Music History

The Tuesday Survey: What Was Your Favourite Tragically Hip Moment?

There’s been plenty of Tragically Hip appreciation, celebration and nostalgia in the days since Gord Downie’s death last Wednesday. One question that seems to be circulating more than most is this: What was your favourite Tragically Hip moment?

Just about every Canadian seems to have one. For some, it was a memory of a particular show. For others, it was as simple as listening to Up to Here in the car with the family on the way to the cottage.

Me? Mine is peculiar. When the Hip became the first act to perform a concert at the new Air Canada Centre on February 22, 1999, they needed an MC for the night. I was honoured to get the job. It’s something I’ll obviously never forget.

I have others. The Hip at Molson Park in Barrie back in the 90s. The last show at the ACC. An early show at the old Spectrum on the Danforth. Hearing Fully Completely for the first time.

What’s yours? Distill it down to one story and let me know. I’ll read out some responses on my 6 pm show on the Edge on Tuesday evening.

Some email submissions

Matthew is from Hamilton saw the Hip 43 times and ended up being profiled on the CBC. Check out his Facebook page on his Hip experiences.

Then there’s Phil, who is also from Hamilton.

Gord Downie: Death Of A Canadian Icon

With the announcement on October 17th 2017 of the passing of Gord Downie an outpouring Of emotions swept through our country. There was wall to wall coverage of Downie’s death As Hip tunes played on the radio all day long.

Gordon Edgar Downie, (singer, poet, activist) meant so much to so many Canadians. Be it his Singing, lyrics, storytelling, or his unbridled stage antics, Gord touched us in one way or another. Gord wrote and sung about Canada and Canadian issues. The Tragically Hip’s music is woven into the fabric of our country.

Whenever he got together with his fellow band mates Paul Langlois, Rob Baker, Gord Sinclair, and Johnny Fay, a special chemistry occurred both live and in the studio and as a result it struck a chord with Canadians.

Seeing The Hip live is like a religious experience. I was fortunate enough to have seen them three times and each time I was taken to heaven and back! Some fans are so devoted that they’ve seen the band 10 to 20 times and each has their favourite Hip song along a story behind it. It’s hip to be a Hip fan!

Back in May 2016 it was announced that Gord had glioblastoma, one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer. While most that are given this dire news resign to their fate, Gord on the other hand responded by taking his band on one final tour across Canada as a thank you and farewell to the fans.

Most artists look to our neighbours to the south for fame and fortune but Gord never sold out he was true to his roots and country. He also gave his time and money as a philanthropist to various causes including his fight for indigenous rights.

There were two Gord Downie’s, the quiet, coy, reserved family man and the eccentric,  flamboyant, charismatic front man. Mr. Downie was a unique talent the likes of which this country may never see again. He was Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan wrapped into one.

There’s no need for us to get down on Downie’s passing. Instead, let’s celebrate the great body of work he left us.

Gord fought with Courage right till the end.

Phil Capobianco is a Hamilton writer and can be contacted at  [email protected]

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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.

Alan Cross has 38562 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

8 thoughts on “The Tuesday Survey: What Was Your Favourite Tragically Hip Moment?

  • I have many great stories related to The Hip as I developed a passion for the band in the early 90s that took me to many shows whether they be full blown concerts or invite only gigs but one that stands out took place late spring/early summer of 1993. MCA was holding a conference of some sort, in my hometown of Huntsville, Ontario. I was back home from university for the summer and I caught wind that the group was in town and there was a function taking place at the indoor tennis courts at Grandview Resort. I showed up and walked in like I belonged there, no one said anything. I went right up and leaned against the stage as The Hip walked up and played a few tunes off of Fully. I was in heaven. The previous concert I was at leading up to this show was at the University of Buffalo, in a mosh pit (a show cut short due to some clown throwing a boot/shoe at Gord) and here I was now looking up at my favourite band with tons of elbow room.

