Monday, September 19, 2016

Long Time Running: An American's Story About His Love For The Tragically Hip






Have you ever discovered a band that no one else around you knew about? A band or artist that you personally connected with in a way that you never felt for anything you had listened to before? Whose music gave you a sense of joy with the excitement of discovering a whole new catalog of great music and an appreciation for music itself? The Tragically Hip, or The Hip, has been that band for me since 2007. I grew up listening to a lot of classic rock, but there was never a band that I felt I could call my favorite. Some bands I've admired over the years have included The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Queen and Green Day. Green Day helped me through my middle school years, but I don't listen to them nearly as much as I did back then. None of these bands ever felt like a favorite. All of them were fairly popular with huge masses of fans. They are bands I love, of course. Green Day was my first concert, I had a great time seeing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Paul McCartney put on of the best shows I've been to. But let's get on with the story. It's going to be a long one.


In May of 2007, I was in high school. It wasn't as hard as middle school was, but there were still crappy days. My mom noticed on the 105.5 Triple M rock station site that they were having a contest for a live, in-studio session for The Tragically Hip. They were one of my dad's favorite bands, but I had never heard of them until this point. They were playing in Madison, WI, around the time of my dad's birthday. My parents were already going to the show, but my mom thought it'd be awesome if she could get my dad to go see them in that intimate setting. She sent an email directly to 105.5 and the station said that while they normally didn't pick winners this way, they made the exception for her. Unfortunately for my dad, who is a respiratory therapist, he had to work that day, because they were doing a procedure that only he and his co-worker knew how to do. My mom still went and she got to watch three of The Hip's band members, Gord Downie, Rob Baker and Paul Langlois, perform an acoustic set. She wasn't very familiar with their music, but her and my dad had watched their live DVD, That Night In Toronto, a couple of  nights before. She was vaguely familiar with them at that point. Before the set, she and two other guys from Buffalo, NY were waiting in a room and Rob Baker came and sat next to my mom and started talking about an art book. Now, if this had been Paul Langlois, she wouldn't have known he was with the band, but you can't mistaken Rob for someone else. He has long black hair and a goatee. He was called into the studio and they performed their set. Afterwards, Rob came up to my mom and she had him sign my dad's copy of Road Apples. He asked her if she wanted to meet Gord and she was kind of scared. Apparently the interviewer at the station had asked Gord some pretty dumb questions and Gord called him out on it. But she obliged and she got to meet Gord as well. From what she told me, Gord was a nice, calm man. The Hip played that night at the Barrymore Theater, which is a small venue that you would rarely see them play in Canada, their homeland. My parents were incredibly lucky to see them in such an intimate venue.


About a week after the show, my mom had the pictures of her with Gord and Rob on the fridge and my dad had burned her a copy of their latest album, World Container. She put the album on and from that point on, I was hooked. The opening seconds of Yer Not The Ocean excite me to this day. This was a band with a sound unlike anyone I'd heard before. I grew up with classic rock, but there was something unique about The Hip's sound. I think the biggest first impression was Gord Downie's vocals and cryptic lyrics. And the band just fucking ROCKED. Paul Langlois' and Rob Baker's guitars shook me to my core, Johnny Fay's drums made the percussionist in me delighted and Gord Sinclair's bass had me grooving along. I spent the whole album in the kitchen, with my mom, entranced. Within a week, I had my own burned copy of the album and I listened to it often. This was the first point where I felt like I had discovered something personal and special in their music; something that only my parents and I knew about. A little while later, my dad burned me a copy of their live album, Live Between Us. Their live sound is a whole different beast to discover. It was a great introduction to how Gord is onstage. His rants and improvised lines are something to behold. Until I had heard the studio versions of some of the songs, I thought some of his improvised lines were part of the lyrics. He sings abut Montreal during "Courage" and it wasn't until this year that I discovered that they were lyrics from an unreleased song from Road Apples titled "Montreal". I'd listen to the album before bed often and would usually fall asleep to it. Some days, I'd play a song from it to get me started for the school day. "Courage", "New Orleans Is Sinking", "Blow At High Dough" and "Nautical Disaster" became immediate favorites. "Courage" became my anthem. To this day, it's my favorite song of all time.


Courage, my word, it didn't come, it doesn't matter,

Courage, it couldn't come at a worse time.

Those lyrics have stuck with me to this day. I've dealt with Asperger's, a social disease, since I was pretty young and with it, courage does come at the worst times or not at all. Socializing in school would be a nightmare. I would open myself up to people I liked or was familiar with, but if you were someone that I only knew from passing in the hallway, you would never have gotten to have a conversation with me. I have improved massively over the years, though.


That following autumn, my friend was going to have a 16th birthday party and he wanted some music for the party. He asked me to give him some CDs that I think he'd like. Being The Hip fan that I was, I thought that he'd enjoy World Container. The day after he borrowed it, he brought it back to me. I asked him what he thought and he didn't say much, but the implication was definitely there. He did not enjoy them. He said there wasn't anything on the album that he'd added to his playlist. I was bummed and for the longest time after that, I didn't share The Hip's music with anyone. But I'm also glad about that. In a way they were my personal band that no one else in my school knew about. That friend also liked Lynard Skynard and Styx, so what did he know about good music?


Everyday in the computer lab I'd listen to The Hip's song of the day on their website. These would vary from studio to live tracks to live covers. It really helped me discover more of their music and I'd spend my time on a lot of Hip fansites. The best of them is A Museum After Dark. It's an amazing site that covers so much about The Hip's history and the meanings of a lot of their lyrics. If you ever waned to get into the band, that is the perfect site to start with. I have visited it even more in these recent years than I did in high school. I also discovered the legendary live Killer Whale Tank rant version of "New Orleans Is Sinking." I love the cadence of Gord's voice when he says killer whale tank.





Later that autumn, Triple M was finally going to play the session that The Hip recorded in their studio. I popped a tape into the player and recorded the whole thing. I have the tape somewhere, but I haven't listened to it in years.


In November, my 16th birthday came along. My mom gave me her shirt from the show as a gift. One day at school, I was passing a teacher in the hall and he noticed my shirt. He told me about how he heard The Hip's music everywhere when he visited Canada. At that point I knew I wanted to visit The Great White North someday. I also got the set titled Hipeponymous. This was my Hip bible. The set included two CDs and two DVDs. The two CDs were of Yer Favourites, a compilation of the band's best songs, voted by the fans. The two DVDs were of a collection of music videos and That Night In Toronto, their concert film. I spent that whole weekend absorbing the set. I watched that entire set of music videos in one afternoon. It was fascinating to see the band evolve throughout the years. Looking back on videos like "Last American Exit" and "New Orleans Is Sinking" was a neat time capsule. Something I noticed about their music was that their earlier material didn't sound like it was from the 80s or 90s. I think their music has a timeless sound to it.  My favorite of the music videos is "The Darkest One" from their 2002 album, In Violet Light. It was a song that The Hip hadn't intended to make a video for, but the main three cast members of the Canadian show, Trailer Park Boys, were huge fans of The Hip and had wanted to collaborate with them. I'll just leave the video linked below. It has a great opening that is very much in the style of the Boys' and Gord Downie's humor. I'm happy to have seen this video, because it introduced me to one of my favorite shows as well.




That Night In Toronto is my favorite concert film ever made. It's the best introduction to The Hip that I can think of. You get a great sense of their live shows, the setlist is full of great songs and the band is at the top of their game. I have watched it so many times and I probably have it memorized. It was filmed in 2004. This was two years before World Container was released and I noticed that some of the lyrics from "Fly" were improvised during some of Gord's rants. He had also done this on Live Between Us with other lyrics. That's just how his mind works. He'll turn something he improvises onstage into a song on the next album or so. It only took me a few tries before I could say the Ry Cooter portion of "At The Hundredth Meridian" as fast as Gord. I still can to this day.

If I die of vanity, promise me, promise me,

they bury me someplace I don't want to be,
you'll dig me up and transport me, unceremoniously,
away from the swollen city-breeze, garbage-bag trees,
whispers of disease and the acts of enormity
and lower me slowly, sadly and properly
Get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy,


Sometimes I find myself doing a hand motion or a small shuffle when I'm either at home or at work. They are always from something I saw Gord Downie do. His onstage persona is unparalleled. He oozes charisma, confidence and coolness. He barely keeps still; constantly dancing and having a great time. He'll always have a handkerchief at his side; polishing speakers or a mic stand or wiping sweat from himself. He'll use a microphone stand as a spear or a makeshift motorcycle. His rants and improvised lines are proof that his mind is constantly thinking. Just watch the video below, where Gord can be seen jumping from monitor to monitor. He slips and falls and then continues singing as he gets back up. He's also thrown a handkerchief, which he kicks and catches. It's pure badassery. I've also always loved that Gord refers to The Hip's fans as music lovers.




One night I was staying at my grandparents' condo. They went out for supper with some friends, so I put in the DVD of That Night In Toronto on their big screen TV and sang and danced along with Gord for two hours. The title of the concert comes from a lyric from what is probably their most famous song, "Bobcaygeon". I guarantee that every Hip fan knows the lyrics by heart.

