Gord Downie, The Hip, The Tragically Hip, Tragically Hip

It Grew Into Something We Could No Longer Contain – The Tragically Canadian Thing

“I didn’t want this.” ~ The Hip (Pigeon Camera)

This morning-today-we are all saying the same thing. We don’t want this. Canada has just awoken from a weekend dedicated to one of its unofficial poet laureates and his iconically Canadian band. And we are feeling Hip Hangover. And we do not want the party to end.

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Defiant, Humourous, Courageous, Determined, Free – Gord Downie—Doing it his way.

Gord Downie sang his heart out Saturday evening in Kingston, Ontario, at the Tragically Hip’s last performance of their short whirlwind Man Machine Poem summer tour. But then, Gord always gives his all on stage. Perhaps for him, Saturday night in Canada was business as usual…maybe with a nudge and a wink to the huge elephant in the room that we all acknowledged in our tears and turned our backs on in our joy. The elephant being the Glioblastoma–an aggressive form of brain cancer that affects an estimated four to six in every 100,000 Canadians–that is slowly and inevitably taking our icon away from us. Acknowledge it or not, it is there. And Saturday was an opportunity for the nation to embrace our hero. And that is exactly what we did. We held our arms out high and proud and we hugged him like we would never let go.

With every song, we rocked, we sang, we wept, we felt its lastness, we applauded, we screamed, we sighed. And there were a lot of songs. The band treated the nation to 30 songs…and though it ended too soon for all of us, it also had an aura of neverending while we were in it.

Here’s the set-list for the August 20th concert:

“50 Mission Cap”

“Courage”

“Wheat Kings”

“At The Hundredth Meridian”

“In A World Possessed By The Human Mind”

“What Blue”

“Tired As Fuck”

“Machine”

“My Music At Work”

“Lake Fever”

“Toronto #4”

“Putting Down”

“Twist My Arm”

“Three Pistols”

“Fiddler’s Green”

“Little Bones”

“The Last Of The Unplucked Gems”

“Something On”

“Poets”

“Bobcaygeon”

“Fireworks”

Encore 1

“New Orleans Is Sinking”

“Boots Or Hearts”

“Blow At High Dough”

Encore 2

“Nautical Disaster”

“Scared”

“Grace, Too”

Encore 3

“Locked In The Trunk Of A Car”

“Gift Shop”

“Ahead By A Century”

It is fitting that their last show took place in Kingston, where they began their rock and roll journey. Not only did it take place in Kingston, but it took place in a venue said to have been built so the Hip would have a place to play whenever they came home. Not fitting enough for you? The venue’s address is The Tragically Hip Way.

Wherever you were on Saturday, you probably contemplated mortality, life, music, The Hip, and Canada. For me, it was Canada that I kept coming back to. From the perspective of being a Hip fan, though. And I was filled with appreciation. We are a nation that knows nothing of civic pride. We think of it and feel awkward and ashamed and we shy away from it…pride, after all, goeth before the fall. Maybe no other nation heeds those words more than ours. We are apologetically proud whenever we work up the gumption to feel pride.

But Gord and his band opened the door of our nation a crack and beckoned us to enter…every time they wrote a song. Our Canadian Poet wrote songs that were stories…but not just any old stories. They were OUR stories. Our history. He said to all of us—LOOK! THIS IS YOU! THIS IS ME! THIS IS US! He drags our zeitgeist out into the open and screams, “BEHOLD!” By definition, Gord IS our current zeitgeist (the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time). And he does it always with a mischievous wink and a nod. This is us, but don’t take it too seriously. What I love most about the Tragically Hip lyrics–especially those that reek of Canadiana–is that they give us permission to embrace ourselves. That might in fact be Gord’s greatest gift to us all. Sure, the lyrics are beautifully poetic and the music is solid and soulful and lasting…but the feeling we are left with after partaking of the band’s offerings—That is the thing. That bright shining nugget of pride we get in hearing our history sung back to us? It’s golden. “We all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger.”

I’m extremely sad that it has to end this way. I can’t imagine not eagerly anticipating the next Hip album. Gord’s lyrics are so…so…SO! I look forward to unwrapping them with every new song that comes along. It’s a Canadian thing…a thing we will miss more than we know.

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Where did you watch the Hip concert? I joined my brother, sister-in-law, and dozens of others in their backyard party…complete with a large projector screen.

I’ll share my ode to Gord one more time here:

My previously published ode to Gord (Published in Raven Poetry Journal,©2006) :

An Open Letter of Adoration to Gordon Downie

Did you ever see a hypothetical sky, Gordo?
The kind that strips the greys away,
swallows clouds and shivers stars to focus?
Did you ever rest supine, dockside midnight hush,
or did you simply like the way
it fell from your iconic tongue,
beautiful, sublime and free,
filled with nostalgia and tears
of Bobcaygeon love?
Did you ever hypothetical, Gordo?
Twist your words to night
and black and white?
Or did you simply like the way
they fell, iconic from your tongue?
You fill your lungs with melancholy, Gordo,
and send it on its way,
bright the night with shivered sound,
delivering one star at a time.

 

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A shot of Gord I took a few years ago at a previous concert I attended.

