That Night in Toronto…

If you read this blog, you know me. You know that in my core, in my bones, I am passionately, proudly Canadian. I’m a hoser, man. Through and through. I fucking love the shit out of Canada and I am especially proud of our incredible music. I could get lost in Rush for days. The first concert I ever went to was Bryan Adams. I worship The Barenaked Ladies and hum Crash Test Dummies in my sleep. And honestly, I know the words to a lot more Shania Twain songs than people even realize. If I listed here every single Canadian artist on my iPod right now, you’d get dizzy. CanRock is everything. It’s just simply a fundamental of who I am.

And yet, none of these gods or goddesses in the great CanRock pantheon come even remotely close to inspiring the devotion in me that The Tragically Hip does. This band is Canada itself, personified. Their music reaches me on a cellular level and connects to parts of me that nothing else can. And I’m not being intentionally hyperbolic, this is serious shit. If there’s music in your life that you fucking love like I love The Hip then you get it. If you’re some kind of weirdo that doesn’t even like music then I feel sorry for you. I feel sorry that you’ll never know what it’s like to be affected on every level of your being by artistry so divine. Artistry that nurtures and nourishes your soul. It’s crazy, but that’s what it is. It’s the life-sustaining thing that my soul needs. I need The Hip’s music like I need air to breathe.

That’s what I thought when I heard the news about Gord; the air that I need to breathe, to live, is being taken away.

Yeah, I’ll always have their music right at my fingertips anytime I want it. But knowing that there will eventually be an end to it, no more new stuff to get lost in, its unbearable. I’m not a “just the hits” kind of gal, I live for it all.

Deciding to tour after going public with Gord’s news about the incurable brain cancer was absolutely the right thing for the band to do, the only thing. And after the concert on Wednesday night, I’m convinced that he’s immortal anyways. Cancer won’t kill Gord. When he’s good and ready he’ll just decide to start his next chapter, that’s all it is. Cancer doesn’t get to have a say, Gord’s in charge and he does things his own unique way, he always has and he always will. It’s why I love him so much. That casual cavalier who-gives-a-fuck-what-anyone-thinks approach to just being himself, it’s inspiring.

I’ve seen The Hip live a number of times, and you never get the same show twice. You can’t ever tell what Gord will do next and it’s thrilling. You follow where he leads and you love every goddamn minute of it, that’s how you experience The Hip.

I was lucky enough to get tickets for the first in a series of three Toronto shows on their final tour. I got hosed on the pre-sale and the general public sale, but a couple of weeks later when more tickets were released I’m convinced that my kind and generous CanRock Gods let favour swing my way. Like I said, I’m bonkers for this band. While I saw plenty of other people give up saying “I’ve seen them before, guess that’ll do”, I wasn’t willing to give up hope so easily. I thought about it every single day. I even considered shelling out thousands for platinum seats in more feverish moments. If it came down to it, sure, I’d bend the knee for the StubHub lords, whatever it took. I just felt it, that I would go to this show. I needed to be there and the universe gladly obliged. I got an email through the fan club about more tickets being released, I marked it in my calendar and I wished with all my might. The day of the sale, it all worked out and I’m eternally grateful.

When the tour started I devoured every single piece of news about it. I loved seeing the band’s set lists on their Instagram account. I read so many fan reviews and stories about the shows. All of it just stoking the fire of my anticipation. Waiting was excruciating, but so worth it. It was impossible not to get emotional any time someone asked me about the show. I feel my feelings quite freely, no shame in that, and plenty of times I cried just telling people what this concert means to me personally. And most of the people I talked to were kind enough to not call me insane directly to my face, instead they probably thought it politely in their heads while nodding along, which I appreciated.

And then all of a sudden it was time.

5 minutes

This night will live in my heart forever.

the hip show

We had rear view seats, which I was a little worried about, but turned out amazingly well. There were massive screens on all four sides of the stage, so we didn’t miss a single thing. I saw every beautiful nuance of Gordie’s face while he sang to us. It was also really cool getting to see the bulk of the audience facing us, seeing what the band sees when they play to these sold-out maniacal crowds. What an amazing view!

audience

And the setup with the screens was perfect. Gord knew where the cameras were and he didn’t shy away from them at all. He loved using the cameras as a way to connect with everyone. There was this really wonderful moment where he just stared straight into the lens, a myriad of expressions passing across his face, and it felt like he was looking right at you, looking into you. Such a special thing, it allowed 20,000 people to feel like they got to have one personal moment with Gord.

