One Nation Under Gord
Photos by Andre Gagne.
“Thanks for listening in the back.
Thanks for listening, period.
Have a nice life.”
There are moments in time that unify a people, memories that become the history we look back on remembering where we were, what we were doing, who we were with. "Sorry, we're closed", could have read a sign placed on Canada Saturday, August 20, as one rock band from Kingston Ontario and the courage of their lead singer froze a Nation in song.
From coast to coast, Tofino to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, they filled homes, parks, bars and parking lots. They sat listening in their cars, stopped on the side of the road. They watched on their phones in airport terminals, on city buses after a long work day. They gathered on George Street in St. John's, 5,000 strong filled Halifax's Grand Parade, they were there in Charlottetown, attended all day celebrations in Fredericton and in Fundy National Park, sang together in the streets of Montreal, cried together in Toronto. It was as though the entire town came out in Bobcaygeon! They were there in the Old Market Square in Winnipeg, at the Roxy in Saskatoon and on Stephen Avenue in Calgary. They joined in chorus, the soundtrack of their lives, in Vancouver. Further up North they filled the Fieldhouse in Yellowknife and the Yukon's Marsh Lake Community Centre. Dawson Creek, Fort Nelson, Watson Lake, Edmonton, Sarnia, Summerside, Miramichi, they were there.
As fellow musician and friend of the band, Kris Abbott, said earlier this week, it was the "sound of a nation roaring in synchronicity. A massive positive energy force" directed in one direction: Kingston where hometown heroes The Tragically Hip played our country's songs for the final time.
Broadcast on CBC, it was an epic, near three-hour showcase of the band's 30 year career that entered into "uncharted waters" with a third encore. Fans inside the Rogers K-Rock Centre didn't need the seats they were given. They were standing in appreciation before the band even touched the stage. One of them was our leader, Prime Minister Trudeau, dressed in a Hip t-shirt sharing the emotion of his country.
"He's going to take us where we need to go," Gord Downie, battling through the illness inside of him for this one last concert, said pausing the show to acknowledge Trudeau before turning his gaze unto the crowd.
"Thank you…thank you for keeping me pushing," he said not just to those gathered inside the arena or those filling Springer Market Square outside of it, but, you have to believe, to the millions watching across the country.
Here in Ottawa gatherings were held in The Record Centre, D'Arcy McGee's, the Dovercourt sports field with perhaps the biggest crowd forming in Parkdale Park for an event hosted by city Councillor Jeff Leiper.
"The band is important to my family," says Leiper. "It's rock and roll and Canadian infused. For me it's the connection with the past, a connection with the country in these songs. The band has been the soundtrack no matter where I've been in my life."
But, as the final notes to "Ahead By a Century" were played fans were left to wonder is it really the end? Guitarist Rob Baker gave us a glimmer of hope to hold onto via Twitter when replying to a fan's post hoping that this wasn't curtains just yet.
"We never said anything about it," was Baker's reply.
So many of us have Hip memories. For me it was listening to "Wheat Kings" shortly after my daughter was born or that time in the pouring rain where, drenched to the bone, I sang Fully Completely in it's entity as the band performed it in full to an ecstatic, wet Bluesfest crowd.
Fans young and old, from all walks of life, took to the television, radio, papers and social media during the day. Here's just a few comments from this one Nation under Gord:
“There’s so much to celebrate tonight. There’s mixed feelings, for sure for me. I don’t know
if we’re saying goodbye to Gord, whether we’re celebrating him, whether we are
honouring him, whether we are celebrating Canada. All those things I think are
folding in together. This is a moment that is going to be
extremely powerful for all Canadians.”
-Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau
Watching The Hip out in Newfoundland which makes the concert much later for me. But still worth it.
— Maureen Kilpatrick (@mraetsen) August 21, 2016
“One nation under a spell. Thank you, and goodnight, you glorious King.”
"Huge crowd in Halifax Grand Parade for The Tragically Hip –
A National Celebration. What a concert! ?#?CBCTheHip?"