That night in Toronto with its checkerboard floors

Riding on horseback and keeping order restored
Till the men they couldn't hang
Stepped to the mic and sang
And their voices rang with that Aryan twang





That Christmas, I got my first mp3 player. My dad had uploaded The Hip's entire discography as well as Gord Downie's solo albums, Coke Machine Glow and Battle of the Nudes. It was from this point that The Hip really were the soundtrack to my life. I also received a really cool looking Hip tote bag. That Christmas morning, I went through their whole catalog, playing songs from different albums. Most of them were songs I had only heard through their song of the day, so it was pretty cool to rediscover them in their original studio format. I absorbed it all. I also got a new stereo and as my parents were setting it up in my room, they switched it to 105.5 Triple M, the same studio that my mom had seen the private session. The first song to play as they turned it on was "New Orleans Is Sinking"! Triple M never played The Hip, even after they had interviewed them. Out of all of the songs to play on my stereo, on Christmas too, that was the song that played. It was probably one of the happiest Christmases I've ever had. I noticed on one of Gord's solo albums that there was a song called "Christmastime In Toronto" and since then, I've listened to it every December. At this point, I started to notice the lyrics of their songs a lot more. Each song of The Hip's has a purpose and a story to tell.  They always have been telling really intriguing stories with their music. They wrote songs about their country and moments of its history, but there was just something about their music that I could relate to. Their references to famous Canadian figures or places were pretty subtle at times; a name drop here or there. Unless you really knew the story behind the lyrics, it'd be hard to decipher. That's one of the many reasons that I love Gord Downie's writing. It's nice to know what certain songs are referring to, but there are quite a few that fans don't know the meaning behind. I've learned a lot about Canadian history thanks to The Hip's songs. You don't see many musicians writing about small towns like Bobcaygeon or Attawapiskat. Gord's writing is more complex and enigmatic than any other songwriter I've ever heard.


The albums that became my favorites were Road Apples, Fully Completely, Day For Night, Phantom Power and In Violet Light. I enjoy and love all of their albums, but these were the five that I found myself revisiting more. Road Apples was released in 1991, the year I was born. It was still when the band had more of a bluesy rock sound, which attracted a lot of people to their music in the first place. "Fiddler's Green" was written for Gord Downie's infant nephew who passed away from a heart ailment and "Three Pistols" is about Canadian painter, Tom Thomson. "Long Time Running" is one of their more underrated songs. It's one of their songs that has a lot of meaning to me. Fully Completely is their most popular album and for good reason. It's filled with some of their best songs including "Courage (For Hugh MacLennan)" and "At The Hundredth Meridian." There's also a few songs that tell some of their best stories. "Locked In The Trunk of a Car" is told from the perspective of a killer haunted by his actions. "Fifty-Mission Cap" pays tribute to goalie Bill Barilko. I'll let the lyrics explain his story.


Bill Barilko disappeared that summer

he was on a fishing trip
The last goal he ever scored
won the Leafs the cup
They didn't win another til Nineteen Sixty Two
the year he was discovered

It's a crazy coincidence that the Leafs didn't win another Stanley Cup until Barilko's body was discovered eleven years later. "Wheat Kings" is one of their most powerful ballads. It tells the story of David Milgard, a man falsely accused of murder, in which he served 23 years in prison for. Look up the story behind the song on A Museum After Dark. It's a fascinating read. Day For Night was a darker album and it really showed that the band could do anything they wanted at that point. "Grace, Too" and "Nautical Disaster" are two of their absolute best songs. "Nautical Disaster" is probably the most haunting song they've ever done. It reminds me of Quint's USS Indianapolis speech in Jaws, a film Gord is fond of. However, there are no sharks in this story.


One afternoon, four thousand men died in
the water here and five hundred more were
thrashing madly, as parasites might in your
blood. Now I was in a lifeboat designed for
ten and ten only, anything that systematic
would get you hated. It's not a deal nor a
test nor a love of something fated. The
selection was quick, the crew was picked in order 
and those left in the water got kicked off our

pantleg and we headed for home.

The album also includes some of their more underrated songs like "Daredevil", Titanic Terrarium", "Greasy Jungle" and Inevitability of Death". "Scared" and "Thugs" are other stand outs on the album; both relatively well known tracks. Phantom Power and In Violet Light are my two favorite albums from the middle of their discography. Both show how the band had evolved further in their career. They also have two of my favorite closing songs from their discography. Phantom Power closes with "Emperor Penguin" and In Violet Light closes with "The Dark Canuck." I think In Violet Light is one of their most underrated albums. I honestly think it's one of their best and I love the cover artwork, which was painted by Rob Baker. While they are my favorite band of all time, I really don't think any other band that I admire has had such a winning streak of albums the way The Hip did with Up To Here through Phantom Power. Listen to any of those albums and you'll get a real sense of what The Hip sounds like and how they evolved as a band.


We went to our friends' house in Minnesota for New Year's for a few years in a row. I remember that year we ran into some heavy snow on the way. As soon as it started getting really bad, my dad's mp3 player, on shuffle, played "Boots or Hearts", which opens with the lyric Well I think that there's a problem here. My dad responded, "Yeah, Gord. I think there is." I don't think I left home without that mp3 player for years. I'd listen to them during gym class during twenty minute runs. I listened to them on field trips. Every summer, we'd go up to Hayward, WI for our family vacation and their music really helped on those long car rides. Their songs about the Canadian wilderness reminded me of the places we'd visit on our vacations. We went to Gooseberry Falls State Park in Two Harbours, MN. Whenever we went there, I'd think of their song "Chargrin Falls". When I saw a drop off in Lake Superior, I immediately thought of "The Drop Off." The opening sound of loons in "Wheat Kings" reminds me of nights at our cabin when you could hear loons out on the lake. Everyday that I had resource class, I'd see a Jacques Cousteau book on the shelf and the opening line of "Twist My Arm"would pop into my head: There she blows, Jacques Cousteau. Whenever I see a polar bear, I'm reminded of "Gus The Polar Bear From Central Park." The town next to where I live now, Clear Lake, IA, where I was married, reminds me of "Lake Fever." There are a lot of songs of The Hip's that remind me of something in my life, whether it be something from up North or it can just be a lyric that I relate to.


In the summer of 2008, I spent a lot of time at the library; looking up all that I could on The Hip. I'd ride my bike; listening to them while I rode. Our library's computers would only give you an hour online and then you'd be logged off automatically, so time was precious and I'd use it wisely. I watched a lot of their live videos on Youtube. I don't remember how, but I got to chatting with a Youtuber named Moonlight Mitch. He was from Canada and we'd discuss The Hip. His videos were also very funny. I don't think he makes them very much anymore, because he's become a father since then. I would also browse the library catalog and order books or movies that ours didn't have.


One afternoon, I searched The Tragically Hip, just in case there was anything I hadn't seen of theirs. I found two movies with their music in it. One was The Sweet Hereafter, a drama which featured "Courage"I don't remember a lot about the film, but it wasn't bad.The second was Men With Brooms; a Canadian comedy about the sport of curling. The day that came in for me at the library was exciting. I looked at the cover and underneath the title were the words: With music from The Tragically Hip. My mom and I watched it and had a good time, but it's not a movie I've watched since. It was neat to hear "Poets" in a film and the band had a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo. That was kind of it as far as Tragically Hip content featured. My mom rented Trailer Park Boys: The Movie for us later that summer. Now this was the movie for a Hip fan like me. First, Gord Downie and Rush's Alex Lifeson cameo as cops who pull the Boys over and "38 Years Old" plays as they are taken to jail. Later in the film, the theater marquee is full of nothing but song titles of both The Hip and Rush. Julian takes a date to see "The Dark Canuck", which is a song that references a drive-in double feature of Jaws and The Dark Canuck. Trevor and Cory later go see "Freak Turbulence". "Scared" plays in a scene where Ricky visits Lucy and "Bobcaygeon" plays over the end credits. Members of The Hip have also had cameos on the TV series as well.


In the spring of 2009, The Hip's newest album, We Are The Same, was released. At this point, I was so familiar with all of their albums up to then. I knew them so well that I could identify a song, which album it was from and the year it was released all in about ten seconds of listening. I still can today. My mom calls me The Idiot Savant of The Hip. I'd become so familiar with their music that I had written Hip song titles all over my binder. It was really exciting to experience my first new release of theirs since I had become a fan. My dad bought me the album the day it came out. I was on spring break, I believe, and I spent that night at my grandparents. I sat in my grandma's bedroom and put on the album. My ritual with each new album since then is to listen to the album and read along with the lyrics in the CD booklet. We Are The Same is definitely a quieter album. It feels like one that can be enjoyed around a fire on a summer night, which is appropriate, because the cover is of the band in front of a bonfire. I thought "Morning Moon", "The Last Recluse", "Coffee Girl" and "The Depression Suite" were the stand out tracks. "The Depression Suite" is their longest song, clocking in at almost ten minutes. It was originally going to be three separate songs, but the band thought the three tracks flowed well enough together to make up one long song. My dad didn't like the album at first. I wouldn't recommend this album to be the one to start with if you're going to get into their music. It was something a bit different for the band, but I remember loving it. I still think it's a great sounding and more unique album. For the next month or so, I'd listen to it every day while I'd do school work in my resource class.


I did the same thing that summer that I did the year before, which was absorb everything I could of theirs off of Youtube. I downloaded many live videos and converted them into mp3 files, which I made a massive live playlist out of. I found a great interview with Gord Downie on Q TV's Youtube channel. This was the first time I got to see Gord offstage. It was fascinating to see my hero like this. He discussed a lot in that hour with the host. It became an interview that I'd listen to often. He was this calm, cool guy that I loved offstage as much as I did on. I later found out about how he was an environmentalist and that just made him even cooler.