They played so many great songs. The Hip have the most incredibly robust catalogue. So many crowd pleasers, too many for one performance. Some fantastic deep cuts too, stuff that is just always so surprising, but awesome to hear live. The new material fit right in. What Blue and Tired As Fuck felt like they were old gems I’ve always loved. Grace Too, 50 Mission Cap, Lake Fever, Little Bones, Three Pistols, Music at Work, Fully Completely, Wheat Kings… they just gave and gave.

Gordie

I expected to cry the whole time, to just be overcome. But I wasn’t. We rocked the fuck out, the band made sure of it. They played for over two and half hours and while there were lots of emotional moments peppered throughout the evening, the overall tone was much more triumphant than sad. It was a passionate and heady performance. I cried as soon as I heard the first few notes of Fiddler’s Green mostly because that’s just such a weighty song anyways. And again I cried hearing one of my personal favourites, Ahead By a Century… that lyric “disappointing you is getting me down” just felt too real.

But the most emotional moment of the whole concert was after the encore, Bobcaygeon, when Gordie bowed to the crowd and said “Thank you, Toronto. Thank you forever.” Instant waterfall of tears. Bawling, all of us, a whole stadium of people.

Gordie

It couldn’t last forever though, no matter how much I wished it would. All things end.

When it was time to say goodbye we cheered our hearts out for Gordie for a full three minutes while he stood there soaking it in, waving and bowing so appreciatively back at us. A thunderous amount of love for the man who means and has meant so much to so many of us, to this nation, for over 30 years. That was our moment to say what we needed to say to this great man. We fucking love you. So much.

You can watch it, our applause for Gord. And if you couldn’t get the tickets that you desperately wanted for one of the shows, I’m sorry. That fucking sucks. But you can take comfort in this little sliver of the magic that I bottled up and saved for you:

Best concert ever. Period.

The Hip

I’ll never forget that night in Toronto.

Tales of Philly: Day 2, I Never Knew Love Could Be Like This

I’m just going to pretend like I haven’t waited three months to continue the telling of our trip to Philadelphia back in April… It’s not weird. I’ve just been busy and lazy. As long as the story eventually gets told, it’s no biggie right?

To recap day 1: D and I drove 10 hours to get to the city, ate a delicious frigging meal, saw a few sites located near the hotel and then retired for the night. We needed to rest up so we’d be energized for a full day of Philly fun!

Oh and also, some required listening while you read this post:

We woke up feeling rested and excited. We grabbed an early breakfast of champions at none other than Dunkin’ Donuts. Because America runs on Dunkin’ and we wanted to too. It was pretty fucking filling! I had a sausage and egg croissantwich and these sweet little hash brown tater tot thingies. My overall rating? It was pretty tasty for a fast food breakfast, I’d eat it again. I’d give it a B- if I had to letter grade it.

After we fuelled up, we strapped on some comfy shoes and started our own walking tour of Philly. Starting with an easy breezy stroll through the weekend farmer’s market at Rittenhouse Square. It was gorgeous, a perfect spring day.

Rittenhouse Stone

market

beautiful park

It was so pretty! An excellent starting point. But we couldn’t hang around too long, with so much more to be seen. We definitely wanted to make sure we tackled the historic part of town too. We made our way through Market Square, City Hall, and then through to the historic sites. We cruised past the Liberty Bell, but the lineup was way too damn long. So we waved at the line and were satisfied with that. Plus, it was way too nice outside to be trapped indoors in a long ass lineup like a couple of lame tourist suckers.

old philly

First National Bank

beautiful philly

It was awesome, we made up our own walking tour. “Cartography is not my métier”, but we figured it out. The cobblestone streets were so cool, but they were rougher on our feet than we anticipated.

D walking the cobblestones

And when we got hungry, you can be damn sure we grabbed ourselves a steaming hot Philly Cheesesteak for lunch! There were a lot of choices, an overwhelming amount of cheesesteaks places to choose from. We opted for a place called Steve’s. We like that name, it seemed reliable. Ole Steve wouldn’t serve no crap, right?

