I am writing this post for my non-Canadian friends and family – for a Canadian, it will be wholly redundant. The essence of the post is this: tomorrow night, with Boyd and Joanne and a couple of other friends, Rob and I will be watching, live on CBC television, the Tragically Hip’s final concert, in Kingston Ontario, where they originally started.
There, that’s it. Except that, that isn’t it, unless you also know that the Tragically Hip – world famous in Canada, but, to the non-Canadians I know probably largely unknown, is a band so famously, quirkily, quintessentially Canadian, so much of a national institution, so much part of the Canadian bloodstream, its skies and waterways – okay, okay, I’m getting carried away here. Anyway, what you need to know is that The Tragically Hip is a big deal, here in Canada, so their final concert would have been, under any circumstances, a matter of some moment, a cause for national mourning. I mean heck, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be attending.
But here’s the thing: this isn’t just ‘any’ last concert. Like The Hip themselves, it’s the real real thing, because the front man, Gord Downie, is dying of brain cancer. So this farewell tour, which has been going on for several weeks now and culminates in Kingston, is final in the sense of finished, over. Barring a miracle, there will be no more concerts after this one, and soon, no Gord Downie, either.
“It’s n0t everyone who gets to sing at their own wake,” someone wrote in the Globe and Mail yesterday.
So Boyd, and Jo, and Rob and I, and a couple of others, will be saying our farewells too, tomorrow evening, from 8.30. Beer and wine will be drunk, glasses will be raised, and no doubt those who know the words will chime in lustily. As for me, I will learn just a little bit more about being a Canadian.
Here’s a link to one of most instantly recognizable of the Hip’s many hits, ‘Bobcaygeon.’ I know, who else, and where else, would give a song such a name?