The Hip announced their first string of tour dates and they were playing in Chicago. Unfortunately the show was for people 18 and older and I was still 17. They announced the fall dates later that summer. They were having a show in Minneapolis on November 3rd, my 18th birthday. It could not have been more perfect. I told my mom and we were so excited. I was so happy that I would get to finally see them live. My dad got us tickets and we had a hotel reserved. I was going to not show up for school for a couple of days, obviously. Two nights before the show, I had just come back from a stay at a friend's house in Milwaukee.  I was also just getting over a cold, so I was definitely in a good mood. Then it all went downhill. My mom received an email from the venue saying that the show had been cancelled, along with another show in Michigan, I believe, due to members of the band being sick. I was absolutely devastated. I went to school the next day and no one understood why I felt so shitty. My parents let me stay home on my birthday and we went out for pizza at Pizzeria Uno, but it didn't really make things better. I didn't listen to The Hip's music for awhile. Not because I was mad at them, but because I'd just get sad when I heard their songs. But I was listening to them pretty soon after, because you can't go too long without the music that makes you happiest.


My dad would visit Canada at least once a year. There was one summer where he went with some friends and they were nice enough to let them go to Bobcaygeon. He brought back t-shirts from there for the family. My mom and sister got matching blue shirts with Bobcaygeon in blue lettering on them. My shirt was of a line of different wild animals lined up in a bathroom, all peeing in urinals. The shirt had Bobcaygeon in white letters above the picture and underneath the image, it simply said: Where Nature Calls. I loved it and it was my favorite shirt for a long time. I still have it, but I don't think it fits me anymore.


I graduated high school the following summer. Our yearbooks would have baby pictures of the graduating seniors with something written that was submitted by their families. My mom picked out the perfect Hip lyric for the occasion. It was this lyric from "Long Time Running".


It's been a long time running

It's been a long time coming
It's well worth the wait

I received a DVD with pictures of me with music set to it. I picked two songs for it. "Ahead By A Century", The Hip's biggest chart-topping single, and "Long Time Running." My mom wondered why I had picked the former. I told her that the lyrics of the opening verse seemed to fit with this moment in my life.


First thing we'd climb a tree and maybe then we'd talk

Or sit silently and listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday casting a golden light
No dress rehearsal, this is our life

That last line has stuck in my head ever since I first heard the song. That's how life is. We don't get to prepare for it; it just happens. It's a song that a lot of us can relate to.


Gord released The Grand Bounce. his third solo album, that summer. I ordered it off of Amazon as soon as I knew about it. Gord's solo records are pretty different sounding than your average Hip record, but they still have those beautiful poetic lyrics. I listened to The Grand Bounce often as I walked Stan, my beagle. It had a nice summertime sound to it. I had also heard Strippers Union's debut album at that point. My mom had gotten it for my dad for Father's Day. Strippers Union was another band that Rob Baker played guitar for. He even got to sing in the song, "Bulletproof White Limo." It was a different sound that The Hip's, but I still dug it. It was a lot of fun discovering the band members' side projects.


Edgar Wright's newest film, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, was released that August. It's based on the series of graphic novels by Canadian cartoonist, Bryan Lee O'Malley. It follows Scott Pilgrim as he falls in love with a girl and he has to fight her seven evil exes. Like the comics, the film takes place in Canada and it was shot on location in Toronto. I saw the movie at midnight and thought it was cool to see a wide-release film that took place in Canada. With my ADD, it's helpful when I can notice things that many other people may not even pick up on. There is a scene in the film where Scott is in a record store and in the background, out of focus, is either a poster or a vinyl record of Gord Downie's Battle Of The Nudes. I was so thrilled to have seen that on the big screen. I noticed it immediately. There's no way it could be mistaken for another cover. I'm sure that was in the store already, while they filmed, but I wouldn't put it past Edgar Wright for putting it there. I loved the movie and later, when I read the graphic novels, I noticed these panels.







It was awesome to see this already great comic series reference my hero and his band. I was happy to see O'Malley incorporate this into his story. It works, because Scott and his friends do seem like the type of characters who would listen to The Hip.


I got to see the Trailer Park Boys live that following October. I wore my Hip shirt to the show and actually got to meet Mike Smith (Bubbles) after the show and made sure he noticed my shirt. The month after that, I met Elizabeth Klousia, the love of my life. I sang "Ahead By A Century" to her during the first weekend we spent together. I've always liked to think of it as a love song. "Bobcaygeon" is also a good choice to play for a loved one, but I thought "Ahead By a Century" was more apt. I knew that if we were to have a wedding dance, I would want "Long Time Running" to be the song. But we decided not to have one and we were perfectly fine with that. I did make a video of us with pictures set to music for one of our anniversaries and I did include it in that. "In View" was another song that I played for her. That song always puts me in a great mood. It's one of The Hip's happiest and most upbeat songs.


Jumping ahead to the fall of 2012, Liz and I were newlyweds and The Hip's new album, Now For Plan A, was being released. The US tour dates were announced in September and I was ecstatic. No matter the date or city, I had to see them this time. The second date on the US tour was in Chicago on November 3rd, my 21st birthday. I was being given a second chance to see a Hip show on my birthday. I asked Liz if she'd go with me and she said yes. We do share a birthday; not the same year, but it is on the same day. It was one of the first subjects we talked about after we met.  I bought tickets the minute they went on sale. We'd visit my family in Wisconsin at least a few times a year after I had moved to Iowa, so we planned a family visit around the show.


Now For Plan A was released in October. Just like We Are The Same, I put the album in, laid on the bed with the CD booklet of lyrics in my hands. I loved it and listened to it many times that first month or so. After I had moved away from home, I decided that I needed to start getting The Hip's albums on CD, so I could listen to them on my stereo and in the car. I found many of them at Pre-Played, the used media store in Madison. As long as the case and CD were in good condition, I didn't mind buying them used. I did find a few brand new albums at Electric Fetus; a music store in Minneapolis. I found out not too long after the album's release that Gord's wife, Laura, had been diagnosed with breast cancer before they had recorded Now For Plan A. So it became an album for her and listening to the lyrics after that revelation made more sense. It showed how much Laura meant to Gord. They reflected how any of us would feel if a loved one was going through those circumstances. I think Gord wrote some of his most beautiful and touching lyrics on this album. This set of lyrics from the album's title track are some of my favorites.

No matter how high or how rough
Nothing short of everything's enough
In your face the endless patience
The fleeting nature of life on display

And nothing short of everything

Here's a quote from Downie on the album in general:  "I've always adhered to this quote that Raymond Carver's wife wrote about him: saying that poetry wasn't merely ... for what we meant to say: It's a place to be ample and grateful to those nearest and dearest our hearts. So I've always thought that. In this case, it seemed from a writing point of view that nothing was cutting it in that regard. Anything I had done up to that point didn't seem applicable somehow - and that I hadn't been reaching that, lately or maybe ever, I don't know. Just the ability to speak of this, to show my love and gratitude and devotion, fear for my wife, my friend."​


The day of the show finally came and Liz and I drove down to Chicago that afternoon. She let me play Hip CDs the whole trip down. She's not too big into The Hip, but we both wanted to spend our birthday together. She was fine with going to the show and I was really happy that she did. We parked our car and got in line outside of the Riviera Theater. We talked with a woman in front of us named Eva. She is originally from Toronto and we got to talking about how much we loved The Hip. The doors opened and Liz went into the auditorium to get us some good seats. I bought a tour shirt and some pins. I found Liz and she was right up in the front row, center stage. I asked if she wanted us to sit somewhere, since she has CMT, a form of muscular dystrophy. She told me she'd find somewhere to sit, but that I needed to be up front. She knew how important this day was to me and she had only stood there so that I could have a perfect view of the show. This isn't the only part of that night where she proved to be the most loving and supportive wife I could ask for. Eva was next to me in the front row and we talked a bit more about The Hip as I was filled with so much anticipation. Eva was the first person I ever met who loved The Hip the way I did. Clearly this band meant as much to her as they did to me. It was an incredible feeling to be in a room full of people who were there to see my favorite band. A couple of people overheard that it was my birthday and wished me well. The lights finally went down and the crowd burst into applause. The Hip took the stage and for the next two hours, I was as happy as I could possibly be. Gord was right in front of me for most of the show. I was just mere feet away from my hero. He was a rock god onstage; rarely standing still for the entire show. I tried to watch the other band members, but it was hard to not watch Gord. The setlist was excellent. "At Transformation" opened the show and it really worked as an opener. They didn't play"Courage", but I didn't mind. I had finally gotten to see the band that meant the world to me. The setlist was full of a lot of their best hits like "New Orleans Is Sinking", "Blow At High Dough" and"Bobcaygeon". When they played "Ahead By A Century", I immediately thought about Liz and how glad I was to share this day with her. They did play "At The Hundredth Meridian" and I sang the Ry Cooter part just as fast as Gord. Here's a video that a fan took of the performance. You can see me in the bottom left corner in a few shots.





They also played some more rare tracks during the show, including "The Last of the Unplucked Gems", "Greasy Jungle", "Flamenco" and "Thompson Girl". Almost all of Now For Plan A was played as well and I thought that was pretty cool. It was pretty obvious that Gord really liked playing them in a live environment. They closed with "Little Bones"; a great song to end an already amazing show with. The concert was as perfect as I had hoped it be. At that point in my life, it was the best I'd ever been to. The feel of a Hip show is unlike any other concert you could see. I think it's the environment and the crowd that makes it that way. You feel so united with them, especially when the crowd cheers for one of the more rare tracks. I found Liz and she had taken some pictures with my camera of the show. These are my favorites that she took.
