-CBC Nova Scotia (via Facebook)
"They are the soundtrack to my adulthood. I still have really vivid memories of getting together with my university buddies talking about the lyrics to Tragically Hip songs."
-Jeff Leiper (Kitchissippi Ward, Councillor)
46% of Canadians have learned more Canadian history
from Tragically Hip songs than from school.
— CBC Music (@CBCMusic) August 20, 2016
"Their music means freedom and being yourself no matter what the situation.
I had a summer that was very difficult to get through and
I'd just put Nautical Disaster on repeat."
-Victoria Hodgins (Ottawa, Ontario)
— The Weather Network (@weathernetwork) August 21, 2016
"Thank you guys for all the music over the years. Especially thank you
from a guy from South Carolina who met you guys on a great night in
Columbia, SC on the Trouble at the Henhouse tour. Lost my girlfriend
at that show and kept the music; Very glad I did. Thank you!
-Ken Avin (via Facebook)
"Aug 20, 2016 There is so much to process about The Tragically Hip that
I need to sort out on what level and where to start first. The rest I will do
quietly on my own and probably on the inside. I am a proud Canadian and the gift
that The Hip gave to us has healed the many wounds of recent.
Together we can "fix" this as Gord says."
-Kris Abbott (Kingston based musician)
— Murray's Law (@MURRS_85) August 21, 2016
"Heartfelt thanks for sharing your farewell concert
with the country and the world. Nothing more
authentically Canadian than a summer dock
party in cottage country with the Tragically Hip
being projected over the lake."
-Kelly Harbridge (via Facebook)
— jimmy fallon (@jimmyfallon) August 21, 2016
"Yep! It's all over now and I'm cryin' like a wuss! Thanx to the Hip for one of the greatest,
if not THE greatest musical ride in Canadian music history! And farewell Gordie Boy!
It 's been a blast to scream your lyrics from the top of my lungs
for so many years! We'll miss you!"
-Tommy Fortin (via Facebook)
— Lyn Whitham (@Lynwhit) August 21, 2016
Last night an entire nation wept for a poet at a concert attended by a PM with a lit degree. Poetry changes the world. #thehip
— Sasha Danielle (@Sasha_Danielle_) August 21, 2016
“There’s something going on up north of the border tonight, and it
involves somebody that we can say is a family member There’s a guy who’s got a
band called Tragically Hip. He was very courageous and decided to take his group
out on one last tour and tonight’s the last night of the that run…. so they’re up there
going through the emotions up there…and I just want to send them our
energy from our gathering up to there gathering up there…
and wish the best to Mr. Gord Downie…We love ya.”
-Eddie Vedder addressing Pearl Jam crowd last night
"The sound of The Tragically Hip will always ring out across Canada.
It will not stop. It's in our hearts, our spirits and it's part of who we
are as a nation. Thanks Gord. Thanks Hip."
-Marney Yupitsme (via Facebook)
"At the end of the day I have my own life to live replete with all of my own hardships
and rewards. The Hip are one of many band’s to contribute to that soundtrack.
Sometimes they are first and foremost, other times just background noise. But like
a good, real good, friend, they are always there whenever I need to come back to them."
-Mike Morrison (Ottawa)
"Finally, composure has been found. It was a beautiful, bittersweet night.
Thank you to CBC, thank you to The Tragically Hip, and thank you to Gord Downie
especially, for sharing this moment with all of us. You didn't have to but you did,
and I am forever grateful to you…Thank you for your music. It has done wonders
for me since I was 8 years old. It will continue to be a part of my playlist forever.
For this, I will indeed "Have a nice life"."
-Derek Pacheco (via Facebook)
"I watched from Cusco, Peru, but I never felt more at home. Gord and the
rest of the band, gave Canadians a wonderful gift last night. It'll be a night
that's spoken about from coast to coast, continent to continent for decades to come."
-Jason Martin (from CBC.ca)