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Hip, Hip Hooray!


The Hip live stream in Wellington event organizer Mags Kandis


Hundreds of people gathered at Wellington Park and filled every available spot at the Mustang Drive-In Saturday night to witness a live-stream performance by iconic Canadian band The Tragically Hip and its beloved frontman Gord Downie.

Likely to be remembered as a “where were you when…” moment in Canadian history, the event drew long-time fans of the alternative rock band from Kingston and also plenty of people who knew only their iconic Canadiana songs from constant radio play. Others just wanted to show support for the 52-year-old father of four who lived in the County, at Cressy, and the enormous power of music.

Even the Wellington event’s prime organizer Mags Kandis wouldn’t call herself a fan, but was inspired to bring community together for the live CBC broadcast of the band’s hometown show at Kingston.

Downie’s diagnosis of terminal brain cancer, announced in May, spawned unprecedented attention for the band’s four-week cross-country tour for the Man Machine Poem 14th studio album. Tickets for shows were sold out in minutes. Fans were at loss until the CBC announced it would shut down three hours of Olympics coverage for a commercial free broadcast of the concert, opening it up to a global audience.

Kandis was inspired to be the “head cat-wrangler” for Wellington’s event.

“If anything, this is an opportunity for Canadians to get together for a cause and we’re so good at that. I admit I’m not the biggest hip fan. Most people say, yeah… there’s a few Hip songs that resonate with us. They are part of our Canadian sound track and above all, I think we’re very good at pulling together for a cause.

“I basically sent the word out to some local people here like Bruce Cronk, Evan Nash and Brad Matthews, and through them everyone got on board. Honestly I haven’t done much other than just make sure everything just kept on going. The great citizens of Wellington, that’s who made it.”

Instant Rivalry's Caleb and Megan Hutton with Mark Despault, of The Frere Brothers.

Instant Rivalry’s Caleb and Megan Hutton with Mark Despault, of The Frere Brothers.

The County’s brother-sister band Instant Rivalry entertained at Wellington before the event with Mark Despault, of The Frere Brothers.

Caleb and Megan Hutton noted they are big fans and have spoken with Downie on a few occasions.

“When he was living here I spoke with him a few times and he gave me some tips and pointers about his experiences with his recording studio,” said Caleb. “I’m honoured to be here tonight. Something like this is going down in history. The Hip is my favourite classic band. I’ve been stuck on them since I was seven years old.

“It’s sad but Gord Downie has made such a positive statement with what’s going on with him right now, his band, his life and his kids. He is showing so much strength and courage out on that stage. It’s a celebration. It’s beautiful.”

Gord Downie on the big screen at Wellington.

Gord Downie on the big screen at Wellington.

During Saturday’s show, Downie took a few moments to reminise on the band’s roots in Kingston and thanked his audience inside and outside of the K-Rock auditorium.

“Thank you very much folks,” he said. “We really appreciate it. We started here, as you know, and opened up to 13 people. And at our next show, we had 28. And the next Kingston show after that, we had six,” he laughed also noting appreciation to the fact that more women now show up to shows, opening up audiences that once were often primarily guys.

He also offered personal thanks.

“Thank you for keeping me pushing and keeping me pushing,” he said, adding, before the encore, “Really glad about being here in Kingston, we could play the university and we could play for the bikers. Our idea was that everybody is invited, everybody is involved. We tried to write that way and tried to think that way.”

And everybody invited is a typical call to successful events in the County.

“This is an example of how Prince Edward County gets a fun idea and everyone comes to support it as enthusiastic participants,” said Evan Nash, making his way through the crowd with a donation bucket for the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research.

Downie’s decision to go public with his diagnosis has brought awareness and funds to finance breakthroughs in treatment of neurological disorders including cancer, dementia and stroke. Downie has “glioblastoma”, an aggressive form of brain cancer that affects an estimated four to six in every 100,000 Canadians, is difficult to treat, and has a grim prognosis.

The fundraising at shows and outside events is likened to the power of music in country singer Glen Campbell’s poignant “I’ll Be Me” farewell tour and documentary, in which a string of shows celebrated his career while raising awareness and funds for the Alzheimer Society and attracted fans and non-fans to the cause.

Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital, which is collecting donations for the Gord Downie Fund, said it wouldn’t tally how much has been raised until after the tour completed Saturday.

UPDATE: People donated  $200,000 to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research over the weekend alone. As of Monday morning, total funds were at $265,000 and still counting.

The hospital staff and supporters recorded a video singing the Hip’s popular song “Courage”, to say thanks and inspire donations, and to inspire others battling brain cancer to share their stories.

From the lyrics:
“There’s no simple explanation.
For anything important any of us do.
And yeah the human tragedy.
Consists of the necessity.
Of livin’ with the consequences.
Under pressure, Under pressure.

Courage, my word.
It didn’t come, it doesn’t matter
Courage, your word.
It didn’t come it doesn’t matter.
Courage, It couldn’t come at a worse time.”

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  1. Lynda king says:

    It was wonderful to be a part of this oh-so-special night.

  2. Theresa Durning says:

    Thank you Wellington. Thank you Mustang Drive-in. Thank you HIP!

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