I bought another shirt after the show, this one of a Canadian crest with The Hip written on it as well as a sticker of the same image. We went outside and saw Eva. She had gotten one of the copies of the setlists. I snapped a picture and said I was going to try and meet the band. She wished me luck and took off. I did later find her commenting on a Facebook post of The Hip's and I added her as a friend.


The encore isn't in the photo, but the songs played were "Blow At High Dough", "Ahead By a Century", "The Modern Spirit", "Now For Plan A", "Bobcaygeon" and "Little Bones".



 I asked Liz if she wanted to come with, but she just wanted to go and sit in the car. I told her that I loved her and thanked her for letting me do this. I went over to the doors of the venue near the tour bus. Only a few other people were waiting. It was pretty cold, after all. Rob was the first band member to come out. He signed my tour shirt and was just as friendly and cool as I had thought he'd be. I got a picture with him and thanked him for the music and complimented how great of a show it was. He then went over to greet some of the other fans.



Johnny was the next of the band to come out. We talked about drumming and I told him how much I admired the band and that it was my birthday. He wrote a nice message on my shirt and Rob overheard me say this and he said, "It's your birthday? Happy fucking birthday, man!" I got a picture with Johnny as well.


I saw both Gord Sinclair and Paul come out, but they didn't stay outside for too long, so I didn't have time to meet them. Gord Downie had come out around the same time and I had to make sure I met him. As Gord approached me, I was pretty nervous. There was the man I had looked up to for the past five years and he and his band had just seen put on the best show I'd ever been to. As I had hoped, Gord could not have been a nicer guy. 

As he was signing my shirt, he asked, "So, you're name's Jacob?"

"Yeah," I replied with the only sound that I could get out of my mouth.

He noticed the message Johnny had written. "And it's your birthday?"

"Yeah, it is." I could have died at that point. No other famous person encounter I'd ever have after that could even come close to being as awesome and surreal as that.

The rest of what I said is a bit of a blur, but I remember saying that I was a huge fan and thanked him for the music. I think I also said that I had waited years to see them live. He thanked me, wished me a happy birthday and then proceeded to the other fans still waiting. He was a true class act, exactly as you'd expect him to be. One of the guys waiting outside with me was nice enough to take the pictures for me. Something I discovered that night was that Gord is left-handed, just like me.









I was beaming at that point. This was easily the best birthday I'd ever had. I walked back to where we parked to meet Liz. She was standing out on the sidewalk, looking distressed. I was hesitant to say how happy I was and asked what was wrong.

"We need to take a walk. Our car got towed."

She honestly could have told me that the world would end in the next minute and it wouldn't have killed the high I was on. I really hadn't thought the parking through. In the lot, there was a sign nearby that said it was for customers only, but I didn't think it'd be a big deal if we'd park on the far side. I apologized to my already tired wife and we walked to the location where our car had been towed to. We paid the fee and drove back to Wisconsin. I told my parents all about the show the next day. Liz and I had been exhausted from the night before. We had laid down for a nap that afternoon and I didn't wake up until my mom came back to her apartment around six or seven that night. She was really happy that I had gotten to see them live and that I'd met Gord. I told her about what happened with our car and she said that even though it was a crappy situation, Liz and I would look back on it someday and find it funny and worth it. That is true to this day. That also was the one day I wore the shirt I'd had signed. I'm going to eventually frame it, but it's safely tucked away in a drawer for now. 

I made the decision to finally share The Hip's music with my best friend, Carl. He thought they sounded great and I was so relieved. From that point on, I had a friend that I could listen to them with. I regretted not playing them for him earlier, but I was worried he might not like them. His favorite albums were of their earlier work, especially Road Apples and Day For Night. I listened to their whole discography when I finally had gotten all of their albums on CD. It made driving back and forth to work more pleasant.

In the fall of 2014, The Hip announced that they were releasing a remastered reissue of Fully Completely. They were also going on tour, where they'd play the album in its entirety. Obviously, this excited me and I would have to see them once again. The first string of dates were early in the year. The first two dates were in Chicago, but I wasn't going to be able to go. I had just taken a week off for the holidays. I was also going to B-Fest, a 24 hour B-movie marathon in Evanston, IL, at the end of January with Carl. I figured that they'd announce more dates later. To my luck, they did. The Hip were going to do a show in September at First Avenue; one of my favorite venues. I talked with my mom on the phone and we planned to go to the show together as well as get a hotel up in Minneapolis. This way Liz could come up, even though she wasn't going to the show. I bought my ticket as soon as I could and requested the time off of work. 

September 21st came and Liz and I drove up to Minnesota. We met my mom and her friend, Megan, at the Best Western Normandy Inn. We had supper at the restaurant downstairs. Liz went back to the room after and the rest of us walked to the venue. It was fairly close by, so we got there in plenty of time. We got inside, got settled and bought some shirts from the merch booth. I wore my Hip crest shirt to the show and noticed someone else with the same shirt, except his was very faded. You could only make out bits of the image. A few minutes later, someone else passed me and told me to never wash my shirt, because his had gone through the same thing as the other guy. While waiting for the show to start, I noticed how many people could pack into First Avenue. Liz and I went to a show there a few years prior and it wasn't as packed as this one was. We were close to the stage, just a little off to the side. First Avenue is such a small venue and there probably isn't a bad spot in the room. In the photo below, I'm the last person you can see on the bottom left.



Once again, the pre-show anticipation built. I was thrilled that I was going to get to hear all of Fully Completely live. I was curious about how some of the tracks would transition to their live sound. The lights went down and The Hip came on as we all roared and cheered. They opened with "Grace, Too" and Gord was quite the showman through the whole show; fluid and having an absolute blast.





It's always a solid choice to open a show of theirs with. The build up throughout the song gets me hyped each time I hear it and it's even better live. They then played "At Transformation", which still sounded just as awesome as it did at my first Hip show. Up next was "Ahead By a Century" and I thought of Liz. After that was "New Orleans Is Sinking" and then "My Music At Work". After that intro set of songs, the band left the stage for a brief moment, so that the show could transition into the Fully Completely portion. Gord had changed hats. The one he was wearing now was kind of like a cowboy hat, but not stupid-looking like they usually are. He looked great with it. Gord can honestly rock any piece of clothing. He's just that cool. Here's a picture of him with it, taken during the tour.





They had a screen behind them that projected footage during some of the songs. They launched into "Courage" and even though I knew it was coming, I cheered pretty loud. My mom gestured at me to do Gord's moves from That Night In Toronto. I did a few of his hand gestures, but was more focused on getting to finally hear my favorite song live. Then came "Looking For a Place To Happen"; the first song from the album that I had never heard a live version of. As I expected, it transitioned well, as did the rest of the songs. "At The Hundredth Meridian" was one of the highlights of the show, like always. This time Gord sang the Ry Cooter part like he did on the album and it still sounded great. Then came "Pigeon Camera"; one of my favorite songs of the night. I think that's one of their best songs that doesn't get as much recognition as it should.




Up next was "Lionized", followed by "Locked In The Trunk of a Car"; a song I'd wanted to hear at a Hip show ever since I had first seen a concert video of it on Youtube. It rocked harder than I imagined. It was a treat to hear live. "We'll Go Too" and "Fully Completely" followed. Then came two of their most Canadian songs; "Fifty-Mission Cap" and "Wheat Kings". While I had always liked the former, I never thought to look up what it sounded like live. I'm glad I didn't, because hearing it in person was excellent. If you've ever been lucky enough to hear it live, you know it sounds awesome. "Wheat Kings" sounded gorgeous, just as I had thought it would. The screens showed footage of David Milgard, as the crowd sang along. It's one of my favorite memories of the show; hearing the song in such an intimate setting. Then came "The Wherewithal"; another underrated live track. It closes Live Between Us and it sounds just as good now. And finally, the set closed with "Eldorodo"; a song that closes the album well.

The band left the stage, we cheered and they came out for the encore. They started with "In View", always a fun live track. Gord always looks like he's having a good time with it. Following that was "Poets" and "Bobcaygeon"; two of their best. Then came the song that I had wanted to hear most after "Courage" and that was "Nautical Disaster". Ever since I first heard on Live Between Us, it's been one of my favorites and it was a pleasure to get to hear it in person. Only one song could follow after that and it was, of course, "Blow At High Dough". The crowd and I rocked out. The one-two punch of those last two songs made for a great way to end the show. I found my mom and Megan and we made our way back to the hotel. We stopped to get a pizza at Pizza Hut on the way and discussed the concert. I said how I liked the format of the show. I thought the two small sets that bookended the setlist worked great and that Fully Completely sounded excellent in its entirety live. I didn't bring my camera to the show, because I just wanted to experience it. I've started doing that more with concerts. However, here is a photo from the show that they posted on their Facebook page.


And now we come to this year in my story. On April 1st, the band sent out a cryptic email of a hashtag that said #justgimmethenewstth with a GIF of the words handwritten on a piece of paper. I speculated and figured it was either alluding to a new single or album. A few days later, they announced their new album, Man Machine Poem. The email mentioned that The Hip had been working on it for the past year at the Bathhouse Recording Studio, which is owned and operated by the band. One of my first thoughts was that it was interesting to see them backtrack in their catalog and name the album after a song from Now For Plan A. They released their first single off the album, "In A World Possessed By The Human Mind", on the same day. I thought it sounded unique, yet it still retained that Hip sound. I really dug it and was really excited for the new album. 

