No Two Hip Shows Ever The Same
  No Two Hip Shows Ever The Same
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On August 20, 2016, Peter Hendra of Postmedia was kind enough to give me space and prominent placement for a written piece. Here's a link to the story. Click it. It might even still work. Otherwise, this is what I wrote:

I have paid to see The Tragically Hip perform more than 40 times. It may be closer to 50; I have honestly lost count. Many of these shows were close by, but at least half involved a rock 'n' roll road trip.

Travelling to see The Hip is different than any other contemporary act. In Canada, you might be amidst 17,000 fans in Vancouver or 40,000 in a Barrie park. But, in the United States, where good things like gun control and The Tragically Hip have yet to take hold, you can press your chest against the stage in some bar and be literally at the feet of your favourite band.

My first road trip wasn't to a concert, it was to see Hip-related graffiti at the corner of King and Princess streets in Kingston. A friend and I drove from Georgetown, Ont., in the era when only the green signs on the 401 could guide us, and found ourselves in the alley where Davis Manning, The Hip's original sax player, had painted his famous mural of a weeping eye and a rising star over the words "the hip live between us." Legend has it that Davis chose a girl over the band and painted the mural to ease his pain and immortalize the life choice. I felt like I was driving on some sort of pilgrimage to see it. It wouldn't be the last.

Once, at 5 p.m. in Ottawa, I discovered that a scheduled shift at work had been cancelled. Knowing that The Hip were playing at 9, a mere four hours away, I figured this was a karmic sign from the gods. I could arrive just in time. I didn't have a ticket, not that I had time for that anyway. So, I just drove. An act of faith. I drove fast. As I paid to park at the CNE and walked toward the Molson Amphitheatre at around 9:10, a guy somehow angled his trajectory in the space-time continuum to intersect with mine. I bumped into him. "Sorry," I said. "I'm just looking for a scalper." He was cool with the karma. "I've got an extra," he said. "Face value."

At another show, 500 driven kilometres from home, I watched Gord Downie catch a cigarette thrown from the crowd in between his index and middle finger. He swept it up the way Patrick Roy used to snag pucks out of mid air. He brought the cigarette to his mouth and faked a drag just before he sang the next line in the song he was performing, "no one drags me anywhere "�" The gods were at it again.

My favourite Hip trip drove me to Chicago. As we waited for The Hip in the humidity of our cramped quarters, I started to sing O Canada. By the time I reached "true patriot love," the whole place, full of others on the pilgrimage south, was singing every word with me. We clapped, too, eventually stomped and literally shook the speakeasy on North Dearborn Street with the Canadian national anthem. It was another magic moment as our boys took the stage.

I'm often asked: "Why did you see them so often?" Largely, because Gord Downie put on a show like no other frontman in music, period. No two Hip shows were ever the same. What will Gord say? What will he do? How will the band react?

The Tragically Hip were a band worth experiencing because each show was a unique experience. Saturday will be no different. I can't wait for one last pilgrimage.


Stephen Dame is the creator and curator of He created the website 11 years ago, after his book proposal about the band was rejected, and it catalogues all of the references to Canada and elsewhere (345 and counting) in the music of The Tragically Hip.