    I was nervous about meeting the band after they stepped off the stage for fear that they might have an attitude if I approached them. It was the complete opposite, each one of them gave me the time of day as I shook hands and they expressed their gratitude for me being a fan. They couldn’t have been any nicer to me. I hung out with Gord as another band took the stage. I asked him, “who are these guys?”, he said, “they are another band from Kingston, they’re called ‘The Headstones’”.

    As a young university aged kid, this was like a dream. An additional bonus from that night surfaced a few days later when someone approached me with a photo they had taken of Gord and I standing together. This was well before people carried a camera in their pocket. I was ecstatic that someone captured that moment. I will forever cherish photo. Rest in peace Gord. To the rest of the band, thanks again.

  • Met my husband Fraser Armstrong at the Manor in Kingston (where I worked at the time during college) during a Hip gig. He was a friend of theirs from KCVI and their road guy (in the early days) and was working the lights at the back of the room when some Queens basketball players were dancing around. One of them hit my tray and Fraser ended up covered in drinks. After he got cleaned up he asked me out and we have been together ever since ? Went to many shows, including their first one at the Horseshoe in TO – part of the soundtrack of my life!

  • July long weekend, 2012. A bunch of us are at a friends cottage in Bala. We all had tickets to see David Wilcox at The Kee to Bala. The Hip were playing Burls Creek that weekend.

    We booked a cab to the Kee and on the way there, the cabbie let it slip that The Hip were booked to play a previously unnannounced show at the Kee, on the Tuesday after the long weekend !

    We all instantly started checking The Hip webpage, Facebook and Twitter, no word of the concert. All day Sunday…nothing. Then Monday, st 10am, there it was on their webpage. Tickets $40 !!

    I don’t know if you can appreciate just how spotty internet coverage was, but we had 7 people on the end of the dock and in boats trying to get more than 2 bars on our devices to login and buy tickets. My friends were yelling “ I have 2 tickets !”, others shouting “ i have 4 tickets. Only to gave the internet go downand we lose the tickets.

    After about 30 minutes we had scored 11 tickets.

    The Kee was an unbelievable place to see them, there was only 400 people there and you could walk to the front of the stage any time you wanted.

    It was my 4th Hip show and easily, the best.

    I scored some backstage seats at The ACC for the final tour but ended up giving them to a buddy, because I knew Theres no way the show would top that experience in Bala.

  • My friend and I needed a ride to the Hip concert in Red Deer. We were both 17, lived in Airdrie about 60KM away and neither of us drove. We got another friend who was going to visit his girlfriend in a town just 10KM from Red Deer anyway.

    He promised he’d be there after the concert. Gord sang Ahead by a Century but, it was before Trouble at the Henhouse was released so he was still working on the lyrics. He did it upside down hanging over the stage and instead of the pleasant lyrics that are on the album, he sang a funny oversexed version that would make a gangster rapper cringe. I thought it was hilarious and had remembered a bit of the lyrics because I thought it would be a good story.

    At the end of the concert, we looked for our ride. He forgot about us. Seems he was having a similar time with his girlfriend as Gord was singing. We decided to hitchhike home. It was past midnight when we hit the highway and we did not look like the type your family wants to pick up. Everybody ignored us until what seemed like the last van out of town pulled over.

    It was a white van. It was full of men. Big Men. I was nervous for a few seconds but once they told us they were the security for the concert I was game. We had a great time learning about concert security all the way home. The Tragically Hip Concert was one of the best I have ever gone to.

  • One of the first times I saw the Tragically Hip in concert was at the Ontario Place Forum in the summer of 1991 – for me the highlight of that show was during New Orleans is Sinking (with the Killer Whale Tank story), where Gord lay down on the outer railing of the circular stage and pretended to swim (after the final lyric of “…and I don’t wanna swim”). For those who didn’t attend a concert there, the stage at the Forum very slowly rotated – slow enough that you didn’t actually notice that the stage was moving. Anyways, while Gord was pretending to do the front crawl they must have jacked up the speed of the stage rotation to its max, such that it looked like Gord was really moving along through the air at a good clip with his swimming – it was excellent! (and the Skydiggers opened for them, so it was a doubly-excellent concert)

