A few weeks ago I received a somewhat cryptic email telling me to keep December 14th open. Knowing the source of the email, I did. I also knew that the 2005 Holiday Jam was that evening, but I had decided to pass on attending. I went last year and had a great time, but this year I couldn’t convince anyone to shell out the $40 for it. As the date grew closer, I got more info about why I was keeping the night open; it had been arranged for Lance (hipbase.com founder), Steve (hipmuseum.com founder/curator) and me to take in the soundcheck and chat with The Hip prior to enjoying the concert that evening. (When the event was originally announced the line-up was Sam Roberts, Sarah Harmer, Matt Mays, Kathleen Edwards and Danny Michel. The Hip were added after it was sold out. Had I known The Hip were going to be a part of it from the get-go, I would’ve had no problem convincing people to go.)
We arrived at The Phoenix at 4pm and met MAv, The Hip’s new webmaster and all-around cool guy. He led us into the main room, and suggested we just hang out near the back bar for a few minutes. Moments later, Patrick Sambrook from EggPlant came over and told us about what a great event they had planned for us this evening. As soon as Patrick left, Gord Sinclair and Paul Langlois appeared and chatted with us for 15 minutes before heading to the stage for soundcheck. (I’ll summarize the conversations below.) Shortly thereafter Gord Downie came over and talked with us for 20 minutes or so.
Now I’m pretty sure that the guys had an understanding of who we are before we met them; Especially Gord D. His comments surrounding the internet, MAv, and what we do were very on point. And he even noticed my camera gear in the back corner of the bar, and commented about it. In the middle of a sentence…
GD: “Is that your gear; your ‘rig’?”
GD: “Hmmm… great. Keep doing what you’re doing; it’s great. Hmmmm….” followed with the grin that Steve, Lance & I saw many times that night.
Always pensive, and looking a little tired from his earlier activities (a 2-hour charity hockey game and a performance at Sick Kids hospital), our conversation with Gord Downie was filled with pauses, which he often filled with a hmmmm or an ummmm; he seemed to really think about what he was going to say, or what he was saying, or what we were saying; a lot. I got the feeling he was really interested in what we had to say, and was really appreciative of what we do.
Gord S and Paul were also acutely aware of what each of us â€œspecializedâ€ in. Whether this was just the prep work of management or MAv, or an indication of how the guys really are (Iâ€™m sure itâ€™s the latter), they still did a great job of making us feel welcome and appreciated.
Leading up to the event, I asked Hipbaserâ€™s to suggest questions; here they areâ€¦ with answers from the band.
Q. Why did they choose Bob Rock?
A. A number of factors brought them together. The band was hesitant so they held a “tryout” for him (Gord S, said it was probably a tryout for them as well). Things clicked, so they extended the session, and that’s that. The sessions are a lot of fun, and things are sounding great. (They seemed excited when talking about the experience.)
Q. Do they have any firm tour plans? ARA, clubs, theatres, etc
A. No firm tour plans, but there will be something next year.
Q. Any plans to head to Europe again?
A. Yes, maybe, not sureâ€¦ probably not until 2007… but nothing confirmed; just ideas being bandied about.
Q. Will there be a NYE show this year?
Q. Is the new album shaping up to be an album about love, as Gord D mentioned last year?
A. An album about love – I asked this question to Gord S and Paul first – Gord answered, “No, not specifically. Perhaps. We’ll have to wait and see how it turns out.”
And later I asked Gord D:
“Well… um…. hmmmm…. yeah. Ummm…. I dunno. I guess with the luck I’ve been having for the last 5 years…. maybe.” And then a squint of the eyes, and a pursing of the lips.
I almost forgot; I also asked Gord D if there was another solo album on the horizon. His response was, “Well I kind of thought that I was doing that, but I shared the songs with the guys and here we are. They kind of became Hip songs.”
Aside from the aforementioned performers, Dave Hodge, Doug Gilmour, Brent Bambury (CBC Radio), and Paul Coffey all made appearances on stage.
As Sarah Harmer and her band were clearing the stage, the Hip, Hip, Hip chants began, and the tension in the room grew. The open spaces in the aisles were quickly filled with fans, and all eyes were focused on the stage. Doug Gilmour stepped on stage to thunderous applause. As only Killer can, he sheepishly introduced his, (and mine) hometown heroes, The Tragically Hip. At this point, everyone in the room was on their feet. (Until this point, this was a sit down affair!) The Hip took the stage and Gord D took to the mic and recited the intro lines of The Man Comes Around. The band kicked in and a shocked crowd looked on, unsure of what they were hearing from their beloved band. After the initial shock and awe wore off, (and the opening riffs of Bobcaygeon were played) the crowd and the band fell into sync. A blistering set, despite the â€œacousticâ€ theme of the evening. Paul played the entire evening seated and Gord S rocked it with an acoustic bass. Rob stuck to the acoustics, but broke the mold with killer results during Going Going Gone, as he laid down some very Floydâ€™ish solos.
Hereâ€™s the setlist:
The Man Comes Around (Johnny Cash)
The New Maybe
Going Going Gone (Bob Dylan)
Ahead By A Century
Powderfinger (Neil Young – with all of the evenings performers on stage and singing verses)
During Flamenco, while Gord was plying the crowd with his typical pantomime behavior, a fan threw a cigarette towards him. Or more specifically at the space two feet to Gordâ€™s left. Like Patrick Roy in his prime, Gordâ€™s left hand snagged the flying smoke, and with the coolness that only Gord has, he worked it into his routine â€“ faking a long haul off it, before exhaling as if it were the best thing heâ€™d ever experienced.
The entire event, from the minute we arrived until they turned on the houselights and said it was closing time was fantastic.
Special thanks to The Hip, EggPlant and MAv!