Remembering the Final Tragically Hip Show, One Year Later

We’ll be talking about how Canada came to a standstill that Saturday night in August 2016 as millions stopped whatever they were doing to take in what could be the last-ever concert by the Tragically Hip. The official TV figures are 11.7 million, but if you take into account how many people watch in bars, parks, public places and as part of house parties, the number was surely much, much higher. That CBC broadcast on August 20, 2016, might have been the most-watched thing ever on Canadian TV.

A year later, Macleans has this article featuring some of the Hip’s peers looking back on that night.

This time last year, the Tragically Hip were entering the final stretch of their 2016 tour, an event coloured by singer Gord Downie’s diagnosis of terminal brain cancer. It all culminated with their final show on Aug. 20, 2016, in the band’s hometown of Kingston in front of 6,700 people in the K-Rock Centre and 25,000 in Springer Market Square around the corner; at least 11.7 million Canadians watched the CBC broadcast of the concert. Over the band’s 32-year career, the Hip became mentors to generations of Canadian musicians. In an exclusive excerpt from my upcoming biography of the band—due in early 2018—22 of the Hip’s peers reminisce about where they were and what they were thinking on that unforgettable night.

Allan Gregg: principal, Earnscliffe Strategy Group
Relationship with the band: Co-manager, 1986-94

I watched it on television. My kids literally grew up on Gord’s lap, at band meetings in my basement. I brought them to the Air Canada Centre show [in Toronto]. We didn’t go backstage. The show was remarkable. I should’ve felt deadeningly sad, but I didn’t—because Gord didn’t. He looked like he was having the time of his life. I told my kids that they’ll be singing “Bobcaygeon” 50 years from now. That will be Gord’s legacy: the songs. Those songs will be here forever and part of the Canadian fabric when you’re an old, old man.

Colin Cripps: guitarist, Blue Rodeo
Relationship: guitarist in Crash Vegas, which opened for the Tragically Hip from 1991 to 1993

I was playing at the Molson Amphitheatre [in Toronto] with Blue Rodeo that night. We played “Bobcaygeon” as a tribute. Somehow [the tech crew] got a feed to show [the Hip] playing live on our screens, and they were also doing “Bobcaygeon.” Total f–king fluke. We had no idea that was happening. Suddenly people started going crazy, and we looked up and there’s Gord. It was an amazing Canadian moment. People were crying. We were emotional. It was fantastic. You couldn’t help but feel all the history you have together.
You need to read the rest of this.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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