Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tragically Hip Live in Kingston, Ontario Aug.20th 2016

Well, it's been over a week already since one of the best weekends of my life. It all started a week before the big home-coming Tragically Hip show in Kingston, Ontario when I got a text from my buddy Shane in North Vancouver saying, "I have tickets for Kingston, road trip Tommy". I was like holy fuck, serious! Now the mind is racing on how the hell am I going to pull this off. I stressed for a couple of days trying to come up with a way to attend this show, a chance of a lifetime. Thanks to talking to a few people telling them the opportunity I had, this was something I just had to do. This could possibly be the last show The Tragically Hip ever play. Or at the least it was the last show of this tour in their hometown. This was a must see. Thank you so much to my sweetie Janis and my buddy Shane, we found a way to make it possible. I was in!!!

My trip started by leaving Edmonton at 1am Friday and meeting my buddy in Ottawa where he would be waiting with the rental car so that we could make the two hour drive to Kingston. Before leaving Ottawa we had to stop at a few of our favorite stores.

We now had what we needed, it was off to Kingston. Two hours later we go to the home of The Hip. It wasn't hard to tell as there were welcoming signs everywhere. Once we got set up in out motel room it was off to explore Kingston. We were looking for a place to happen, making stops along the way. Every bar and restaurant we went to had The Hip playing. People there were helpful in showing us places to checkout, one of them being Skeleton Park officially known as McBurney Park. Gord Downie sings about Skeleton Park in the song called Skeleton Park which was a bonus track from the 2009 album We Are The Same. Sample lyrics from that song...

In Skeleton Park
One fine summer evening
The sun teased the dark
Like the last strawberry
I could hear them on the breeze
Hear them moving through the trees
The ghosts of the Rideau Canal start to sing
And patting the grass you said
Come sit next to me, be my sweetheart
Over in Skeleton Park
Over in Skeleton Park

So we sat there with the ghosts of the old burial ground and had a cold one and a smoke. To read more about this park click here.

Skeleton Park.

After that it was to a few bars and restaurants. Everywhere we went there was signs welcoming The Hip home. We had some good eats and more then a few beers, hell I even had a martini, what the hell was I thinking, it was awful. We ended the night at a bar called The Toucan which is an Irish pub that also hosts live music. And back in the early 90's the Tragically Hip had been known to play there. This was a great place to swill beers and watch a local band, don't recall the name of them but they were quire good actually. We ended up staying there til closing time.

The following day was the day of the big show. We had an early start as we had to vacate the motel by 11am because we only had it for the one night. Shane had a couple of buddies Kerry and Grant also from Vancouver coming into town for the show as well. So we had to meet them at the bus depot at 1 in the afternoon. So we met them, they had a hotel room for the Saturday night, but were leaving at 3am because they were off to other cities the next day. So luckily for Shane and I we now had a room that we could take over for them. That meant we weren't going to have to sleep in the car which is what we thought we might have to do. Thanks Kerry and Grant! After getting them to the hotel it was time for a beer run and some beers before heading downtown for the festivities. Our beer run was right out of "fear and Loathing" drinks, wrong turns, driving over meridians and grass boulevards, but we made it safe and sound. Holy fuck did we have some laughs on that venture and we were just getting started. Kerry and Grant were two fellows I had never met before, but man, great fucking dudes. Cheers guys if you happen to read this.

The hotel we were now staying at was just on the out skirts of town, and there was no way we should be driving anymore, but lucky for us they had a free bus that was taking people downtown for the show. They were expecting upwards of 25,000 people outside at Springer Market Square watching the live feed of it on the big screen set up. So we had a ten minute walk to the bus stop which meant time for a few beers on the walk. We still had beer when the bus showed up so we just got on the bus with our beers, nothing was said and we weren't the only ones on the bus with beers, so that was cool. Kingston was ready to rock, it was great atmosphere on the bus with all that were on it heading downtown for the same reason.

Now downtown and with the concert time getting closer, downtown Kingston was getting quite busy, with streets blocked off, people gathering at Springer Market Square, line-ups at bars, beautiful sunny weather the city was a buzz, and so were we. We found a bar to go to, which was lined up of course, but somehow we managed to skip the line up and get right in. The bar was called Jack Astor's and had an awesome roof top patio over looking the Market Square. Not only did we get in without having to line up, but we walked up and sat right at the best damn table on the roof top. There we were sitting at a reserved table we had no right to be at, but did anyways. Drinks were ordered and drank before we had a manager come up and ask us to leave this table as it was reserved for the owner I believe it was. Well after some sweet talking and maybe some money being exchanged we managed to sit there longer and have a few more drinks and food. I believe it was Kerry that managed to get us in and to the table, and then keep the table until it was time to leave.

