Thursday, February 28, 2008

Defending the Music XIX: Disappointing you is getting me down.

Down to the last three.

This one is practically a given for a Canadian my age... though simply saying that is likely enough to elicit a tidal wave of denial. Certainly there is a significant segement of the population who is in denial about thier love of The Hip. Okay, that's not fair. What there is is a segment of the population who are either deliberately contrary, or whose taste is significantly out of whack with the popular taste of their countrymen. More power to them.

I've already done quite a discussion of my discovery of the Hip and how it affected my life, so this will be kinda short.

What is it about the Hip that makes them so enduring? Well, I do generally like their music - have since the very first listen. But it's the live experience that elevates them to a level of musical divinity. I've seen them five times in concert. Four of them rank amongst the best concerts I've ever seen. I don't know that it's something that traslates any way except in person.

Foremost in the live Hip experience is Gord Downie's stream of conscious rambling. I could recite word for word long strings of verbal effluvia that have excaped his mouth at concerts I've been to. The most famous example is the so called 'Killer Whale' monologue. Too bad it wasn't caught on video as well.

There is probably something perverse that bolsters the love of the Hip in that they are 'ours', by which I mean I'm kind of proud they never really broke in the U.S. They're more special as our secret. I've kind of made similar comments in other installments - how there is something less special in a way about the bands that have gone big. This one just happens to be additionally tied up in national pride. There is no doubt that the Tragically Hip's music is inextricably entwined with the Canadian experience. Gord Downie's poetic reference set is unapologetic in it's Canuck affiliation. We love him for it. Some day he ought to be our official poet laureate, not just the populist one.

The last line of Ahead by a Century stands as the single most affect lyric ever for me. I had experienced that feelsing, but never had the words by which to express it. The first time I heard the song, that last line cut me to my soul. I know I'm not the only one. It's that universal, and if there is no other example of genius in Gord Downie, he will always have 'Disappointing you is getting me down.'

On top of it all, I've got an amusing tale about flirting inadvertently with Paul Langois' wife at the Kingston Busker's festival. For the record, it was clear that she thought it was quaint - when I realised who she was with, it became apparent why... not to mention I was practically a kid.

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