When I was growing up I wasn’t a fan of The Tragically Hip. Honestly, I hated them.
But before you get mad, I said “wasn’t”. “Hated”.
All past tense.
I actually remember the day that all changed though, the day I finally understood why people were so in love with this band, these dudes from Kingston with the frontman who couldn’t really sing.
It was about two years ago, late summer, probably sometime in the beginning of September. It was one of those nights where the sun just sits in the low sky forever, just hanging there making everything that perfect shade of orange. I lived up in the north end of the city at the time and I was headed in to work, normally I’d take Deerfoot but that night I opted for 14th. There’s nothing like that view of the city when you come up over Nose Hill.
Driving along, there was next to no one on the road. It was just me. I had the windows down, sun roof back, and my arm out the window. It was that perfect temperature, too. You couldn’t seem to tell where you ended and everything else began.
“Bobcagyeon” came on the radio. That’s one of those songs that most people know without knowing. They’ve heard it enough times somewhere, that it’s just stuck in the back of their head, waiting. And for whatever reason I turned it up. Like I said at the beginning, I wasn’t a big Hip fan then but the song was good, and when the drive is as perfect as it was you’ve just got to listen to something turned way up loud.
So there I was, heading down 14th with The Hip blaring, I was singing along way too loudly, way off key and all of a sudden I got it.
It just clicked.
Maybe it was the fact that it was basically just me on the road, or maybe it was the sun off the buildings downtown, but all of a sudden I just understood why this band meant so much to so many people. To so many Canadians. They were singing about us. Canada. The best of us. The worst of us. Just us, raw and uncut, like no one ever had before. That may sound way too simple, and it very well may be, but there’s just something about how important Canada was to them that shone through in everything they did.
Finally got to work, and when I walked in to the studio there was Tim Morgan (remember him?), just cranking some Hip tunes off YouTube and I’ll never forget what he said.
He looked at me, shook his head and smiled, saying “Man, these guys are so f**king good.”
And for the first time in my life, I agreed with him.
They’ll never be my favourite band, but damn if they don’t just make you fall in love with this country all over again.