It’s been a long time running

It’s been a long time running

An evening with the Hip Replacements

By Shane Collins

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a live show. Two years almost to the day. When I heard that the Hip Replacements were coming to Kelowna, my partner and I simply HAD to get tickets. 

I sat down with their lead guitarist and drummer at Kelowna’s Curling rink, where they were to perform in front of a packed venue. Jimmy LeGuilloux joined me at the table. David Mihal sat tapping away on a drum pad, warming up for the show. With beers in front of us, I asked them, “How long have you guys been doing this?”

Jimmy took a sip of his beer. “The band has been together 18 years now.”

David stops his tapping. “Are you recording this?” 

“Yeah, I record the conversation so I can reference our talk later.” 

“It’s cool with a little tapping in the background?”

Jimmy quips, “Can you keep time?” 

“You’ve heard me play, Jimmy. It’s not gonna happen.” We all have a roaring laugh and I follow up with, “why do you cover the Hip? I mean, you could cover any band. Why the Hip?”

Jimmy LeGuilloux on guitar

Jimmy sits back and rubs a hand across his face. “The Tragically Hip are one of Canada’s most beloved bands. For us it’s a no brainer. We all love their music. We play it well and Paul is a superfan. He saw 4 or five of their shows during their final tour across Canada and saw their last performance and he saw it live.”

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I remember where I was during the Hip’s final show. It was broadcast all across Canada. I was in Doc’s, downtown Kelowna, with a few friends for a while then I found myself to be there on my own during the second half of the show. It was one of the most emotional events of my life.

David Mihal

I’ve always been a Hip fan but there was something so courageous about Gord Downie, coming back from major brain surgery and going on one last tour across Canada. All that music. All those memories belted out in one last farewell. I had a good drunk going, my arms were around people I had never met and the entire bar sang along and said goodbye. Seems like a long time ago. 

Paul Sexsmith

Coming to the Curling rink during this new reality, in the clutches of COVID-19, I didn’t know what to expect. Everyone was seated. Staff was hustling to keep pace with dinner service. Paul Sexsmith, the bands frontman stepped onto the stage wearing a feathered top hat, dazzling silver pants and matching jacket. He welcomed the crowd to the show. These guys covered a large swath of the Hips material in one performance.

My partner and I had a table a little ways back and got to meet a few Hip fans while Paul fired up songs like Cordelia, Blow at High Dough and Locked in the trunk of a car. I got to talk with fans like Sean and Brenda, a couple who had travelled from Penticton to see the show. They wore what I thought were matching bracelets.

They held them up for me when I inquired. “They’re guitar strings that were given to us from the Tragically Hip.” They both smiled, proudly. “We didn’t even know one another,” Sean tells me. “She got her guitar string one night and years later, I got mine. It was something we both laughed about when we first met, at a Hip show.” 

Sean and Brenda wearing guitar-string brackets

People who had come wore Tragically Hip memorabilia throughout the crowd. Shirts. Sweaters. Jackets. Hats. Guitar string bracelets. I wore the hat that Gord Downie took off my head at one show. There is something so nostalgic about the music, if you’re a fan, you can’t help but wear your memorabilia. 

Even Kelowna’s Mayor, Colin Basran, got up on stage, was handed his own mic and sang, ‘Boots or hearts’ and you know what? He did a great job of it. 

Colin Bazran singing ‘Boots or Hearts’

I notice both Jimmy and bassist Dan Fogarty have stickers of Downie on their guitars. In bold letters, the stickers say, ‘I looked up to the Gord above and said hey man thanks.’ It’s a clever take on the lyric from the song, ‘New Orleans is sinking.”

Jimmy’s guitar

The night went on with a boisterous flare. People were enjoying their meals, drinking and singing and as the night concluded, we all sang along with ‘It’s been a long time running.’ And it really has. It’s clear to me that the Hip are here to stay and even though we may never replace Gord or the Hip themselves, we have a talented group of musicians who embody their prowess and who deliver a feel good experience in what sometimes feels like troubled times. After all, with a little courage, it’s a good life if you don’t weaken

Bassist Dan Fogarty

Keep your eyes out for The Hip Replacements. You won’t be sorry.  If you were at their shows in Oliver and in Vernon, this past weekend, we’d love to hear from you.

In 2022, watch for their tour. Personally, I’ll be there, a beer and camera close by with my favourite hat on my head and a bit of Canadiana in my heart.

There is no replacing the Tragically Hip’s legacy, but I’m sure glad the Hip Replacements are here to keep that revival burning like fire in these darkening times.

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The Okanagan’s been my home since I was born. Life has taken me across the planet several times and through that transient lifestyle I developed a journalistic style to my photography and to my writing. My influences would be that of James Nachtwey, Annie Lebovitz, Ashley Maile, Hunter S Thompson, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Tom Robbins, Wes Anderson and Charles Bukowski. The world outside this incredible valley, its cultures and its mystery is what’s kept me working and trying to save my money, so I can keep getting back into the world. That’s the way it used to be. Covid has opened my eyes to the land I call my home and there are so many tales to tell right here in BC. From tales of the impoverished to the neglected to those who overcome adversity, to the spirit to overcome fear, the power of storytelling has never been more relevant. I’ve always been a storyteller. There’s a tale worth telling in every neighborhood. I just happen to write about what happens to me along the way and I’ve kept them close to my heart, hoping one day I’ll have an outlet so I can tell those stories the best way I know how; by writing them down. From adventures of long ago, both here or maybe far away, future interviews with musicians, artists of all kinds, the coverage of events, the people I meet along the way, whatever I get up to I intend to have you as my guest as I go back in time and dig up the bones of those old adventures or chase down new ones. Through the alchemy of storytelling, you can come along with me if you like. Before Covid-19 I was really coming into my own photographing live shows; punk rock bands, hip hop showcases, tattoo portraits, rock climbing adventures, Femme Fatale burlesque performances you name it, the phone was finally beginning to ring. Then Covid showed up like a hurricane and I guess it wiped us all out in one way or another. I have a real bone to pick with Covid-19 and if I can share some stories for our readers to enjoy, I’ll do that and when we can return to live music and to foreign travel and we can safely get to working on mending what’s been damaged I tell you I want to be ringside like Joe Rogan commentating on Covid getting its ass whooped. I want to see it tap out and watch us overcome this hardship, raise our collective hands triumphantly and move on into whatever new normal is waiting for us. I’ll be there and through my eyes, just like the boss man, Hunter himself, I’ll do it in Gonzo fashion and bring you kicking and screaming along with me. So hold on tight and dig in. It might not always be pretty but I won’t call it all ugly, neither. That’s for you to decide. My name is Shane Collins and I hope you’ll read along with me and our team here at Gonzookanagan.com

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