Then came one of the hardest mornings to wake up to. I had an email in my inbox from The Hip, titled: An Important Message From The Band. I feared for the worst. This was the message.

Hello friends. 

We have some very tough news to share with you today, and we wish it wasn't so.
A few months ago, in December, Gord Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
Since then, obviously, he's endured a lot of difficult times, and he has been fighting hard. In privacy along with his family, and through all of this, we've been standing by him.
So after 30-some years together as The Tragically Hip, thousands of shows, and hundreds of tours...
We've decided to do another one.
This feels like the right thing to do now, for Gord, and for all of us.
What we in The Hip receive, each time we play together, is a connection; with each other; with music and it's magic; and during the shows, a special connection with all of you, our incredible fans.
So, we're going to dig deep, and try to make this our best tour yet.
We hope you can come out and join us this summer - details and dates will be coming this week.
And we sincerely thank all of you, for your continued love and support,
Paul, GordD, Johnny, Rob, GordS


Tears almost immediately filled my eyes. I sat on my bed, just wanting to not confront the rest of the day. My cat, Chloe, was sitting on the bed with me. I picked her up and hugged her. She calmly purred and it did help a bit, but this was devastating. My hero, the man I'd looked up to for the past nine years, was battling one of the worst types of brain cancer. A man who had been using his mind frequently and beautifully for the past 32 years with his incredible band. I then felt really impressed that even though he had been fighting this since December, Gord was going to tour one more time. If this was taking him down, he was going out like a true hero. That night, I read quite a few articles from the CBC about the announcement. There was a discussion among the people in the studio and they discussed their first Hip memories and how much their music had helped define what it meant to be Canadian. It was nice to see people from their homeland reminisce about The Hip. I also watched some fan recorded concerts on Youtube.

The tour dates were announced the next morning. Just eleven, at the time, all in Canada. They had two stops in Toronto, of course. Toronto has been Gord's home ever since he moved from Kingston and it's where Eva, the fan I met at the Chicago show, was originally from. The final stop was in Kingston; the band's hometown. I thought that I probably wouldn't be able to make it to one of the shows. I was already going to G-Fest in Chicago, in the middle of July. Shortly after that thought, I knew I had to make it to one of these shows. I wasn't going to let anything stop me. I cancelled my G-Fest trip. I hadn't requested the time off of work yet, anyway. Then I had to choose how I was going to handle this trip. I looked up where the nearest location was to me. It was Winnipeg, MB; nine hours away from Mason City. I planned for the next few days how I'd do it. I decided that I'd drive up the day before the show, stay at a hotel for the weekend and come back that Monday. I talked with Liz about it and she was ok with it, but I could tell she was worried. The night before tickets went on sale, she told me she was really worried about me going on a trip to another country all by myself. I asked if she'd feel better if I didn't go and she said yes. So I decided that I had seen them twice already and that I was grateful enough for getting to see them. The next morning, out of curiosity, I checked if any tickets were still available. Ticketmaster was stuck on loading for a long time, so I closed the tab. I had figured that the tour would sell out fast. 
About a week later, I was feeling bummed that I wouldn't get to see The Hip one last time. Later that night, my mom messaged me on Facebook, saying that we should try and catch one of the shows. I gave her a call and she said that it'd be so cool if we did it. She said that she would pay for everything and that it'd be something we'd never forget. We really hadn't had a chance to do something like this when I was growing up. Our family never really took any big trips. We never traveled to another country or went to one of the cliched family vacation spots. Northern Wisconsin was pretty much the only vacation we'd have. Mom told me to check and make sure we could get some tickets. I was worried, because I hadn't seen any available. I checked the Winnipeg show, because it was the one I had chosen in the first place. The only ones I could find were the platinum seats, which were pretty pricey, but mom said to go for it. This was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I scored two tickets and from there, I was left in charge of planning the whole trip. I was thrilled that my mom was willing to do this. We agreed that it would be nice to have a trip that just the two of us could take together. The Hip were a band that we bonded over and the last time I got to do something fun with just my mom was when we had a really fun day in downtown Madison, six years ago. It was the day that Barack Obama was in town and we got to see his motorcade drive right by us and that night we saw Drive-By Truckers at my favorite venue, the Majestic.
Here's the tour poster. They added four more dates due to overwhelming demand.

At the time, I had a free month of Amazon Prime, so I decided to get the remaining CDs and DVDs I didn't have of The Hip's. I ordered Gord's first two solo albums and The Conquering Sun, his collaboration with the Sadies. I also bought the Fully Completely Super Deluxe Edition, a copy of Yer Favourites that I could listen to in the car and the documentary Bobcaygeon. It felt like the right time to get them. Since Man Machine Poem was being released on June 17th, I listened to the Hip's entire discography anytime I would drive somewhere. It was a nice experience to go through everything once again; hearing how the band had changed and evolved over the years. I got The Conquering Sun in the mail just a couple of days before Man Machine Poem came out. Like Gord's other solo efforts, I thought it sounded great. His vocals really meshed well with The Sadies' sound. I had never heard of The Sadies, but I thought they sounded pretty good. 
Man Machine Poem came in the mail on release day as well as the Fully Completely Super Deluxe Edition. My Friday night was set. Once again, I laid on my bed, put the album in my player and read along with the lyrics. Knowing this was most likely their final album, I went in without that mindset. I just wanted to listen to it as if it were any other album of theirs. The reviews had mentioned that the album had a more unique sound than what some fans may be used to, but that it was still another great effort from The Hip. "Man" started with a warbled voice that kind of sounded like Paul's and I could already tell that this was going to be the most unique album the band had ever done. It took me a few songs to get into it. "What Blue", "In Sarnia", "Here, In The Dark", "Hot Mic" and "Machine" were the stand out tracks for me. When the album ended, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. I felt a little underwhelmed. Some of the lyrics felt like they reflected Gord's diagnosis, but it had been confirmed that the album had finished recording before then. It turns out that Gord was still paying tribute to Laura, especially in "What Blue". That may now be my favorite song about love. I then put in the newly remastered Fully Completely in as I looked through the gorgeous book it came in. It's a reflection on the band when they recorded and toured the album. I read every page and finished it after the bonus live disc had ended. Then I watched the documentary, Heksenketal, which had been out of print for a long time and was included in this new set. It follows the band during their Another Roadside Attraction tour. Gord looked pretty different back then, sporting a beard and a longer haircut. The whole set was well worth the purchase.

I then gave Man Machine Poem a second listen and listened to it every night for the next week. My first impressions were that the album was good, but upon repeat listens, I thought it was their best since In Violet Light. It's a fantastic album and if it truly is their swan song, it's an excellent one to go out on. Their whole discography is full of truly great work. Maybe I'm biased towards the band, but there isn't a single song of theirs I don't like. Each one tells a story that you want to hear and Man Machine Poem is an album full of them. I would not recommend it to be the first album you listen to of theirs, though. Start with some of their earlier work and see where you want to go from there. There's also no shame in starting with Yer Favourites. That is a really solid selection of some of their best work. I actually made a playlist of The Hip's entire discography, with songs that I felt best would reflect their sound. While I included many of their popular songs, I also chose many of their lesser known tracks. I burned a few sets of CDs for both of my parents and for Carl.

The Man Machine Poem Tour started on July 22nd in Victoria, BC. The CBC had an article on the show. It sounded like it was off to a great start. There was a short clip of The Hip performing "New Orleans Is Sinking" and Gord sounded as awesome as ever. He really didn't look like he was going through an illness. He was wearing quite the outfit for this tour as well. He wore multiple shiny suits and a hat with a peacock feather in it. I had wondered about how the setlist would be formatted for this tour and after reading the article, it sounded pretty perfect. They were playing songs from their whole discography this time. The Victoria show included songs from Up To Here, Man Machine Poem, Phantom Power, World Container, Road Apples, Fully Completely and Trouble At The Henhouse. I thought this was an excellent way to format these shows; with both the big hits and the songs you'd rarely hear live. I kept track of each of the setlists on The Hip's Twitter account. If someone was lucky enough to see multiple shows on this tour, they got to hear a wide selection of songs. Eva was able to see all three Toronto shows. 

The week before the Winnipeg show, I went back home to Wisconsin and got to stay at my mom's new apartment. We were both thrilled that the week was finally upon us. It was a bittersweet feeling; knowing this was likely the final time we were seeing them. However, it was exciting that we were getting to go on this trip. I hadn't gotten to see my mom for awhile and the next week and a half was the most time we'd gotten to spend together in probably a decade. While I did visit home every few months or so, she was usually working, so Liz and I wouldn't see her as often as we'd like. Before we even left for Canada, we had a wonderful time reuniting and remembering how much The Hip had brought us closer together.

We left for Winnipeg on August 3rd; two days before the show. The flight had me a bit nervous. I hadn't flown in about ten years, but it went very well. Going through customs was incredibly easy and just like that, we were in another country. We waited for our shuttle for quite awhile, so mom went inside the airport and bought us some poutine. I'm glad we only ate it the one time. Not because I didn't like it, but because I would have gorged myself on it every day we were there. Poutine is made up of fries, gravy, cheese curds and bacon. It's like something you'd find at a Midwest state fair, but it's so much better. There was a mishap with the name of the hotel. We were staying at the Hampton and I thought we were staying at the Hilton. Luckily, the Hampton was right up the street, so we didn't have too far to walk.