Steve's

And he’s the Prince of Steaks, so you can’t argue with that. We practiced our cheesesteak ordering skills before we even considered getting in line. One thing I learned before the trip was that people in Philly take their cheesesteak very seriously. And they don’t like being held up in the line by n00bs who don’t know how to order. We were not going to be n00bs. We were going to blend in and act like we belonged. So when we got up to the counter and the guy asked for our order we replied “1 provolone wit out” like it weren’t no thang.

The meat was savoury. The cheese was oh-so-warm-and-gooey. The bread was crisp and toasty. Philly’s famous cheesesteak sandwich vastly exceeded all of our expectations.

I also ordered a fried chicken sandwich for comparison purposes, and we were both feeling that too. So we had a little mix-and-match sandwich picnic on our vacation. And it was goddamn delightful.

We continued our adventures of the city, walking everywhere we went. We walked all over the place, I think we really made an excellent go of it. We made our way towards South Street and got to see the Magic Gardens. It’s this really cool place, it’s all mosaicked. I’ve never seen anything quite like it in all of my life. It was so totally unique and inviting.

I got D to take a sweet panoramic picture of the exterior.

Magic Gardens

South Street was a really cool and happening place. It reminded me of Queen Street West back home in Toronto. The people were hip and all of the shops and bars were hopping.

South Street

When we decided to rest our feet before the concert we found this great bar called Manny Brown’s for some afternoon drinks. Just idling and enjoying a few brews. When we sat down and the server told us it was $2.75 for a pint of Yuengling we knew we’d made the right choice.

A Pint of Yuengling

And just when I started to think it couldn’t possibly get any better than that, the best thing ever happened.

A dog walks into the bar and hops up onto a bar stool. No joke. This happened five feet away from us. And it was fucking awesome. There’s a dog at the bar!

Dog at the bar

And I got to pet him!

petting the bar dog

That dog was so chill. It was seriously the coolest thing ever. All kinds of people were coming over to get photos with him and the bartender even poured him his own glass of water at one point.

We had an absolutely fantastic afternoon exploring the city. And the best was still yet to come! The concert. Oh man, I was so pumped. I felt like a spoiled little kid. It was like I got to spend the whole day at a frigging amusement park with VIP passes to the front of all the lines, and then my parents decide to cap the night off with ice cream sundaes on a yacht or something. It was an overload of amazingness.

TMBG marquee

An Evening with They Might Be Giants. Life doesn’t get any better than this.

We lined up outside the theatre with all the nerds and waited anxiously to get inside. When they finally started letting us all in, D and I immediately booked it for a spot on the upper level of the TLA right in front of a nice comfy ledge to lean on. It was standing room only, and we’re both shorties, so we had to be strategic like that or we wouldn’t see anything at all. Our only mistake was spending an entire day right before a 3+ hour-long concert walking an entire city. D’oh!

Our feet were aching like a mofo by the end of the night. But the amazing high of the concert was able to keep us going.

They Might Be Giants just killed it. They are so special and wonderful. Pretty much everyone I talked to before going to the show and after we got back were like, “Who?” whenever I said the name of the band. Greatest band you’ve never heard of, that’s who they are.

They opened the show with one of my most favourite jams “Can’t Keep Johnny Down” and my heart hammered along in my chest to the beat.

TMBG

They also performed a hilarious cover of Destiny Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills” and I knew then that I could die a happy girl. It was a dream come true. Hearing John Linnell and John Flansburgh do their very damnedest to channel Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland was unreal.

TMBG 2

magic on stage

We gave everything we could to the band. All of the love in our hearts. Our loudest most thunderous applause. Our hearty laughter at all of their wacky onstage antics. It really was a concert going experience like none I’ve ever had before.

When the concert let out we finally surrendered and got ourselves a cab back to the hotel. It was late and we were exhausted. Elated, but nonetheless exhausted. My feet were pounding as I slid into the big cushy hotel bed, and even though they hurt so bad, it was worth it. It was worth every single throb of pain. Best birthday gift to myself ever.

