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No Trouble At The Henhouse: An Inside Look at Radio Humber’s Tribute to The Tragically Hip

By Kenny Fowler

the tragically hip

(Photo Credit: Mike Homer)

All day on August 17, Radio Humber put together a tribute show for The Tragically Hip as they finish up their potentially final tour for their latest album, Man Machine Poem. The show lasted 8 hours, running from 10am until 6pm. I was lucky enough to be a part of the amazing team which put it on, and I’m going to give you the inside scoop on how we put it together.

1. “Now For Plan A– Forming the Concept: The original plan was born of Radio Humber’s Nancy Birko, Ralph Levy, and Karen McMillan, who didn’t want the miss this amazing opportunity to honour a band that has been an integral part of Canadian music history for over 30 years. They approached Kieran Berry and myself to help since we are both known as quite the music trivia sponges. Of course, we said yes right away. The conversations began immediately. We wanted to put together a show that not only had great music but truly captured the essence of the great legacy The Hip have built. That would require a boatload of research and content.

2. “Fully Completely” – Research and Background Work: A show this big needed a lot of information and preparation, so we all split the workload into chunks. A few people worked to compile a veritable treasure trove of information about The Tragically Hip’s career. We wanted to make sure we had all the basics and plenty of joyful anecdotes from touring and recording. Testimonials and praise from other musicians and artists, songs that The Hip inspired or helped write. The music that came before The Hip to make them come into being. It was all needed, recorded and organized. We also wanted the event to feel like the special event, so we headed into the production studio with a new team member, Dominik Dutrisac, to work on a few pieces of audio imaging to play throughout the day to give the show that much more strength.

3. “My Music At Work” – Constructing A Playlist: Over the course of the show, we played 84 songs. While we wanted to make sure that everyone would hear their favourite big hits from the band throughout the day, we saw a huge opportunity to showcase great songs and live cuts from their career that had never seen the spotlight, or potentially, the airwaves. So we acquired their entire musical catalogue and worked from it. We also wanted to include a few glimpses into the Canadian bands that The Hip inspired. Everything had to have a purpose – if it wasn’t The Tragically Hip, it had to be directly connected.

radio humber staff

4. “As Makeshift As We Are” – Doing It Live! Of course, no matter how much you prep, when you are creating a live show, you have to be ready for things to come at you that you didn’t expect. Very early into the show, we started receiving requests from our listeners. Of course, we wanted anyone who was a fan to be able to be a part of it, so we deconstructed parts of the show on the fly and rebuilt them to give us breathing space for the interactions we were receiving. Radhika Lakhani coordinated our social media to allow for a more direct and swift connection to the audience. It allowed for a quite few magical moments on air.

5. “Done And Done” – Final Thoughts: The Tragically Hip have been a part of Canada’s cultural landscape for longer than I’ve been alive. Their impact on the Canadian music scene is indescribable and endless, and generations of Canadians have grown up with their classic tunes blasting out of any and all speakers. To be a part of a show that honours that greatness was a gift and a treat. I hope everyone who listened enjoyed the show, but if you didn’t get a chance to hear it live, don’t worry, it will be accessible on the Radio Humber Website very soon. And to Gord Downie, thank you for all of the music throughout the years. Your energy and passion will never be forgotten.

gord downie

Gord Downie, where he belongs. (Photo Credit: David Bastedo)