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Where I Listened To The Last Tragically Hip Show

Severn, Ontario

Severn, Ontario

“Fireworks exploding in the distance
Temporary towers soar
Fireworks emulating heaven
Till there are no stars any more
Fireworks aiming straight at heaven
Temporary towers soar
Till there are no stars shining up in heaven
Till there are no stars any more”

-The Tragically Hip Phantom Power [1998]

Like so many other Canadians, I was devastated when I heard the news announcing Gord Downie’s glioblastoma brain cancer diagnosis.  The Tragically Hip have always been a reliable staple in my music collection ever since I got into music, at the age of thirteen.  They were an untouchable Canadian force, seemingly immortal, and I knew every few years I could count on a Hip album.  Some were better than others but they were one of the few bands that I would make the effort to go and buy their album from the local record store.  Most of the bands from my adolescent years have broken up, faded away or no longer tour, but The Tragically Hip have seen me through over two decades of my life.  I couldn’t process how this would most likely be the final time I heard Gord Downie sing live.  Yet, how strangely sweet it was to be able to say goodbye to a musical idol, to know that this would be the last time you would hear them and be able to appreciate them in all their glory.  That’s more of a goodbye than I had with Prince, or Bowie, so for that, I was thankful.

The weekend of the Kingston concert, we were up at my boyfriend’s best friend’s cottage on Gloucester Pool in Severn, Ontario.  We wanted to light some fireworks and have a bonfire, so we PVR’d the concert and brought the radio down to the lake.  I lay back on the lawn chair, staring up at the stars through the branches of a tree, sitting beside a roaring campfire and a Canadian flag, and I soaked up every note that Gord sang.  What a monumental event – 11.5 million Canadians tuned in that night, and no matter where you were, in front of a TV or listening over a radio, miles away from each other, that night we were all connected.

Severn, Ontario

Severn, Ontario

I sang along to my favourite Hip song “Nautical Disaster” which they played near the end of the set.  I realized this would probably be the last time I would ever sing along with Gord, and in that moment, I was so struck by that thought that tears welled up in my eyes.  Throughout the years, The Hip have woven themselves into my life, always a dependable musical force that made up my personal soundtrack.  While every band’s journey inevitably comes to an end, I think we all realized that night after listening to over two hours of their music, how their music and Gord’s passion will live on and never stop giving.