I love you, TMBG! Thank you for the good times, you’ve made me the happiest girl in the world.

And now a little something to play you out:

Hitting The Open Road

I’m very excited to announce this. I’ve been looking forward to announcing this to you guys all week long…

Hear ye, hear ye! This weekend I, Smash, of this odd little blog, am coming to a city near you! Well, it’s actually only to a city probably/sort of/maybe near some of you. The city of brotherly love itself, Philadelphia!

That’s right gang, you’ve got court-side seats to a Dballs and Smash Road Trip Spectacular! We’ve got a set of wheels and we’re hitting the open road first thing tomorrow morning. And I’ll be detailing every glorious second of it for your reading pleasure.

A couple of weeks ago I was jamming’ out to one of my favourite bands, They Might Be Giants. I started thinking how awesome it would be to see those guys in concert. I pulled up their website and starting poking around for any upcoming concerts in Toronto. But sadly, there were none. Only a bunch of dates listed for a tour through the states. Usually under circumstances such as these, I would’ve just signed up for an alert to let me know when the band will be coming to my neck of the woods in the future. But this time was different. This time around the little hamster in my head that serves as a brain kept cycling around on his squeaky little hamster exercise wheel. And once that wheel gets to turning, fixated on the possibility of an adventure, it’s next to impossible to make it stop.

What if we went to one of their shows in the states anyways? A lot of these places are within reasonable travel distance… Boston, Brooklyn, and Philly. We could probably make one of them work. If I wanted it bad enough and was able to plead my case convincingly, I might just get that husband of mine to go along. I had my birthday on my side, too. It’s harder to say no to a birthday wish than if it had been some conveniently trumped-up bucket list wish. I knew it was gunna be a long shot to convince D, but I really wanted to go. More than anything in the world, in that moment, all that mattered was getting to a TMBG show.

When I pitched the idea to D, I pulled out all the stops. Begging, pleading, whining, wailing, justifying, and arguing him to exhaustion. He resisted at first, but then came around eventually. My impassioned plea for adventure swayed him in the end. Actually, it wasn’t even all that dramatic. He agreed pretty early into my spiel. But he was gentlemanly enough to let me think I’d worn him down, because he knows it’s more fun for me that way.

I ran into my old boss on the subway the other day and gushed to him about our plans for this weekend. He chuckled and said, “eight hours straight in the car with your new husband, you sure are eager to stress test this marriage of yours, aren’t you?”

It might be a little crazy, sure. But everyone knows that crazy = fun. That’s just a basic maths right there. D and I are very travel compatible, so I’m not worried about it at all. We always have lots of laughs together and are both really jazzed up about this trip. We’re married, but we haven’t been totally domesticated yet. Why not grab life by the balls? We’re young and we’re full of dreams. We gotta make these bold moves now while we’re able to without any worry. We don’t have any annoying entanglements to hold us back. It’s a slam dunk already and we haven’t even left yet.

laughing with my hubby

Seriously, I am so fucking pumped! I’ve already made a fresh batch of mixed CD’s for the ride, I’ve got a supermassive 1000-page Archie comic packed, I’ve got oodles upon oodles of snacks stashed away, and I’ve got my doting husband in tow. It’s going to be so frigging rad.

We’re going to eat cheese steaks! We’re going to tour the city! Maybe we’ll even be so bold as to lick the Liberty Bell…

Whatever it is we decide to do on this journey of ours, I’ll keep you posted. So stick around chums, Smash is hitting the open road.

A Surprise

When was the last time you did something truly kind or generous for another person? Something that wasn’t done out of obligation like a birthday, holiday or anniversary. Something you just felt like you wanted to do because the surprise and happiness registered on the recipient’s face is more than enough payoff.

It’s probably been a very long time since I last did something for another purely out of kindness and affection. Sadly, I can’t even remember what it would have been. A couple of months ago I bought a new set of headphones for The Magpie because she kept forgetting hers at home and not having tunes at work is balls. But they weren’t special or anything, like six bucks total, so that doesn’t really count.

It’s shameful really. I have so many wonderful people in my life that I fucking treasure the shit out of and they deserve to feel the full magnitude of my adoration more often. People are precious and they don’t last forever so give as much love as you can while you can.