    At the end of that summer I moved to Kingston to attend Queen’s University, and I stayed for 9 years. I would cross paths with various members of the Hip so frequently that it *almost* became an ordinary thing. I think I lived fairly close to Bobby Baker during my grad student days, as I saw him almost every day (when the weather was nice), for years, either walking down the sidewalk with a baby stroller or him driving his vehicle through the neighbourhood, near Johnson & Wellington Sts. I always wanted to say hello to him and speak with him about the Hip, but I figured he got enough of that as it was and he was home in Kingston to be away from all that, so I didn’t ever bother him, but from the look that must have been on my face every time we passed by each other he must have known I was bursting to say something to him. I also saw Johnny Fay a fair bit in Kingston, at one point in the late 90s he had a girlfriend on the same soccer team as my then-girlfriend (now wife), so it was a kick to see members of the Hip (and I think Dan Aykroyd was there too) come to watch a recreational league soccer game – but it also really showed that the members of the band were very close friends; I mean, how many of us ever went to watch a rec league game simply because one of our buddies had a girlfriend on one of the teams?

    I saw the Hip over the years at various venues (e.g. 1992 Canada Day concert at Molson Park in Barrie – with 54-40, Leslie Spit Treeo, and SPINAL TAP!), but living in Kingston during my student years gave me some interesting opportunities to see the Hip live – one year during the Limestone City Blues Festival the Hip made a surprise appearance at the stage at Kingston’s downtown city square; my girlfriend’s apartment overlooked the square, and we’d heard a rumour that the Hip might be playing, so we camped out in her apartment and because the apartment building entrance was within the festival’s security cordon we simply walked out of the apartment lobby and walked about 100 feet to the area just in front of the stage to watch the Hip play in front of a highly enthusiastic and appreciative Kingston audience. I was so grateful to get to see them at the Hamilton concert in their farewell tour. The Hip’s music has been an integral part of the entirety of my adult life, and I love them to the depths of my soul.

  • Out of the half-dozen times, the most memorable was at Molson Park… maybe Canada Day ’92? Gord went into one of his soliloquies about how they’d been touring for a year and these wonderful cowboy boots he was wearing had been on his feet every step of the way. He pulled them off his feet and stood them side by side on the stage, then proceeded to douse them in lighter fluid and set them on fire.

    Somehow, his actions make more sense now.

  • I’ve seen them in concert 28 times in almost 29 years, the first of which was in the bar I used to work at in Moose Jaw in ’88, the last being the second Calgary show on the final tour (I went to both). Two memories stand out.

    The first is meeting the band and Gord after the 4th Calgary show of the World Container mini tour (I went to 3), and chatting with him about taking his son trick or treating the night before (they didn’t play on Oct 31 so he could fly home). He signed my backstage pass “Doug, I’m yer guy, G Downie”.

    The other is being front-row center for the first of 3 nights (I went to all 3) on the We Are The Same tour in Calgary, and singing along madly, as one does at a Hip show. Gord took notice, came over to me, unplugged his mic, and handed it to me. I went nuclear at being given the mic he’d used up to that point in the show, turned around waving it to my friends behind me, and totally missed Billy Ray bring out another mic cable until the guy next to me tapped me on the shoulder. Apparently I was supposed to plug it in and sing along with Gord, but by the time I realized what was going on, the song (and I don’t even recall which one) was over. That mic sits on my record cabinet and will some day be displayed in its own case. I also took my favourite photo of Gord at that show.

    The entire last show is one giant bittersweet memory. It was beautiful.

  • My favourite Hip experience was when I first saw them. It was a snowy Friday in early 1984, probably January or February. I had driven up to Kingston from Toronto to visit a friend from university who was working there as an archaeologist. I took her out to the Copper Penny for dinner, and we ended up at a table right next to the local band.

    During our dinner, Gord serenaded us and the fifteen or twenty other patrons with a long, rambling early version of All Canadian Surf Club. We were hooked, and spent the rest of the night there listening to them. I remember saying that they were too good to be a bar band 🙂


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