The Hampton was a gorgeous hotel; probably the best I've stayed at. The staff was so kind and helpful, the complimentary breakfast was very tasty and the room was a nice home away from home. We did a lot of walking around on Thursday. We weren't downtown, which was nice, because we didn't have to worry about crossing the street in heavy traffic. We got groceries and exchanged some currency at the bank. Canada's money is definitely better looking than ours. My mom even saved a twenty dollar bill as a keepsake. I saved one of the coins and have it tucked away behind my driver's license in my wallet. We didn't do a whole lot else that day and we were perfectly alright with that. The concert was the one concrete plan that we had. We did whatever we felt like for the rest of the time there. Earlier that morning, there was an article in the local paper about a Hip superfan, who was from Winnipeg. It was pretty cool to see, but Friday morning was even better.



Seeing one article on your favorite band is pretty exciting, but two is even more surreal. This was further proof that showed how much they meant to this country and it really warmed my heart. The first article was about the tour so far and how people in the area were looking forward to the Winnipeg show. The second article was about a fan who had wanted her wedding song to be "Fireworks" and her personal history with The Hip's music. We talked with the manager at the Hampton and she thought it was pretty cool that we had flown up to see The Hip one last time. 

My mom and I wore our matching maple leaf discography shirts that the band had released about a month prior. We had a cab called for us and off we went to the MTS Centre. We got there about three hours early and it was the right choice. It wasn't too packed yet, so we were able to do everything pretty quickly. As soon as we entered the building, I could hear the band doing soundcheck. They were playing "Pigeon Camera". I was really happy that they were going to be playing it at my final show of theirs. It's one of my favorites. While waiting in line, we talked with a couple of fans. It turns out that they were both from Minneapolis and one of them had gone to the UW in Madison. Small world, huh? As I approached the merchandise line, I must have looked pretty happy or maybe emotional, because one of the Minneapolis fans asked if I was ok. I assured that I was and that this was going to be a really special night for me. I was still processing the fact that we were actually here. I bought two shirts and a tour book from the first booth. One of the shirts was a tour shirt and the second was the word Hip, with Gord in place of the I. I then went over to the custom print shirt booth and bought three more shirts from there. I figured since this was my last time seeing them, I wanted to splurge a little. Of the custom printed shirts, I got one with a picture of the whole band, from their debut EP. I had wanted a shirt with the whole band on it for a long time and I was able to get the show's date with Winnipeg, MB custom printed on the back. This was definitely a special shirt. Another shirt was of the logo that had been made for them when they hosted a Canada Day celebration back in 2011. The third shirt had the words, Tales From The Hip, which were in a horror comic style font. I thought that was a pretty cool one, because their songs do tell great stories and I thought that font was awesome. My mom got interviewed by one of the local radio stations, which was pretty neat. I signed a huge card from the venue. Writing with a Sharpie is a bit more difficult when you're writing on a vertical, wobbly piece of cardboard, so excuse the poor penmanship.


This photo is of a sign that a fan had made. She was even interviewed by the CBC. She did a marvelous job with the sign.


We briefly sat at a table and I looked through the tour book. Obviously, the photos weren't from this current tour, but they were from the Fully Completely Tour. On one of the last pages was the picture from the First Avenue show, which was pretty thrilling to see. We then went downstairs as the doors were about to open up. We were then interviewed by the CBC. I gave a heartfelt interview. Even though I still haven't been able to find the footage, I'm just happy I was able to express my love for the band that had meant so much to me for the past nine years. We found our seats and our view was amazing. My mom joked and wondered if I had sold a kidney to get the seats.






Watching the stadium fill up was a really different feeling than the last two shows I'd seen. While the environment of them was welcoming, this was on a whole other level. Seeing 15,000 people come together for this band was, to borrow a phrase, a beautiful thing. There were a few countdown announcements before the show started and it wasn't until the final one that I noticed it was Rob Baker who was making them. The lights finally went down and the crowd erupted into cheers and applause. While the majority of the crowd had been sitting while waiting, everyone was on their feet now. The Hip took the stage and the crowd just roared even louder. Gord was wearing a green suit, which felt pretty special to me, since it is my favorite color. The opening notes of "At The Hundredth Meridian" began and from that moment on, we were all connected for the next two hours. "At The Hundredth Meridian" is one of their best live songs. It's one of my mom's favorites. I thought to myself that they were starting with songs from Fully Completely, so I hoped they would play "Courage". Midway through the Ry Cooter part, the band stopped playing, so it was just Gord singing. That's one of many memories from the show that I won't forget. The way they had opened each of the shows on this tour was that the whole band was huddled together for the first eight songs. It really gave the show a more intimate feel seeing these five best friends play the way they did 32 years ago.








The second song was "Pigeon Camera". It sounded great at the First Avenue show, but it was even better in this venue. About halfway into the song, I lost it. I was full blown sobbing for the next twenty seconds or so. It was a mix of emotions; the relief of finally being here, the sadness of the circumstances, the love of the song, it was all coming out in a cathartic way. After the tears stopped, I was ok for the rest of the show. At one point, Gord dropped the mic and in typical Gord Downie fashion, he didn't just pick it up. He put it between his feet, jumped and launched it, trying to catch it. It fell back to the ground the first two attempts, but when he caught it on the third try, the crowd roared and he imitated it attacking his neck. Gord's doctor had said that Gord wanted to blow people's minds with this tour and that's exactly what he was doing. He hardly stood still for our entire show. 



Up next, I knew what the next song was before it even started. Johnny clicked his drumsticks and I recognized the tempo immediately. It was "Courage"! I cheered probably the loudest out of anyone in our section. Not only had this song been my anthem for the past nine years, but I think it had kind of become Gord's as well. It sounded just as perfect as ever. After the song had ended, the crowd chanted, "Gordie! Gordie! Gordie!"



They ended the Fully Completely set with "Wheat Kings", which felt very appropriate. It is a song about an important time in Canadian history and it's always a pleasure to hear live. The song ended and I thought to myself that the show was off to a fantastic start. They played what are probably my four favorite tracks off of the album. I love "Fifty-Mission Cap", but having "Pigeon Camera" in place of it was pretty special. I doubt that song gets played as much live and I think the live version may sound even better than the studio version. Gord was clearly still energetic enough to put on quite the show. 



The next set was from Man Machine Poem. They started with "Machine", followed by "Tired As Fuck", "What Blue" and "In A World Possessed By The Human Mind". All four tracks had made the live transition very well. After "Tired As Fuck", Gord told a story about how Winnipeg was the first city that they played outside of Kingston and that they were fired. The people of Winnipeg rallied together and got them booked for the next six nights. I thought it was a pretty cool coincidence that I had chosen this stop on the tour to see them.


The band then took a break and went off stage for a few minutes. Overhead, the screens above the stage played footage of thunderstorms and the lights had some cool lightning effects. The footage was really gorgeous; like something you'd see in a nature documentary. The Hip returned to the stage and Gord was now wearing a gold suit. Like the other tour suits, he looked awesome in it. I was curious which album set would be played next and the band launched into "Streets Ahead" from Now For Plan A. I thought back to that first concert I saw of them in Chicago on my 21st birthday. I smiled to myself, thinking that this was a solid set choice. I was content with any album being chosen, but this had a nice personal feeling. The other three songs were "The Lookahead", "Man Machine Poem" and "At Transformation".









Phantom Power was the next album on the setlist. The first song was "Escape Is At Hand For The Travellin' Man"; a song I'd always wanted to hear live. It tells one of my favorite Hip stories; about a touring band making a stop in New York. The next two songs were pretty obvious choices, but welcome as always. They were "Poets" and "Bobcaygeon". I don't think it would be a Hip concert without either of them. "Bobcaygeon" had the whole crowd singing. It was a beautiful concert memory; the stadium lit up with cell phones. I wondered which song would close out this set, but I was having a hard time thinking of which other songs were on the album in the moment. They chose a rarity. It was "Membership", which was really cool to hear live. It was nice to see the band play multiple songs that you wouldn't normally hear at one of their shows.

Gord left the stage for a couple of minutes while the rest of the band played an extended intro to "The Last of the Unplucked Gems", which is the one song of The Hip's that I think is improved in almost every way live. The album track is just barely over two minutes long. The live version allows the band to play a longer version with the intro and it gives the song more room to grow. Gord came back onstage; this time in a teal suit. The fact that Gord was doing these costume changes at every show was pretty impressive. They then launched into "Little Bones", which always kills live. It's definitely become one of their essential live tracks. Then came "The Luxury"; a song I never expected to hear live. I had heard it on Live Between Us, but had never heard another live version of it. Like the other rare tracks, it sounded excellent. After that was one of my favorite songs of the whole show; "Long Time Running". I thought it'd be sad to hear, but it was the opposite for me. It felt like a celebration of The Hip's last 32 years together. The stadium lit up with phones and many people sang along.




Road Apples was the only album in the setlist to get more than four songs. They closed their main set with "Twist My Arm". As if the last two songs weren't a huge thrill to hear live, this one really got me ecstatic. It was a fine choice to close the set with. The band left the stage, but Gord stayed and the crowd gave him an ovation that lasted almost four minutes. This is the memory that has stuck with me most since seeing the show. It was one of the most moving things I've ever witnessed; 15,000 people showing how much they loved this man, his band and their music. I never once thought during the night that this had the feeling of a wake. It felt like a celebration and this moment further fueled that feeling.








