For many, engaging with The Tragically Hip is not just an entertaining past time, but a life altering experience. For others, the music is a welcome distraction that flirts around their consciousness from time to time, but never lasting longer than the moment. One could say this about many artists, musicians, or writers-that there is something about _____ that “moves me, excites me, makes me consider big ideas…,” but the past few months have shown that The Hip have initiated responses in completely different ways.
There are fans and there are super fans for whom The Hip is everything, but then there are also the ones gobsmacked by something that they can’t even articulate, who listen to the music and know they are feeling something outside of the themselves, but cannot really comprehend it. Over the past few months, as news of Downie’s disease circulated and the final tour developed, I spoke with a number of people who stated this disconnected connection in many different ways: ‘I’m not a huge fan, but…’ then drifting into that netherworld of consideration and middle ground stare.
I love you so much
It distorts my life
What drove and drives you, drove and drives me too
When I think I’m clear
I think I’m doing fine completely absorbed in what blue
from What Blue
Completely absorbed in…? For these people, the past few weeks have conjured up a mixed bag of emotions and questions. ‘Why I am feeling so upset about this? It’s sad yes, but I don’t understand my response.’ People are expressing more sadness than they think they should, arguing with themselves that this might be over the top or naïve on their part as the old albums are being pulled off the shelf for renewed listens. ‘I’m hearing things I didn’t hear before, but I don’t know why I didn’t hear them. Maybe I heard them and just forgot.’
Regardless of the impetus, people return to certain songs that aligned with moments in their lives.
Like a literary adventure, the re-read is often full of new insight. And the re-listen with closer contemplation of Downie’s more cryptic lyrics, where narrative jumps from first-person to third-person, or the tense moves from present to past within two lines, offers new connections. The kind of connections that come with experience and knowledge. Add to these connections previous mis-reads, where the lyric we heard was much different than what Downie was singing, and one has a number of new experiences. Are these new listenings exaggerated by the knowledge of Downie’s disease? How much does this knowledge temper our re-experiences?
I believe it may have something to do with the band’s Canadian identity, for lack of a better term. Like the Rockies, the prairies, the Great Lakes, the Shield, aspects of Canada that are often taken for granted, The Hip played a part in defining that magnificent tapestry, and yes, were often taken for granted. The first encounters with their music was special, touching, but then life took us away with the connection being stretched, nearly broken, but responding whenever our attention returned to the music. The music that touched some people deeply and other very ambiguously.
‘Oh, a new Hip album-cool.’ A quick acknowledgement and then out of mind. A single from the album heard at a summer fair, which lead to a purchase, but the album never assumed heavy rotation that summer. The songs transferred to a mobile device often skipped or half-heard in the chaos of life.
With illusions of someday casting a golden light
No dress rehearsal, this is our life
from Ahead By A Century
[styled_box title=”The Tragically Hip – Ahead By a Century Live” color=”black”][/styled_box]
Love them then forget them. And now return to love them once more. Like a one-night stand that keeps recurring. The relationship continues to exist, but changes slightly with each encounter until now, where the last chapter is being written.
When a musician or band talks retirement, we cynically think that they’ll return. When a musician dies suddenly, we’re struck instantly, but recover almost as quickly from the shock. When an artist announces they’re about to shake off their mortal coil, we have time to consider, to wonder, to reflect, to place the artist in our timelines of life and see what strikes us as measurable. We look through our tough/best moments and see where the music intersects.
For some this is an obvious activity because the moments and the songs are already linked, but for others it takes a little thought. ‘Yes I remember, Ahead By A Century was playing when we drove to the hospital for the birth of our first.’ Moments etched in memory. Songs etched in time.
The Tragically Hip were like the band next door, the one that your parents liked-a little rebellious, but not really bad. The one that you liked to hang around with, but never fully considered marrying. Maybe it’s because The Hip were never that famous outside of Canada that made them more Canadian. They fit the Canadian condition where we never think too highly of our accomplishments or achievements. Or was it because The Hip were our collective secret, something we didn’t want to share with the world, that we didn’t want corrupted by the celebrity-crazed fanaticism of other countries.
Well, Tom Thompson came paddling past
I’m pretty sure it was him
And he spoke so softly in accordance
To the growing of the dim
from Three Pistols
Only a Canadian would know who Tom Thompson was, except for Steve Martin. A little Canadianism tucked inside a grooving little song.
If you didn’t have the opportunity to see the Man Machine Poem tour, catch the final show on the CBC, that other Canadian institution, and bring your trunk load of emotions with you. We’ll be connected to that moment and create our memories together. Numerous fragments of music or lyrics will work their magic differently throughout the show. Forgot interpretation. Be in the moment. No need to understand, this is our lives.
Let’s be iconic, even if we don’t understand why. Let’s be one under northern lights and let whatever emotions surface without questions. Let’s share in our collective grief, knowing that the music will live on with our lives, changing and tumbling down through the years.
I write about words
I find treasure or worse
I watch the end of man
And I dream like a bird
[styled_box title=”Hip Final Concert Gets Global Exposure” color=”black”]Can’t make it to Kingston Ontario to catch The Tragically Hip’s final concert – fear not. The Hip’s final show (if it is their final show!) will receive international broadcasting exposure. The CBC is broadcasting the show commercial free across the podcaster’s TV, radio and digital platforms including CBC’s Music’s Apple and Android app.
But this historic performance will also be screened at the CNE Bandshell but also in 200 locations across Canada including 70 Original Joe’s State And Main, Elephant and Castle locations and 60 Boston Pizza restaurants.
Internationally, the concert will be available for viewing at Bodean’s BBQ Tower Hill London England, Meehan’s Buckhead Public House in Atlanta GA, St Paul Minnesota’s Amsterdam Bar & Hall and New York State at the Strand Theatre in Plattsburgh and Tonawanda’s Riviera Theatre.
For a complete list of venues, pleast link to www.cbcmusic.ca.[/styled_box]
Photo’s courtesy Charles Hope Photography.