Sunday, September 27, 2009

What the Poets are Doing

Almost two months ago now (time really flies when you're not having fun) I had the honour and the privelege to see one of my favourite bands -the Tragically Hip- live in concert. For those of you not in the know the Tragically Hip consists of Gordon Downie, Paul Langlois, Rob Baker, Gord Sinclair, and Johhny Fay. I don't know what it is, but ever since I started listening to them something just touched me on a musical level. And not the bad kind of touching like your priest when you were twelve behind the pulpit. The good kind like from a naked Kristen Bell. They can rock hard with the best of them, but for me they are at their best when they are slow and grooving. I could seriously listen to their shit all day long every day and never get tired of it, as my wife will attest to after popping one of my Tragically Hip mix CD's (All music aquired legally of course.) out of the car CD player for like the 90th day in a row. Plus they are a Canadian band which kind of helped sway me over being that I am in fact Canadian, and damn proud of it. If you listen to the lyrics there are tons of Canadian references in their songs, but its not overt like they've got something to prove. I also thoroughly enjoy the lyrics of their songs which are at times so bizarre and esoteric that I cannot help but be mesmerized in between trying to figure out what they mean, trying to apply my own meaning, wondering if they have any meaning at all, and just grooving out, bobbing my head to the beat. Tragically Hip lyrics are for me -at times- like musical marijuana.

But I digress. I haven't been to a lot of concerts, which I'm really starting to regret now and hope to remedy in the future. The few concerts I have been to I always have mixed emotions. When the concert started and the Hip came out on stage it happened again. I was filled with two overwhelming emotions: wonder and disillusionment all at the same time. I mean here are these beings, these musicians, these performers who had previously existed only in modern-day mythology and existed somewhere far away making albums that I bought at my local Wal-Mart and they are actually standing right in front of me. And part of me is in awe because these are the geniuses behind a large part of the soundtrack of my life, who create these amazing works of art, and the other part of me is thinking how small they actually seem. You expect giants, and these musicians seem so small in comparison. You expect gods, but you get men. I'm sure most people go to a concert and just sit back and enjoy the music and don't have some sort of existential, philosophical crisis, but I'm not most people. I know this might sound negative, but I was totally pumped about the show and they did not disappoint, and it was reassuring in some strange way to realize that they were just flesh and blood like me, like if these men were capable of these amazing things then perhaps I too -a mere mortal- might also be capable of great and terrible deeds.

The concert got off to a great start with "New Orleans is Sinking" and took off from there. There was some newer stuff I wasn't familiar with off their latest album (hey, I'm a fan, but I'm not made of money and I usually wait until something goes on sale before I buy it) but they gave a good mix of their newer and older stuff. The songs that really stood out in my mind were: "In View", "Ahead By a Century", "Blow at High Dough", "Wheat Kings", "Bobcaygeon", "Morning Moon", "Courage", "Poets", "Scared", "The Depression Suite" and "Music at Work". The crowd really seemed to go crazy for "Blow at High Dough" and "Bobcaygeon" and I can't say that I blame them. The Hip are great performers and put on an amazing show. I mean there were no crazy pyrotechnics or anything, just the sheer energy that they pumped out into the crowd was amazing, almost tangible. The lead singer Gordon Downie really put the "front" in front man. His energy level was amazing and he was busting out the dance moves. He also pantomimed a robbery at the hands of his microphone stand and used his mic stand to paddle an invisible canoe across the stage. He also had this strange obsession with handkerchiefs which he would use to wipe or cover his face then throw out into the crowd and would promptly be thrown a new one from offstage: a seemingly limitless supply.

It began raining early on in the concert, but for some reason where my friend and I were in the crowd we barely felt it. The wind was also blowing very hard and the rain was clearly being driven into the covered stage soaking the intrepid performers who seemed not to notice at all. But it was all part of the "long and difficult initiation" we endured to become their audience. At one point Downie issued an ultimatum to the crowd; it was "a point of no return" he told us. If we didn't leave at that point -about halfway through the show- then we'd have to stay until the very end. I gratefully accepted the challenge.

I know it sounds ridiculous but it was a truly spiritual experience for me. It was one of those times where time and space seemed to merge and nothing else mattered. I felt truly at peace and the music moved me. It was baptism in rain and weed smoke (which I'm pretty sure I smelled and which is pretty likely to have been at a concert especially in Canada). All in all it was an amazing experience, one I hope not to forget too soon. If you haven't seen the Tragically Hip in concert then I strongly suggest you do so ASAP.

(Also as a side note this concert was the first time I encountered hard security and I got my first pat down. Yeah I know, I don't get out much, but you can all suck my balls. Anyway, after the pat down I went over to get my wristband and I felt the urge rising up inside me. I had to comment. So I said something along the lines of "Was it wrong if that felt good?" The wristband guy just kind of gave me this look and quickly put my wristband on and sent me on my way. My friend (who we'll call Bonegod because that's one of his aliases) could only shake his head in amusement and embarrassment. I guess its a good thing I didn't ask for a happy ending. Anyway the concert was happy ending enough.)