The Tragically Hip
What's in the Case?
Microphone: On display is the microphone used by singer Gord Downie to sing the first song of the set ("The Luxury" from their Road Apples album) on the band's first night in Toronto as part of their final Man Machine Tour at the Scotiabank Arena (formerly Air Canada Centre) in 2016.
Microphone Stand: The microphone stand, which Gord Downie also used on tour, is an example of the intensity and physicality of the live show that the iconic band was well known for and loved for giving their dedicated fans.
Their regional hit (now considered a classic) "Small-town Bringdown" first brought the young band to Massey Hall to take part in the 1988 Q107 Toronto Music Awards. Here at Massey Hall, one of the first public performances of their now legendary hit single "New Orleans is Sinking" first premiered in advance of their sophomore album Up To Here.
The Tragically Hip and Massey Hall
It was onstage at Massey Hall that the Tragically Hip first drew international attention. Though they were only scheduled to play two songs at the 1988 Toronto Music Awards, MCA's Bruce Dickinson flew up from New York City on an invitation from the band's manager, Jake Gold, to see those six glorious minutes of the Hip. During the first song, Gord [Downie] drops the microphone, it splits apart and comes unplugged," Dickinson recalls.
"The band does not miss a note. I saw a group that was not going to be rattled. They were already pros. I turned to Jake and said, 'I want to sign your band.”
British journalist Chris Roberts of Melody Maker magazine, in town to see Mary Margaret O'Hara, pronounced them "the discovery of the night. The hype was justified: only four years later, the Globe and Mail's Elizabeth Renzetti witnessed one of their two sold-out nights at Massey Hall and had this to say: "Downie said little to the crowd, but he didn't have to - every eye in the house was trained on him. Every rock n’ roll band should have such a lead singer,” she added. "People who love the Tragically Hip cannot understand why anyone with their faculties intact would not."
The quintessential Canadian band played Massey Hall a total of nine times, and each was a seminal moment. The weight of the place was never lost on these Kingston rockers.
"Massey Hall is the pinnacle,” explains bassist Gord Sinclair. "It's where you aspire to play. There is just something so special about its aura and the feeling of playing on that stage. It's a place of communion. It’s a congregation between doctors, lawyers, blue-collar workers, and everyone in between. Everyone is there for the same reason: to share an experience. It was a venue circled on our calendar as the high watermark from the moment the Hip started out. I still get goosebumps just thinking about all of our performances there.
On Sunday, June 6, 2021, during the fiftieth JUNO Awards telecast, the public got its first glimpse of the inside of the revitalized hall. Perched in the upper gallery, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of Rush presented the Tragically Hip with the Humanitarian Award, an annual honour that recognizes an outstanding Canadian artist or music industry leader for their commitment to social, environmental, or humanitarian causes. Then Gordon Lightfoot introduced the band, who performed live on TV for the first time since frontman Gord Downie’s death in 2017. Leslie Feist joined Hip members Rob Baker, Gord Sinclair, Johnny Fay, and Paul Langlois and sang "It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken."
– Excerpt from Massey Hall by David McPherson, published by permission of Dundurn Press
Originating from Kingston, ON, The Tragically Hip have been part of the national arts fabric for more than three decades and evoke a strong emotional connection between their music and fanbase, which remains unrivaled in this country. The five-piece group of friends includes Rob Baker (guitar), the late Gord Downie (vocals, guitar), Johnny Fay (drums), Paul Langlois (guitar), and Gord Sinclair (bass).
With more than 10 million albums sold worldwide and 17 JUNO Awards to their credit, The Tragically Hip was inducted into The Canadian Music Hall of Fame, have a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame, recipients of the 2021 JUNOS Humanitarian Award, and honoured with the Order of Canada for their tireless involvement with the Indigenous rights movement.
More from The Tragically Hip
Read: That Night in Toronto in National Post (the story of discovering The Hip at Massey Hall)
Read Massey Hall by David McPherson
Watch: “It’s a Good Life if you Don’t Weaken” featuring Feist live from Massey Hall