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Something’s On: Strictly Hip takes on Phantom Power at the Horseshoe

A year after the first-of-its-kind collaboration with an orchestra, and just months after their first appearance there in their more than 20 years together, Strictly Hip are returning to Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern on July 28th. This time, it’s Phantom Power, front to back, note for note.

It’s been a busy year for the Buffalo-based dual-national band: There was the aforementioned sold-out show with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on the eve of Canada’s 150th birthday; travels through the U.S. and parts of Ontario and even a few trips out to Vegas to perform for hockey fans eager for a little taste of Canada’s band in the middle of the desert — including during the Knights’ unfathomable run for the Cup.

This summer, it’s all about Phantom Power, The Tragically Hip’s fifth album and the follow-up to the bombshell that is Trouble at the Henhouse. Typically, when Strictly Hip plays, it’s a mix of old favourites and deep cuts, songs everyone knows and a few surprises — earlier this year, they even picked up the Dallas Green – Gord Downie beauty “Sleeping Sickness.”

But they also do incredible full album recreations, usually of Up to Here, Road Apples and/or Fully Completely.  They’ve even recreated Live Between Us, complete with stage banter.

This year, in honour of Phantom Power’s 20th anniversary, the band has worked diligently to master this album as well.

And after this show, the band has a few weeks to prepare for the second in the FamilyBand series of shows, fundraisers for the Downie-Wenjack Fund organized by Hoyle and Rob Ferreira, formerly of Courage for Gord and the guy responsible for pre-show parties throughout Ontario during the Hip’s final tour. This time, they’re playing one of the best-known venues for outdoor shows in the country: Muskoka’s Kee to Bala on Friday, Aug. 17.

Jeremy Hoyle, the Canadian-born lead singer of the band, pulled back the curtain to shed a little light on the band’s inspiration for their show at the ‘Shoe on July 28.  It’ll be at least the second time this summer the band has played Phantom Power in full; the first one, in St. Catharines, was to a capacity crowd that loved every minute.

Why Phantom Power?
J.H. : The album was released in July of 1998 so celebrating the twentieth anniversary seems appropriate and worthwhile. It’s a reason for Hip fans to gather and celebrate what The Hip have given us all.
How has the band been preparing for these shows — the one in St Catharines and this one in Toronto?
J.H. : I saw an interview once where Gord Downie paraphrases Henry David Thoreau, “Read a book as deliberately as it was written.” That is our approach to learning and performing a Hip record. We attempt to be accurate as possible with due respect and honour to its creators.
What’s special about Phantom Power? 
J. H. : I think Phantom Power is incredibly important to The Hip’s artistic growth. Steve Berlin’s production is a big departure from the previous record, Trouble At The Henhouse. Phantom Power gives us some big radio hits and some under the radar fan favourites.
Which song posed the biggest challenge? The greatest enjoyment?
J. H. : There’s an ethereal feel to “Escape Is At Hand For The Travellin’ Man” that is difficult to capture. It’s both delicate and bombastic. Hip fans always react positively to this song.
Did the audience in St. Catharines respond to any song in a way that was surprising?
J. H.: The Tragically Hip fandom is unique in that the band’s catalog is universally appreciated. Hearing songs that aren’t heard often like “Save The Planet” or “The Rules” will get a smile and a fist in the air.
How do the Phantom Power shows prepare lead in to the Kee show next month?
J. H.: The show at The Kee in August is something we’ve been looking forward to for months. It’s special for so many reasons. We’re so excited to be sharing the stage with two incredible Indigenous artists, DJ Shub and My Friend The Moon. The opportunity to learn and create friendships is the whole reason behind Familyband Benefit Concerts. My bandmates have never been to Muskoka so I’m excited for them to experience a little of the north.

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

Amber Healy has 515 posts and counting. See all posts by Amber Healy

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