The Best Band you’ve (likely) never heard of

An ode to The Tragically Hip

My previous blog post details my upcoming trip to Las Vegas for what could easily be titled a “Classic Rock’ vacation.  This story starts out with what I was trying to make happen last summer, but was ultimately unsuccessful.  One of my all-time favorite bands is The Tragically Hip.  They are a Canadian Rock band that has been together for nearly 35 years at this point.  I was introduced to them when I made my transition from AOR radio to “Alternative” Rock in the early 1990s.  The alternative station in Detroit was actually in Windsor, ON CA, CIMX-FM, known as “89X”.  As they were a Canadian station, they are bound by Canadian Content laws, which in a great oversimplification stated they had to play a certain percentage of Canadian Artists.  Because of CanCon, I was introduced to many bands I likely would never have heard of, including The Pursuit of Happiness, Sloan, Treble Charger, and of course The Hip.

I remember the first Tragically Hip CD I purchased was Day for Night.  I could only afford one CD at the time, and I remember being in the record store, and just grabbing the first one in the bin.  It was the current release; I recognized the first song, Grace, Too as the current single.  I was hooked immediately, and as finances would allow, purchased the back catalog as fast as I could.  I was hooked.  The Hip are a blues-rock based, guitar driven band.  The songs are textured, and I can always find a way to ride through a song.  Sometimes it’s the vocals, other times it’s the guitars, or bass, you get the idea.  I can still listen to songs I’ve been listening to for 20 years, and hear something different, or something that really stands out.

So the story from last year.  The band started sending out teaser tweets that ended up being bits of lyrics from the first single.  Eventually they announced the release date for the new record.  I think they released the single at that time as well.   Things were looking up…perhaps a tour was forthcoming as well, they have always toured behind records.  I was hoping to see them close to home.  I was fortunate enough to see them play 3 times, the first time at Cobo Arena in Detroit, MI.  That show was recorded, and released as “The Live Between Us”.  My 2nd show was at the House of Blues in Orlando, FL, not too long after moving here.  It was great to see them in a smaller venue.  This would have been 1997 or 1998.  The last show I was able to attend was in Atlanta, while I was living there, around 2011 or so…somewhere in there.  Now comes the bummer news.  It was announced that the lead singer and lyricist for the band, Gord Downie has been under treatment for non-operable brain cancer.  I was devastated.  I don’t know Gord, or anyone in the band, but I have been evangelizing The Hip for so long, listening to the records, it felt like a family member had been diagnosed.  I was in a funk for a few days.  I read all of the news that I could, and just wished I could do something to say Thank you to them.  Now, some good news, if you will.  The band announced a tour of Canada.  They were out for a month from West Coast to East, ending in their home town of Kingston, Ontario.  I was going to go to one of the shows.

I knew tickets were going to be at a premium.  Tickets for a Hip tour would be at a premium generally speaking, but with the added influence that this could be the last tour, and the limited number of dates. This was going to be a tough ticket, not to mention an expensive trip.  The details are a little bit fuzzy, but I believe all of the shows went on sale at the same time.  This meant that I had to decide which date I was going to try to get.  It wasn’t like “…if I don’t get Vancouver, Calgary will go on sale tomorrow…” it was pick your city, and hope.  I was on the Ticketmaster site for the fan club pre-sale, waiting for the site to refresh with a link to buy tickets.  I was neglecting work and waiting and refreshing the page until noon, IIRC, at noon, the page refreshed, and a purchase tickets link appeared, I clicked, and then…the spinning wheel of death, I knew immediately that I was shut out.  It took too long to load, and I knew, just knew they were all gone; the fam club tickets anyway.  Eventually, I was able to get to the shows page, and I tried dutifully from west coast to east coast, and was denied.  I had another opportunity a few days later, when tickets to the general public went on sale.  I had the same result there, and was shut out.  I was, in a word, disappointed.  You can read an article about the ticket sales for the tour here ( if you are so inclined.  It is/was a big deal in Canada.

The Secondary market had plenty of Hip Concert tickets for sale in every venue, but I frankly wasn’t willing to pay their prices in addition to all of the other travel expenses I had to undertake to see the show.   After being shut out for tickets, I messaged the band to ask if they would televise or live stream the concert so that those of us without tickets could see the show.  A few weeks later, CBC announced that they were televising the concert live, and streaming it online.  Needless to say, I had 3 different means of internet connection going that day; just in case one was not working…I was watching that show!

The Kingston, ON show, the final one of the tour was the one that was broadcast.  There were rumors that the show would be available on DVD, but as of yet, I haven’t seen it available.  The band did a 30 song set…30 effin songs.  It just kept on going, it was a phenomenal performance.  I can say with certainty that should it be made available for purchase, that I will own a copy.

I’ll write another post shortly about the band and music.

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