Saturday, June 04, 2016

USA & Canada 2016 - On the trail of the Tragically Hip

As we drove north through New York State, Cathy asked what I was going to say if I was asked why we were visiting Canada. "Pilgrimage!" was my reply.

We'd specifically chosen a route that would take us to Kingston, Ontario because it is the home town of The Tragically Hip. I got into The Hip back in the 90s and have seen them four times, including Manchester and Glasgow on consecutive nights in 2009 and in London twice in 2013. In Glasgow I got to sing down the microphone when the lead singer Gord Downie left the stage and came into the crowd. It is quite possibly the greatest night of my life.

So this was an opportunity not to be missed.

Our trail begins the other side of the border driving north, when we saw a sign for the Last American Exit. This is the subject of a song on their 8 song proto-album released in 1987.

We took a wrong turn coming into Kingston, but that meant we were able to pull up and get photos on the street named after them!

The big local venue is the Rogers K-Rock Centre. It's address is 1 The Tragically Hip Way.

I wanted to have a look in local record shops to see if I could pick up some early singles that I haven't got in my collection. There are a couple of record shops in Kingston. The one of note is Brian's Record Option.

This is what a record shop looks like inside.

Amazingly, Brian knows where everything is and could find stuff quite easily. I bought two solo albums by Paul Langlois, the Hip's guitarist.

When we left Kingston, we drove along the shore of Lake Ontario to Bath. It's a tiny place where The Hip have their recording studio.

Bath proudly declares itself a 'Loyalist Township'. That means it was founded by displaced people who fled the American states after the American Revolution.

There isn't much to see in Bath and we were soon on our way to Toronto. Our hotel there was near the Canadian Walk of Fame. We went for a walk along the Walk of Fame and found the star dedicated to The Tragically Hip.

That's not the end of the story. Sadly a couple of days after we got home I came home from work and Cathy told me we had received a sad email. Gordon Downie has revealed that he has a terminal brain tumour. The gigs the band have planned to promote their soon-to-be-released album will be their last.

I've been rocked by this news. It makes me feel so glad I did my pilgrimage when I did, before I knew that.

(Here's a great article from the BBC about why The Tragically Hip are the most Canadian band in the world.)

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