After that it was getting time to get our asses to the Rogers K-Rock Centre for the show. We did stop for another beer on our way to the venue. By this time there are a hell of a lot of people gathering. It was starting to line up to get into the venue, so we made our way. Before going in, we had a smoke. Because we didn't want to chance getting kicked out of this show, we each had some Cherry Bomb deliciousness.

After a short line-up to get in, we were in and with plenty of time before showtime. Enough time to get a few beers and find our seats. You could really feel the energy of the crowd by this time. There were 25-30,000 people gathering at the Market Square and some 6,000 lucky bastards like myself actually being in Rogers K-Rock Centre which is located on Tragically Hip Way.

It was getting close to start time when one of the buddies had an INCIDENT minutes before the concert started. All four of us had paid a pretty penny for our seats for the show, so getting kicked out would have sucked big time. Luckily for us, Shane happens to be a great salesman and really had to work his magic on the couple in front of us so they wouldn't get security, again there may have been money exchanged but lucky for us the show started and we were all able to stay in our seats and see a concert of a lifetime.

For those that know little about the Tragically Hip, well they are a Canadian musical institution here in Canada. The band has been around since 1984 releasing 14 studio albums, the latest being Man Machine Poem in which they were touring in support of. The album came out in June but a month before the release, the band announced that lead singer Gord Downie had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. This was a huge shock to all Canadians and fans of the band. Then to have the courage to tour from the west coast to Ontario, impressive. The band played 15 shows in 10 cities. I was able to go to the two Edmonton shows and now the Kingston show. This would be my 18th time seeing the band in concert.

Just minutes before the show started, not only did we have our own incident going on at our seats, but the whole crowd broke into an impromptu singing of the Canadian national anthem O'Canada. I got shivers, just wish I could have enjoyed it more, but we were busy dealing with shit. Certainly a cool start to the show.

The Hip opened with the song "Fifty-Mission Cap", I was feeling nervous for the band and I am sure they must have been nervous as well. Gord was for sure as he messed up a bit in the first song but recovered quickly. The sold out crowd was hanging on every word he sand through out the whole show. The crowd was singing along to every song, next up was "Courage" which has kind of been the theme of this tour. You could feel the happiness and sadness in the building knowing that this may just be the last show The Hip ever play. Here is hoping it isn't. I've always been a huge fan of the band and Gord's lyrics but it seems the lyrics just mean that much more now knowing what he is going through. That why the line "Let's just see what the morning brings" from the song "Wheat Kings" really hits home that much more now.

I was able to keep my emotions in check for the most part having seen them twice already on this tour, but there were still times when the eyes would well up with tears. During the song "Putting Down" the lines "United state of ricochet, From the boardwalk to the Appian way, The diamond files, the corporate raves, You'd practically kill, Not to be afraid, And I'm starting to choke, On the things I say, Putting down, I'm putting down" really hit me. Gord Downie and the band were sound good and Gord was being his enigmatic self fighting with his microphone, doing his shuffle/dance, waving his handkerchief. I just love the weirdness of Gordie live. That's one thing I will always say about The Hip is that they are a band you really need to see live. Their albums are great but nothing like seeing them live.

A highlight for me was them playing "Fiddler's Green" they didn't do the song either night I saw them previously on this tour, so that was cool. Have always loved that song. It was during the encores when I really started to tear up and feel emotional. During "Boots or Hearts" when he sang "What the hell is happening here" I really did have to question it, what the hell was happening here, this show was unbelievable and could this really be the last Hip show ever. Damn, what the hell is happening here.

The Hip's rendition of "Scared" in the second encore was absolutely amazing, it was hard to hold the tears back during that one. Gord was screaming at points and even teared up himself. Then it was on to "Grace, Too" which was amazing as well. Gord was a little more talkative during this show, with im saying at one point "Thanks for listening. And Have a nice life" ouch, that hurt. Tears were really rolling then.

The Hip came back for a third encore and this was the only show of the tour in which they did this. Ending the three hour concert with the song "Ahead By A Century" with the last line Gord singing being "And disappointing you is getting me down". My god Gord you didn't let anyone down at all. There were 11 million people in Canada that tuned in to CBC television or radio at one point or another during your performance. After all it was "the late breaking story on the CBC" And everyone I talked to enjoyed the show tremendously. That's almost one of every three people in Canada listening or watching, that's fucking incredible. You "The Hip" are truly Canada's band. Even though we were sitting behind the stage, something I haven't done since I saw Fleetwood Mac in 1990. We were nice and close to the stage, the sound was great and hell we were in the building and that's what mattered most.

What an unbelievably awesome show and weekend. Maybe one of the best weekends of my life. Thank you Shane for all you did, thank you Janis and thanks Grant and Kerry, you are all wonderful people. So many memories and stories. Good times!!!

Setlist for the Kingston show.

Tragically Hip in Kingston, Ontario.

1 comment:

  1. C'mon - ya gotta tell us what happened with the couple in front of you before the show that almost got you kicked out!