Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ode to My Favourite Band

This blog entry is for Jon S. Bangs: Baddest Writer Alive's Almost Famous Writing Contest for Artistic Appreciation and Integrity. You got all that? Read up on it, vote for me, etc.

"Why?" says you. I was compelled to enter this contest because I had just finished re-watching one of my favorite movies ever, Almost Famous, when Jon changed his blog format to reflect his upcoming writing contest.

When I saw Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in his blog header, I was stunned by the coincidence. When he unveiled his writing contest, using the movie name, I took it as a sign. When I saw the categories, I knew what I had to do.

That movie is about music. And love, I suppose. But music. It's about loving some "little piece of music so much, it hurts." That movie gets me.

Thus, I entered the "Ode to my favorite band" category.

Since my favorite band is Canadian, I shall henceforth spell like a Canadian (You'll barely notice). Nice.

Ode to My Favourite Band


"A face so full of meaning as to almost make it glow/ For a good life we just might have to weaken and find somewhere to go"

"What is this? Who is this?" were the questions I asked my ex-husband about six years ago the first time I heard The Tragically Hip. The song on the radio was It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken. Still one of my favourites, I clearly remember the immediate and powerful impact it had on me. Sure, it's a great song, but who were these guys? They possessed a genuine and distinct sound in a time where everything on the radio was boring pop sameness.

"It's The Tragically Hip. They're Canadian," my ex informed me.

Hey, don't say he never gave me anything.


"...transport me unceremoniously away from the swollen city breeze, garbage bag trees, whispers of disease, and acts of enormity..."

So it began.

I became addicted to a Canadian radio station where I gradually began to be immersed in snippets of Hip culture. For the first few years, I didn't really know any of their songs by heart nor was I remotely occupied by obsession to the degree I am now. This matters not. What matters is that when I heard Gordon Downie's voice on the radio, I knew who it was. The Hip cannot be replicated. Their sound is one thousand percent unique.

Argue with me on this point if you dare. My advice: don't even try.


"Armed with will and determination- and grace, too."

It came to be that hearing tiny hints of the Hip was not sufficient. A couple of years ago, I started seeking out their CDs. Sadly, despite living a swim away from Canada (though I should note that I would likely drown attempting said swim), procuring Canadian music was no easy feat. Even if the biggest band in Canada has a solid following in the US, there's no guarantee that one might actually be able to enjoy said rock band at will.

I felt like I was in on a little secret. Here was a band that was ridiculously talented and only one in ten people in the States have ever even heard of them. Those people are enough to sell out venues almost as soon as an announcement is made, but not so many that it feels mainstream. The people I find that know and love the Hip are my people.

I could have simply driven over to Canada and purchased a CD. But then I would be looking at higher prices and four dollars (make sure you enunciate a long "O" in "dollars" in keeping with my Canadian grammar). I could buy it on eBay (paying shipping). Ultimately, I chose to download a few songs.

I started getting fierce. When I like a band, really like them, I want CDs with good old-fashioned inserts. I finally got my first Hip CD while visiting my best friend in Chicago a bit over a year ago. Virgin Megastore. Expensive. Worth every penny.

That double-disc set has only seen the outside of my car once- to rip the tracks to my computer.


"That night in Toronto..."

Last summer, I decided it was high time I saw the Hip live. I began to investigate and was not surprised to discover that the majority of their past touring, with the exception of some music festivals, took place in Canada.

Therefore, I was pretty darned excited to see that my new favourite Canadians would be playing a music festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Totally doable. Wisconsin is just across Lake Michigan, which is just across the state. As it happened, I allowed rationality to take over and chose not to drive eight hours to see them play. I knew there would be another chance.

I joined the fan club. That's right. A thirty year old Tragically Hip fan club member. That's how I knew they had a new CD out this year (no more screwing around, I got it on eBay) and were kicking off a Canadian tour simutaneously.

Like any good fan club member, I got my online presale code and set forth to purchase my tickets before they went on sale to the general public. London, Ontario is only forty-five minutes away, so I tried to get my tickets at that venue. However, that venue was not cooperating with my presale code and "it" kept insisting that the tickets were not on sale yet.

Heed this, brothers and sisters, Ticketmaster is a liar.

I was not to be deterred. There were only a limited number of tickets available! I kicked over to the Toronto venue. Within minutes, I was on my way. (It would actually be a couple of months.)

A long couple of months.

Again, well worth the wait. Seeing the rock gods that are The Tragically Hip in concert was among the most amazing nights of my life. I am a rock concert whore in general, but this band was a presence to behold. Gordon Downie is a maniac onstage (see video from Woodstock '99 below and you'll get a taste). This band doesn't just play their music, they feel their music. The Canadian Hip fans are like their very own Canadian subculture into which we were welcomed with open arms for driving three hours from Michigan to see their band. I get tingles just thinking about it. It was everything I could have hoped it to be.


"Two-fifty for a highball and a buck and a half for a beer/ happy hour, happy hour, happy hour is here."

Then came the self-loathing. Tragically ripped.

Shortly before my Toronto trip, the Hip announced a U.S. tour. I wasn't too disappointed, Toronto is a beautiful city and a much better alternative than the aesthetic disaster that is Detroit. However, upon returning from Toronto, having loved my big stadium experience with the Hip to the degree that I did, I reflected on how perfectly exquisite it would be to see my boys in a small venue such as what was being offered in Detroit. The show was sold out. eBay to the rescue.

My sister accompanied me to the Detroit show as she had to the Toronto show. She's grown to love them as much as I do. Turns out that she's grown to love me as well or she wouldn't have taken such good care of me when I proceeded to get completely wasted before the show had even started. I only drink excessively every few years; thus, I get to a drunken state quite quickly.

There I was. The Tragically Hip. Small venue. Still surrounded primarily by uberpolite Canadians. Over-priced eBay tickets. Wasted.

It is one of my big regrets. The show is a blur. I will have a make-up someday.


"You didn't say 'yes' or 'no' neither. You whispered 'hurry'"

Many Hip songs tell a story. Narrations disguised in delicious verse. Words that aren't used, sadly, in everyday speech. Cryptic syntax. Expressions of every thought known to man. Giant compositions that feel like significant pieces of architecture. Seamless blendings of lovely, barbed language. Those of you who read me regularly know exactly how I feel right now.

Together for almost 25 years, over 125 songs released.

Whatever is happening in your life right now, I promise you, there's a Hip song for that. Whatever problem your best friend last shared with you, there's a Hip song for that. Whatever emotion you were feeling when you tried to fall asleep last night, there's a Hip song for that.

I can prove it if you want. Try me.


"On a star beyond the chart/or the dark side of a drop of rain/determining where you are/in a sink full of Ganges, I remain/no matter what you heard/my music at work."

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