hmmm... I was at that concert that you had tickets to and couldn't attend.

    I missed the first and last family Christmas dinner on my mom's side to go. Took a Via train into Toronto.


  6. OMG. You are a fair rival, I admit.

    Fiddler's Green was one of our wedding songs - the "last dance". Our guitarist also played Long Time Running at the ceremony. I emailed them and asked them to play at our wedding, but sadly, they were on tour at the time.

    PS- That picture of unused tickets makes me CRY. For shame.

  7. OMG. You are a fair rival, I admit.

    Fiddler's Green was one of our wedding songs - the "last dance". Our guitarist also played Long Time Running at the ceremony. I emailed them and asked them to play at our wedding, but sadly, they were on tour at the time.

    PS- That picture of unused tickets makes me CRY. For shame.

  8. Wow.. what a small world. As if you were at that show Steph. Craziness.

    And Marianna, that's funny you should mention that, as my ex and I also wrote to them and invited them to our wedding (I think we also invited The Offspring, for some reason) but got no reply. Didn't have the foresight to ask them to actually play, though.

  9. That was maybe what I should have done - actually send them a wedding invite. If only you and I had joined forces sooner...

  10. OMG.. I just realized I missed Chagrin Falls, OHIO! I'm losing cred by the minute.


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