The encore was made up of songs from their first LP, Up To Here. It was the album they had opened this tour with and it was great to see them go back to the early years. They started with "Boots or Hearts"; another song I'd long wanted to hear live that sounded excellent. It was followed by "Opiated", another rarity. I wondered which of the two biggest hits from the album they'd close with. While I love "Blow At High Dough", I'm glad that they chose "New Orleans Is Sinking". It's one of the top five essential live songs of their catalog, I'd say. It brings the house down every time. It always rocks just as hard as the last time you heard it. They've been playing the song for almost thirty years and yet they still give it their all every time they play it. Here's a cool video that my mom took of Gord catching his handkerchief with his feet moments before starting the song.


video



Gord kissed and hugged his bandmates as they left the stage. The crowd probably cheered for the next two minutes and The Hip came out for a second encore; something they had done for this tour, but rarely did otherwise. It was an honor to have just a little bit more time with them that night. The last album they chose to play from was Trouble At The Henhouse. I'm pretty fond of "Gift Shop", but I like the album's second track even more. "Springtime In Vienna" was a song I'd wanted to hear at a Hip show ever since I first heard it on Live Between Us. It sounded just as great as I had hoped. The song ended and I guessed what the next and final song of the night would be. Rob played a really lovely intro on his acoustic guitar and sure enough, it was "Ahead By A Century". I was transported back to that time that I sung the song to Liz; madly in love with the knowledge that this was the woman I'd spend my life with. I've had many memories with The Hip's songs and this one has provided many. It was a perfect closer to an already outstanding show. Gord's last words before exiting the stage were, "Grateful. We're always grateful." It was pretty bittersweet as the band left the stage for the last time and seeing Gord's hat go behind the exit curtain, but I was more than grateful for getting to be there. This is a concert I will never forget.


My mom and I haven't stopped reminiscing about it and I'm pretty sure we never will. This was one of the most important nights I ever got to share with her. I couldn't be more grateful to spend it with the person that The Hip brought me even closer together with. The whole week that I had spent with my mom had really reconnected us and I can't thank The Hip enough for it.


The next morning, Gord was on the front page of the Winnipeg Free Press. It was a nice review of the show and I was glad that the Hampton gave out free copies of it every morning. They were nice enough to let us take a couple of extra copies home with us. We arrived back in Madison the following Monday night and had a celebratory supper from North and South; a restaurant I had never tried before. They make both seafood and barbecue, hence the name. It was delicious and a fitting end to the trip, since there's a lyric in "New Orleans Is Sinking" that goes: 

He said "hey north you're south shut your big mouth,
You gotta do what you feel is real"

The next day, I returned home to Mason City and excitedly told Liz about the trip. Since then, I've been calling my mom almost every day and it's been great to be this connected with her again. I was later able to find audio of the entire Winnipeg show on Youtube. I'm very grateful that I'll have the chance to hear it anytime I like. I've listened to it multiple times as I've worked on this article. This wholepast  summer, I had rarely listened to anything else in the car other than The Hip. Both times that I went to Wisconsin, I listened to their entire discography. It was a great experience to be alone in the car, singing along with every lyric I knew. Their music makes me happy in a way that no other artist's or band's does. The connection I have with them is something that can't be duplicated.

I returned to Madison not even two weeks later, because Carl and I were seeing Weird Al Yankovic at the Overture Center. The weekend also happened to be the one that The Hip's final show in Kingston was taking place. My mom and I went to Best Buy to get her a Blu Ray Player, so that we could watch the CBC broadcast of the show on her TV. I had felt pretty emotional that weekend, because this was a day I had wanted to not happen until many years from now, but it was happening that night. My favorite band was playing what was most likely their final show together, but I wasn't going to miss the broadcast for the world. I was simultaneously anticipating and dreading it. It was exciting that CBC was broadcasting this not only in Canada, but across the world. The fact that we could watch it via Youtube, in Middleton, WI, was pretty extraordinary. Earlier that day, I saw a picture of Gord with Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, and I noticed that Gord was wearing a First Avenue cap. It was pretty surreal seeing my hero wearing a cap from one of my favorite venues and one that I had seen them at.



My mom and I had gotten New Orleans Takeout; one of the best food establishments in Madison. Coincidentally wearing our matching maple leaf discography shirts, we sat on her couch and watched the countdown clock tick down to the second it started. There was a brief screen of the CBC logo and then the broadcast began. It started with a CBC reporter live in Rio with the Canadian Olympic athletes talking about how big of a night this was for their home country. The concert was subtitled A National Celebration, after all. Like the Winnipeg concert, I really got to see how much this country was brought together by this incredible band.

They signed off and the show began. There was a brief introductory montage set to "The Last of the Unplucked Gems" with various shots of Gord, the band, Canadian scenery and other shots that really helped set the mood. It then cut to backstage, where the band was waiting behind the curtain to go out onstage. Gord kissed and hugged each band member. From that moment on, I knew this was going to be a pretty rough and emotional sit, but also a celebratory one. Seeing these five lifelong friends in this moment was really sad and beautiful. The venue music stopped playing and The Hip took the stage to uproarious applause. This was where it all started for these five boys from Kingston, whose music impacted so much of their country.

They opened with "Fifty-Mission Cap"; a very appropriate choice. After the first chorus, Gord said to the crowd, "You know this one?" The whole crowd was singing along. How could they not? The band didn't look sad, though. They all looked like they were having a great time, just like they always have. This is a band that clearly loves what they do and they love and appreciate their fans for supporting them. Gord was acting just like he usually does onstage; wearing a silver suit. He faux polished the mic stand and did his hand movements. He barely stood still for the entire show. I noticed that he was wearing his Jaws shirt underneath his jacket. I had seen it in a tour photo of the band performing. I think that must be one of his favorite films. It's one of mine. I found myself the same shirt with the faded design on Amazon and bought it later that night. Up next was "Courage", followed by "Wheat Kings" and "At The Hundredth Meridian"; all the right choices to start off this historic show. Gord smiled, danced and blew kisses. He was beaming at the end of "Courage". It was really sweet. He just looked so happy and that gave me a good feeling. His vocals sounded incredible as well. 







The next set was from Man Machine Poem. "In A World Possessed By The Human Mind" was first, followed by "What Blue", "Tired As Fuck" and "Machine". Before "Machine" Gord talked to the crowd about how the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who was at the show, was going to help the country get to the place they need to be. I didn't find this out until later, but Gord was taking a stance on how thousands of indigenous children never made it home from residential schools and that the people up North needed to be helped more. Being the humanitarian that Gord is, I wouldn't expect anything else from him. The way he then launched into the opening lyrics of "Machine" just sounded so badass.

The band took a brief break and returned onstage and they launched into a set from Music @ Work; one of their lesser recognized albums. Gord was now wearing a hot pink suit. This was the part of the show to go into some lesser known songs. I think this whole tour consisted of songs that Gord and the band wanted to play one last time. "My Music At Work" and "Lake Fever" are two singles that almost every fan knows and it was great to hear them played one last time. It was really special to get the chance to hear Paul sing his lead verse in "Lake Fever". Up next was "Toronto #4"; a song that Gord wrote as a eulogy for his grandmother. He introduced it by saying, "Ok, Lorna. This is someone we know." I later read in an article by someone who was at the actual show that he also said, "Well Lorna, she really was the best, ya know." Lorna is Gord's mother, who was in attendance that night. It was one of the most emotional songs of the night. It's one of their quieter songs and it sounded beautiful in a live environment. This was the first song where my eyes felt watery. They closed the set with "Putting Down"; another lesser known song that sounded great. 

The next set was of songs from Road Apples, an album that has a special meaning to me, since it was released the year I was born. First up was "Twist My Arm" followed by "Three Pistols"; two songs you can always rock out to. Gord then commented on his scarf that he was wearing. It was made out of two socks by a friend. He said, "A singer needs to keep his or her voice always warm and it only took me twenty-eight years to figure that out. Thank you. Thank you people for keeping me pushing and keeping me pushing."

Then came the most poignant song of the night, "Fiddler's Green". This was when I really felt the tears. Gord introduced the song by saying, "We're here, Char," referring to his sister, Charlotte. The crowd chanted "Gordie! Gordie! Gordie!" and then sang along. The whole room was bathed in green light. It looked gorgeous. Had I been there in person, I would have been full blown sobbing. It really is one of their best songs, but it's always an emotional one. The crowd chanted again after the song had ended.

"Little Bones" came next; an excellent song to follow "Fiddler's Green". It gave the crowd and the band a well needed chance to rock out after a song that had to have been even harder to play this time than any other. Gord then took a break and left the stage. Like the Winnipeg show, the rest of the band played an extended intro to "The Last of the Unplucked Gems". Gord returned to the stage in a sparkling silver suit. I don't think he'd worn this one at any of the other shows. He looked like a rock god in it. 

Up next was a set of songs from Phantom Power. First was "Something On". Towards the end of the song, Gord put his hand up; like a director framing a shot. From the look on his face, it looked like he was soaking in the moment to always remember it.  The other songs played were "Poets", "Bobcaygeon" and "Fireworks"; all solid choices. During "Bobcaygeon", the broadcast cut to a couple passionately kissing in the crowd. It turns out that the man had proposed during the song. To think that they'll be able to say that they were engaged at the most likely final Hip show is quite the story. I wish them all the best. "Bobcaygeon" is a staple of The Hip's live catalog and this performance was played with just as much passion as ever. This was one of the songs where the show really felt like a celebration. "Fireworks" was nice to hear live one last time as well and it was a good choice to end the main set of the show with. It's a Hip version of a love song and it's one of their best songs on the subject. The rest of the band then left the stage and Gord stayed. While he did stand in silence and show his appreciation while the crowd cheered like the previous shows on this tour; he had some words to say this time. 

