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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.