I dare you to not cry part 2

Some of us are better at dealing with death than others. A concern so great that people have decided to band together and process what death means to them.

How to have an elegant exit from life? Gord Downie is sure doing it. Guelph darling Vish Khanna wrote about his interactions with Gord in this perfect little piece. It reads like Vish was sitting down having a coffee with you:

May 24, 2016 

Gord Downie and the Guelph I know

Guelphlandia

Guelph Mercury

This week we learned that Gord Downie, lead singer and lyricist for the Tragically Hip, has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. It was the first thing I read on Tuesday morning and it literally took my breath away. I have a long, mostly one-sided history with this man but he himself has been an interesting presence in the life of this town, at least from my perspective.

In the fall of 2000, I road managed a Guelph band called Royal City. One of our first stops was on the lower east side of Manhattan at a place called the Living Room. Our man Nathan Lawr was pulling double-duty that night, drumming for RC but also the opening act, Leslie Feist.

Nothing seemed unusual about the early evening sunlight in the room until I saw him. Someone caught me staring across the way and probably said, ‘Yup, Gord Downie’s here tonight.” He’d come to see Feist. He was a fan already, in that way he appreciated younger, emerging artists a bit before the rest of the world did.

He was tall. I might be taller actually but when I approached him, he seemed like a giant. I introduced myself and shook his hand, later joking that it was the softest hand I’d ever felt. He had a bed for a hand; I was tired already and wanted to nap in it. The Hip were on tour in the states themselves so I showed him our wacky, back-and-forth itinerary. “Huh,” he said, scanning the page. “You guys are doing it the hard way.”

This was a pretty startling, inexplicable thing—to be in a Canadian band on your first American tour and, almost immediately, you run into Gord Downie, whom you’ve only encountered from a distance. This figurehead who did the hardest thing an artist can do really, which is conjure a voice and point of view that’s distinctly his own and yet speaks, in a way, for a nation.

I don’t remember when I first heard him sing. I was a small kid. It might’ve been on the radio or via a Hip music video on MuchMusic. I bet it was “Blow at High Dough” on TV. The words weren’t clear, or at least they weren’t the words I usually heard people sing in rock songs.

And then I saw the band in Markham in a field during the first edition of their Another Roadside Attraction tour, which featured a number of artists they loved. I was only 16 and got pushed around a lot. My dad had to pick us up afterwards; he got past security and into the grounds by flashing his car insurance and claiming he was a private investigator. I don’t know why he did that.

I kept consuming the Hip’s music and seeing them live at Maple Leaf Gardens, the Air Canada Centre, Massey Hall, Guelph Lake, and wherever else days and times brought us together. I introduced my then two-year-old son to Gord at a Stop Line 9 event he was playing with the Sadies in Toronto in 2013 while the former was somewhat obsessed with the Hip song, “Poets.” My fault really: few records mean more to me than Phantom Power (and Day for Night, which remains revelatory). To this day, I sing their songs to myself and my kids. Smart, wordy, melodic stuff.

Gord has made a couple of solo records, working with people I now call friends. He called his band the Country of Miracles, teaming up with the Dinner is Ruined Band, Julie Doiron (Eric’s Trip), and Josh Finlayson (The Skydiggers). They played the Hillside Festival twice. The last time, Dave Clark, my drumming guru, gave me his sticks during their workshop and I jammed with Gord Downie and the Country of Miracles. I think Gord and I locked eyes at one point but it was all a blur. I might’ve screwed up a fill.

I introduced their Main Stage set and said some of the nice things you’re meant to say as a festival emcee. I probably said even nicer things than I might have ordinarily said. As the band filed on stage, Downie stopped, held my shoulder, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Thank you Vish. I am so happy that you could be here today.” It felt like the warmest thing anyone had ever said to me.

Very few people have written better songs than Gord Downie, very few people have sung such songs as well, very few people can command a stage, as a performer, like he can, very few people have utilized their own success to support lesser known artists and those in need as well as he has, and very few people in a position such as his have been as kind and forthcoming to me personally. If I’m honest, his songs and melodies are always in my head.