“It’s like we burned our boots with no contingency plan.” ~ The Hip (Pigeon Camera)

If I were Gord Downie, I’d be wondering right now if it was enough…if I had arrived close enough to the vision in my head of what I wanted creatively. Creative people are always slagging themselves…I didn’t quite get there, just one more brushstroke would have made it better, just one more pass with the red pen. We are always wondering what we could have done to make it better. Well, Mr. Downie, you did it. “YOU DID WHAT YOU SET OUT TO DO.”

Thank you, Gord Downie. And thank you Tragically Hip…for giving us music, words, laughter, tears, and a sense of who we are as a nation in this world filled with nations. You are Canadian. You are Canada.

TO DONATE TO THE GORD DOWNIE FUND FOR BRAIN CANCER RESEARCH CLICK THIS LINK

Sending love and light to Gord, Gord, Paul, Rob, Johnny & Davis…and all of their families.

Gord Downie, The Hip, Tragically Hip

Gord Downie – Canada’s Poet for the People

I love him for his brain. And his agitated exuberance on stage. I can’t even bear to think of a world without him. Not just yet. People who make you feel so good and alive and happy and grateful should just get a free ticket to the end of the ride…to old age and dotage and shiny happy moments in the sunset with the approaching midnight sky softly revealing the constellations to them, and only them, one star at a time. It’s not fair.

I heard the news today. Gord Downie. Terminal. Brain Cancer.

I know I don’t know him. I know, more importantly, probably, that he doesn’t know me. I lay no claim to him. But also, he is all mine. I hold him, like a candle, to the Canadian poetic landscape, and I see that he shines. Oh my god, does he shine. I have long considered him among the greatest living Canadian poets. I don’t want to check that box that moves him to another column. I’m not ready. I’m selfish. I want more. His words are wisdom. His words are love. His words are Canada.

Sending him and his family (and his band family) peace and love and light in this time and always.

 

My previously published ode to Gord (Published in Raven Poetry Journal,©2006) :

 

An Open Letter of Adoration to Gordon Downie

Did you ever see a hypothetical sky, Gordo?
The kind that strips the greys away,
swallows clouds and shivers stars to focus?
Did you ever rest supine, dockside midnight hush,
or did you simply like the way
it fell from your iconic tongue,
beautiful, sublime and free,
filled with nostalgia and tears
of Bobcaygeon love?
Did you ever hypothetical, Gordo?
Twist your words to night
and black and white?
Or did you simply like the way
they fell, iconic from your tongue?
You fill your lungs with melancholy, Gordo,
and send it on its way,
bright the night with shivered sound,
delivering one star at a time.

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Gord Downie – Exudes Life on the Stage in his frenetic brilliance. Canada’s Poet.
Gord Downie, Music, Tragically Hip

Tragically Hip Not Tragic. Gord Downie FTW

Saw The Hip in concert last night in Cobourg. Before the happy rant, how about the setlist?

  1. At Transformation
  2. Grace Too
  3. Escape Is At Hand For The Travellin’ Man
  4. Man Machine Poem
  5. Gift Shop
  6. Ahead By A Century
  7. Streets Ahead
  8. Flamenco
  9. Poets
  10. Daredevil
  11. We Want To Be It
  12. Fully Completely
  13. Wheat Kings
  14. New Orleans Is Sinking > Nautical Disaster > New Orleans Is Sinking
  15. Fire In The Hole
  16. Goodnight Attawapiskat
  17. Blow At High Dough

 

And the all-important encore:

  1. My Music At Work
  2. At The Hundredth Meridian
  3. Bobcaygeon
  4. Courage
  5. Little Bones

 

 

Gord Downie. How does one describe Gord Downie to anybody who has never attended a Hip concert? I’m not sure it can be done. I want to say he’s a cross between David Byrne of the Talking Heads and Jim Carey of the Jim Carey. But that doesn’t quite capture the uniqueness that is Gord Downie. He’s basically a cross between Gord Downie and Gord Downie.

Last night he was in full SOUTHERN GENTLEMAN PERSONA. His handkerchief was a fine prop. He used it both to wipe away his perspiration and to dust off any seat he chose to take about the stage. And he also used it for his feats of death-defying hanky magic as he fought with his mic stand. The man is a walking piece of performance art. He writes some of the best lyrics in modern music and he tells a story every time he sings a song. It’s no wonder his stage presence is so unutterably powerful.

Once, a long time ago in a world far far asunder, I was a poet. I had a poem about Gord Downie published. It went something like this:

An Open Letter of Adoration to Gordon Downie

 Did you ever see a hypothetical sky, Gordo?
The kind that strips the greys away,
swallows clouds and shivers stars to focus?
Did you ever rest supine, dockside
midnight hush,
or did you simply like the way
it fell from your iconic tongue,
beautiful, sublime and free,
filled with nostalgia and tears
of Bobcaygeon love?
Did you ever hypothetical, Gordo?
Twist your words to night
and black and white?
Or did you simply like the way
they fell, iconic from your tongue?
You fill your lungs with melancholy, Gordo,
and send it on its way,
bright the night with shivered sound,
delivering metaphorical, but one star at a time.

Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip. Cobourg, Ontario. June 20/13
Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip. Cobourg, Ontario. June 20/13

If you ever get the opportunity to take in The Hip, don’t turn it down. They are Canadiana at its best.