Why the Tragically Hip matters

Franco Nogarin's picture

I was inspired by two posts by some of my Facebook friends that amounted to "Tragically Hip? Big deal" so rather than feed the trolls in their own lair, I decided I want to share something real, something that matters to me, perhaps giving the senseless a clue as to why I am passionate about the hip : 

True Story, Once upon a time, I travelled long and far, to have my heart broken, you know, that kind of heart break that comes only a few times in life, or so it seems at the time. Afterwards, I was a broken man, I was lost and a mess.

I made my way back to Edmonton where I decided to drink my self stupid in my depressed state.

Where a couple of brothers (Noel & Randy) decided to intercede and "Fix Me Up".

They took me home, sobered me up, and then promptly got me re-drunk, and took me to see The Tragically Hip. 


The Hip was playing at the Coliseum that November night in 1996, Being Canadian, I had heard the Hip before and even loved a couple of their tunes, But I had never seen the spectacle that is Gord Downie, I had never seen him veer off band course and sling it from his hip like he did several times that night. Man was that a show like no other for me. The Reostatics opened for the Hip and did a great job, but to me they were forgotten the minute the Hip took the stage, They opened with Gift Shop, and rocked the shit out of it. Instantly my new favourite Hip Song. about 1/3 of the way through the show, Courage, and again, a new fav, that would come back 20 years later bind me in farewell to the hip & Gord. As the night progressed, More incredible songs, Little Bones, Encores of , 100th meridian, Blow at High Dough, and ending it off with Fully completely.

I left that show a changed man. Inspired, Awed, and forever altered. Immediately, the change took. Every Band I ever played with after that, had to cover at least one Hip Song, and they all have, some of my friends got dragged into liking the Hip this way and others already had a passion for them. 

in 2000 I drove a 1300km trip, right through a Moose cow and calf, on my way to see my second Hip Show in Edmonton, "My Music At Work". Not the near-death experience nor 100% totalled F150, stopped us from getting to the show and seeing the magic. They were awesome. 

The Next year, Gord Downie came up to Yellowknife for Folk on the Rock, and Inspired one of my Pals, Gord, who loves to share his brief brush with the man with nothing but great things to say. 

When the news about Gords cancer hit the interwebs, I was floored, something clicked and I kind of knew that I had to go see them one last time. It quickly became my cathartic Fandango (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fandango_(1985_film)). John and I resolved to "Make this happen", with credit cards and computers in hand, We sat down to do battle against the bots and the scalpers and secured 8 hip tickets for Edmonton. 20 years after going with Noel to see the Hip In Edmonton for the first time, we did it again, same band, same venue, for the last time. we all trekked the 1300 km to edmonton to get closure and something more, and did we ever.

Once again after seeing Gord & the Hip live, for the last time, I came away forever changed anew. When they played courage, The loss of my best friend Jim and My Mother to cancer, the sadness of Gords Plight, the selflessness (Which I saw in my Mom and in Jim and of course Gord) all came together and with a big stupid smile on my face tears began to roll down my face, I finally "Got" the song. I laughed at my self for crying at a concert, and when I looked around, I was comforted to see wet streaks on about half the faces around me.

That Fandango will never be forgotten, and I thought might never be changed in my mind. Until last night. 

I watched the Hip in Kingston live on CBC. I saw them only 30 days before, when Gord Took the stage in the now familiar tight knit group formation, It was like I was back in edmonton, until I heard him sing. My heart broke anew. He could not hit the notes, but sang through that shit. After 6 weeks of Chemo and Radiation and Brain Surgery, he started this tour, then played the shit out of himself till this very moment. For this moment. 


How much more can you give. After hammering his way through a few more songs he got his voice under control and started nailing it. Playing everyones favs, Then he Took a few minutes to make his soapbox count, with most of the nation watching showed his support for our prime minister, and then called on him to deal with the "Bad Problems Up North", or "Indigenous decolonization", Brilliantly done, and to do it like he did, pretty selfless too - using up his precious moments to do this for us all. They went on to play more and more and more until they found them selves playing a 3rd encore, as Gord admitted, it was new territory. Wow. Epic Wow.


On October 18, 2017 I was in a technical meeting for work in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. and during a technical presentation by the Govt of Ontario, I looked down at my laptop and a notification popped up saying "Tragically Hip Frontman Gord Downie dies at 53" . it was like I got punched in the forehead. There was a ringing in my ears. The room and its sounds faded from my hearing leaving only the ringing. The blur of tears overtook my vision, and for a few moments I forgot where I was. I did not want anyone to see me lose it. After about 5 minutes of battling and suppressing emotions that needed release, I was able to dry my eyes and pretend to be engaged in the meeting. I was destroyed, and stayed that way until I got back home to Fort Smith, NT, On Friday I watched the release of "Long Time Running" with my wife, some of my band and some of my closest friends. I finally got the catharsis I longed for.

Never before have I been so deeply affected by someone I have never met. Gord will forever be a shining example of what I want to be, he is my hero, The Hip will always be one of the hugest influences on me, and I will miss them like family member. If Gord and the Hip have taught me anything, they taught me how much I love my bandmates, our musical time together, and why my friday nights playing and singing in the zone and writing music keep me sane and alive.


Now, to my idiot friends who really had to ask, you now know why. To everyone else, most likely, you can relate to some/much of what I have written. If not, you have a new world to discover in the discography and culture of the tragically hip, Thanks for reading