The Hip are touring this summer and I will go see them and we will all weep. But if I can, I will find a way to tell Gord about how happy I am that he could be here today. And that he always will be.

Vish Khanna hosts the Kreative Kontrol podcast and radio show on CFRU 93.3 FM. He took the night off of work to watch and record the Tragically Hip perform on Saturday Night Live in 1995.

Gush: Lucy Dacus post number 32488390249302


Strong bridge game:

“No child is born knowing there’s an ugly or evil thing. When did my folks stop covering my eyes? Was it my brother who taught me about jealousy? Was it my sister who taught me about vanity? Was it that girl, that beautiful girl, thirsty for love and eager for attention. Was it that girl who taught me about destruction?”

And after all that transcribing, I found Dacus’ lyrics on her Bandcamp.

Gush: Lucy Dacus (over and over and over and over again)

When I was in high school, like most kids, I kept up an agenda. I’d tattoo lyrics of my favourite songs all over my planner. Transcribing lyrics as I heard them without using the internet or album linings.

Well, yesterday I found myself doing the very same thing. Less of an angst-filled time killing activity, but more of an attempt to interact with Lucy Dacus’ beautiful album on a deeper level. I can’t get over how incredible Dacus’ words are and jotting them all down made me appreciate them even more.

NPR’s All Songs Considered personality, Bob Boilen, called Lucy Dacus the best new artist that he discovered this year [2016]. This is more or less what Bob Boilen said of Dacus and gushed particularly hard the perfect seven and a half minute tune, “Map on a Wall.”

The opening act for Julien Baker. She’s an artist called Lucy Dacus she’s from Richmond, VA, not too far from Washington, DC. And I didn’t know her at all and was completely blown away by her music… I was going to play the seven and a half minute song from her album titled No Burden, which comes out at the end of February. But I am going to play the one without any question that will get the most airplay and is the most catchy, wonderful song. Not the one that takes you down windy wonderful paths and so forths. The song I’m going to play for you is called “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore”

 

This took me a while, but here is my probably far from perfect transcribed lyrics of “Map on a Wall”:

Oh please, don’t make fun of me. With my crooked smile and my crowded teeth or my pigeon feet or my knobby knees well I’ve got more problems than not. But I feel fine and I made up my mind. To live happily feeling beautiful beneath the trees above the ground solid at the core.

Oh please, don’t make fun of me. oh you know I get frightened so easily and I’m all alone and the floor board creek. It’s those noises int eh dark. But I am alive and I made up my mind. To live fearlessly, running wild beneath the trees above the ground solid at the core.

Send my regards to the north my friend. I am built for the heat I regret to admit. my fear of freezing keeps me on my feet and so far my whole life is an unlucky street, they say you should take the credit when it comes but i believe in XX?

oh please don’t make fun of me oh I’ll try my best to tell it like it is. But i’ll bite my tongue and i’ll close my lips. When nobody wants to be ___. But here we are and something about it doesn’t feel like an accident. We’re all looking for something to adore and how to survive the bending and breaking.

I walked on to the ___ I was a child. but when did I realize that some ways ___ passed thousands of miles there are people like me walking on legs like mine. Coming closer or farther away. Coming to me to find my grace (?) hoping good comes from good and the good comes from bad anyway.

Oh please don’t make fun of me. With my heart of gold and my restless soul. Oh please don’t make fun of me. This smile happens genuinely. If you want to see the world then you have to say goodbye. Because a map does no good hanging on a wall. If you want to see the world then you have to say goodbye. Cause a map does no good hanging on a wall.

Gush: “New Slang” by the Shins

I first saw the Shins at the tender age of seventeen. They were in between Chutes to Narrow and Wincing the Night Away pushing no album in particular.

Eleven years later I’ve caught myself listening to the gorgeous tune “New Slang” over and over and over and over. I’ve never really listened to lyrics until now – descriptive and imaginative.