"Thank you very much folks. We really appreciate it. We all started here, as you know, and opened up to thirteen people. And at our next show, we had twenty-eight. And at the next Kingston show after that, we had six. This is my favorite gag to do. On this trip, we've played here a thousand times, played all the rooms. Really glad about being here in Kingston. We could play the University and we could play for the bikers. And our idea was everybody's invited, everybody's involved and we tried to write that way and tried to think that way. We worked through a period there where we had to work very hard to get the girls to come, because the guys were just scrapping and being really weird. And somehow we got the girls to come back and thank you whoever did that; whoever had the cause of that one. On behalf of the boys and the men and women of our crew, thank you for a great tour and a great show. Really enjoyed the hell out of it. We're going to go into the back and act like we left and you're gonna cheer and we're gonna come out and play."

Gord rarely would talk with the crowd to this extent and this was a completely Gord Downie moment. He kept it brief, but he got his appreciation across wonderfully. That last sentence really hit me hard and the broadcast cut to a woman crying in the crowd. It summed up how I and many others were feeling in that moment.

The first encore consisted of Up To Here titles. The band returned to the stage and Gord addressed the crowd once again.

"So I probably shouldn't have said that we'd go away and wait for applause and then we'd come back and play, because you really didn't have to do anything and I could feel that almost. A certain *crowd roaring with applause* yeah, like you weren't doing that, but this is cool. I think they want another song, Paul."

Paul obliged and played his famous intro to "New Orleans Is Sinking"; probably my second favorite song of The Hip's right under "Courage". It rocked as hard as ever.



After this song, my mom said that we should be standing for the show, like we were there. "Boots or Hearts" started playing and I did my best Gord Downie dance moves. My mom and I laughed and it felt really good releasing some of the emotions that we had built up throughout the night. I kept dancing and singing along for "Blow At High Dough"; which I had pretty much memorized Gord's performance of it from That Night In Toronto. Gord was really moving around for this one and it was great to see him with this much energy still in him. He blew a kiss to the crowd and gave a humble bow. What a solid first encore this was. It really felt appropriate for them to play these songs later in the show. He addressed the crowd again and thanked the members of the crew again, the crowd and Justin Trudeau. He talked about how the country was in good hands with Trudeau. Trudeau mouthed "Thank you." Gord then told us all these four simple words to live by: "Have a nice life."

I figured that there would be a second encore, but it was nice to hear Gord say those words, just in case. The second encore consisted of songs from Day For Night; one of their best albums. "Nautical Disaster" was first, followed by "Scared". The lyric, I gotta go, it's been a pleasure doing business with you, really stung this time, but it also felt like an appropriate reflection of their entire time as a band. Then came what I thought may be the final song of the night: "Grace, Too." During the closing minutes of the song is when Gord yells the final few words of the song. This time was different. Gord did yell the words, but between them, he was crying. Here was my hero, in a mix of emotions, screaming at death. In those moments, I saw anguish and sadness in his face, but I also saw it as his way of showing how much the band and the fans meant to him. He was letting it all out and it hit me harder emotionally than almost any other moment in my life. And then he dropped the microphone. That fucking mic drop was felt by probably everyone watching. It was when I had tears streaming down my face. But moments later, the song ended, he picked up the mic and gave a nice bow to the crowd. When I face death, I can only hope that I have as much courage and bravery as Gord has shown. The band left the stage and this time Johnny was helping Gord down the stairs. I can only imagine how much energy and stamina Gord had exerted not only during this last show, but also this entire tour. The broadcast then cut to the town square in Kingston, completely packed with fans, where a viewing party was being held.



Then, like the true professional he is, Gord came out for a third encore with the rest of the band. He addressed the crowd saying, "We're officially into uncharted waters. We never do third ones. So let's see what happens." It's true. The only other time I've known of The Hip doing a third encore was That Night In Toronto.

They started with "Locked In The Truck of a Car"; a song I was very happy to hear performed once again. I think this was the first time this tour that they went back to a song from one of the albums they had already played songs from earlier in the show. The Hip were really going out with a bang and I was grateful to witness it. Then came "Gift Shop"; a song that I really admire of theirs. Gord then said, "We're going to give you one more and then we're going to hit the road." It wasn't a simple goodbye. It had sort of an optimistic feel to it. After that, I thought only one song could be next. Sure enough, just like at the Winnipeg show, Rob played his beautiful acoustic intro and then the rest of the band launched into "Ahead By A Century".  This was it; the last song they'd most likely ever play live. In those final minutes, I felt united with the fans watching in Kingston and all around the world. Here's a video of various viewing parties across Canada, watching the final song. It further fuels that feeling of unity that The Hip have brought to us.




Gord thanked the fans one last time and The Hip then gathered together onstage; arms around each other. 



It was pretty clear how much this meant to Gord and the band. I think this tour was good for the whole band, but him especially. I was really happy to see this crowd show him so much love. I'm sure that other Canadian artists like Neil Young would receive the same appreciation, but Gord Downie is a treasure to Canada and this tour and final show was proof of it. The crowd roared with applause and then, just like that, it was all over. The credits rolled with footage of The Hip from this tour while "Long Time Running" played. There was then a live post-show discussion in the CBC studio. I had to get up and go into the bathroom midway through it and I cried probably the hardest I had in a long time. I let it all out while realizing that the band I had loved most for the past nine years had just played their final show. It was at this point that I realized this was most likely the saddest night of my life so far. 

While the CBC was only able to broadcast the show once, I was able to find it on Youtube and I did download it. This was a show I needed to have forever and if it does get an official release through The Hip's site, I'll buy it in an instant.

That same night, Pearl Jam was playing a show in Chicago. Eddie Vedder said some really kind words about Gord and The Hip, as well as sending love from their show up to the Kingston show. They then played "Light Years", which felt like a very fitting tribute. I enjoy Pearl Jam's music and I think Eddie Vedder is a pretty cool guy.



Both that night and the next day, The Hip were trending on both Facebook and Twitter. I couldn't believe that they were getting this much recognition in the US. It turns out that a third of Canada's population had watched the broadcast. I cannot think of a single American band or artist that could pull that off here in the States. How many other bands could broadcast their final show commercial-free and uncensored, while also being shown during the final weekend of the Olympics? While it was nice to see, I only wished it wasn't under these circumstances. The Wisconsin State Journal even had an article about the Kingston show. My good friend, Marshall, sent me the article that the New York Times had about them. Sure, it was cool to see this recognition, but I can guarantee that none of these writers understood how important this band is to people here in the US like my parents, Eva or I. We're the fans who been connected to this band for a good portion of our lives. They're a band that our love can't be matched for anyone else. We're incredibly lucky that Canada has shared them with us. They are Canada's band and I'm grateful that I have had the honor of having their music in my life.


After the tour, The Hip took a fishing trip at a lake near Kingston. I'm really glad that they were able to do that. Gord is actually releasing a fourth solo album and a graphic novel this October; both titled Secret Path. It was inspired by the flight of Chanie Wenjack; a boy who ran away from his residential school to get back home, which was 372 miles away. He never made it home and died of hunger and exposure to the harsh weather. Gord traveled to Ogoki, Ontario to visit Chanie's family as well as other members of the community. Even with a terminal illness. Gord is still being as selfless as ever.

A couple of weeks later, I visited the website In Gord We Trust. It was a site made by a few fans who wanted to raise funds to donate to the Sunnybrook Foundation. They were selling shirts and hats that they made, as well as limited-numbered paintings. All of the proceeds were going directly to Sunnybrook. They didn't want to make a profit off The Hip and I thought that was a true act of kindness. I bought myself a shirt and a cap that had the words 50 Mission Cap on the front. I had wanted a painting, but most of them had sold out already. One morning, I noticed that they had just put up a listing for a painting of the entire band at the Kingston show. At first, I was hesitant, because of the price. I went into work that day and decided that I was going to buy one. Not only would the money towards the purchase go to a good cause, but I also would have this rare painting of the five men who have helped shape me into a more confident and happy person. I was one of the lucky hundred to purchase one and I can't wait to receive it in the mail. I'm going to proudly look at it every day, once it's displayed. I already have my Man Machine Poem tour poster framed and hung. I look at it every day before I leave home. The Sunnybrook Foundation has already raised a million dollars and the number continues to grow.

Gord Downie is my idol. He is the heart and soul of The Tragically Hip. His lyrics are pure poetry and The Tragically Hip's songs have told some of the best stories you could hear. These five men have brought me a lifetime's worth of songs, albums and memories that I will cherish until my last day on this planet. I've been a movie fan for a long time and while there are people from that industry that I do look up to, movies are a group effort. It's never just one person who brings us a film that we love. With music, there's a much larger connection, because it's only the band. The Tragically Hip is a band that I love more than any other famous person. Gord Downie is someone that I look up to and strive to be like every single day. I want to have that sense of confidence and motivation that he does. My anxiety and depression don't always make that easy, but I'll be damned if I can't enjoy life as much as Gord Downie, Rob Baker, Paul Langlois, Gord Sinclair and Johnny Fay have for the past thirty-two years. To conclude this story, I will leave you all with this song. Thank you for reading, music lovers.