When I learned that Mr. Gord Downie had terminal brain cancer, I was heartbroken for all the obvious reasons, not the least of which was that a man with a family and friends was sick. And they would have to endure some very hard times.
When I learned that the Tragically Hip were going to do one last tour (because that’s what they loved doing), I was impressed. And cheered. That’s the way to treat terminal brain cancer: two fingers up (or one, I suppose as this is in Canada). You go for broke. That he was willing to spend some of his time with the people who love his music was generous, gracious, and kind.
And then the whole ticketing thing happened and I’m ashamed to say it but some of us were acting like spoiled brats. There were calls for the Hip to play more venues, bigger venues, that this was a conspiracy from the big corporations. We lost sight of the gift we’ve been given: it’s not one we can all receive but that doesn’t matter, because it’s the thought that counts, right?
Look, the Hip were never one of my most favourite bands as a teenager. But since I’ve moved away, I find myself listening to them more and more. They remind me of home. It’s rare you get to hear someone with a Canadian accent and sometimes there’s nothing better than hearing what home sounds like. I’ve a Glaswegian colleague here and she’s just gone up north for the weekend and the thing she’s most excited about, aside from the fried foods and the haggis, is hearing her own accent. Now, my accent is pretty hodgepodge these days, but I know what Canadian sounds like when I hear it. Sure, there are other Canadian bands and singers, but they don’t sound as Canadian as Mr. Downie does.
And there’s the other thing that Mr. Downie does that I love, especially when I’m feeling a bit homesick: he writes – beautifully – about Canada, and things that happen in Canada. If you’re not Canadian and you’re reading this, it might sound a bit… odd. But we don’t talk about what happens at home quite so much, artistically at least. I’m sure there are instances other than the Hip but there’s something about their music – and for me, mostly their lyrics that are really quite interesting. They write about the things that happen in Canada as though that’s perfectly natural and reasonable. Like an American band would, or a British band, about their countries. They don’t seem to suffer from some weird inferiority complex.
And I think they’re right up there with the great Canadian writers: Atwood, Munro, Mowatt.
Anyhow, The Mom’s right. We didn’t get tickets, which is a shame for many reasons but also a shame because it would’ve been cool to go and see a show together again. Crazy D, L’il Sis and I used to do that from time to time in our teenage years.
So instead of go to a concert – and Crazy D is right, we’d have been grumpy about it – we’re too old, too tired and frankly I’m too deaf to be doing such things. My suggestion was to take it old school: get a keg, a backyard, and put some Tragically Hip music on. Send the money we’d have spend on tickets and parking to support the fund at Sunnybrook that Mr. Downie supports.
We’ll see if it actually pans out. The Mom’s right, most of us have kids or jobs or dogs or all of that. But I’d like to think that this is more than just a party. It’s a bit of a living wake, and it’s a bit of belated Canada Day-ness, and it’s a bit of remembering what’s great about where you come from.
I’m sure the live shows will be great – but there’s something about a backyard party that Ticketmaster or whomever will never, ever be able to capture.