It’s been a bit crappy lately. There have been plenty of nights in the last week and a half when I’ve come home from work in an absolutely abysmal mood. High-strung and super irritable, melting the faces off of my fellow commuters on the subway ride home with withering looks of derision cast their way at the slightest provocation. I feel bad for D for having to deal with it all. I imagine that interacting with me the past while has been a lot like trying to force a meaningful relationship with a rabid wolverine. It ain’t been no picnic, that’s for damn sure.

I was thinking about him Friday afternoon. Thinking about how strong and patient he is. How often he probably bites his tongue. All the little things he does just so I’ll be happy. One night last week he ate all of the burnt perogis so I only had to suffer the slightly singed ones. He let me stay up, reading in bed with the lights on while he tried to sleep because I was at a scary part in The Shining and just needed to have him close. He sends my food back at restaurants when something is wrong with it because I’m too embarrassed to do it myself. When we rent a car for the weekend to go see our families he lets me control the radio and CD choices for the whole trip, even though we have majorly opposing tastes in music with very minimal overlap. When his boss rewarded him with concert tickets to any show of his choosing in Toronto because he’d been killing it at work, he used them to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams instead of choosing to see a band that he likes. And he’s able to do these things with such ease because my happiness matters to him.

The BNL concert was unreal. I can’t say enough how much it meant to me. It was amazing how selfless D was about using his reward on me. He’s the real deal alright.

I started to have this urge, while I was thinking about D and how great he is, to do something. A compulsion to demonstrate the depth of my admiration for D. I just had to do something. Something kind and generous because he hasn’t been getting the very best of me lately. And I was struck once again by how remarkable it was that he gave me the BNL concert. I remembered him telling me a few days after the BNL concert that his favourite band Killswitch Engage had just announced a show in Toronto for a date in October, and how much he would have loved to go. Hmm, that could work.

I was almost ready to pack up and leave the office on Friday when I decided to hang back a minute and see if tickets for the Killswitch Engage show were still available. Unfortunately for me, the show was already sold out. However, because of how quickly the show sold out they’d decided to do another show the next night and tickets were still on sale. Fuck yeah, just my luck! So I immediately decided that I was going to buy him two tickets for that concert. Yes, I’m going to give D what he gave up for me. And the look on his face is going to be worth every penny. I bought the tickets, printed them off and stuffed them in my bag. I was buzzing with excitement the whole way home just dying to spring my surprise on D.

Killswitch Engage is the first concert we ever went to as a couple. They played a show in Waterloo on Mother’s Day 2008. I actually still have the ticket stubs.

ticket stubs

It was a great show. They were promoting their latest album As Daylight Dies and Howard Jones was the lead vocalist at that time. I’d never even heard of the band until I started dating D, but that album stayed in the CD player in his car for about three straight months and I really came to love it. I especially love Howard. He’s got such a killer voice and he’s an amazing performer. He’s magnetic on stage; captivating and astounding the listeners by perfectly blending his melodic singing with bone-shattering metal screams. It’s so much fun to watch him work. Listening to that album is so enjoyable. The music is phenomenal, undoubtedly. But it also takes me back to that summer when we started dating. When I hear the opening bars of My Curse I feel like I’m in D’s old sunfire again. Driving around with the windows down, D hammering his thumbs on the steering wheel in time with the drums,  butterflies in my stomach and not a care in the world.

D was going to fucking love this, and I couldn’t wait to see his reaction.

I got home on Friday, grabbed the tickets from my bag and tossed them at D. He looked at them puzzled for a moment and then unfolded them.

“Whaaaaat?? What is this all about?” he asked. I told him that I loved him and I appreciate how awesome he is and that he deserves it. “Fuck yeah! This is so awesome, thank you!” was his response. Huge smile on his face, eyes gleaming with happiness and surprise. Exactly the look I was going for. It was even better when I told him that the second ticket isn’t for me. I told him to take anybody he wants, ideally one of his metal-head cronies. And he loved that even more.

D was ecstatic, still is actually. And I felt amazing too. It was just what I needed, that boost of extraordinary, something to banish the gloom of last week. I may not have all of my problems licked, but at least I still have it within me to make someone else happy. D is so goddamned precious to me. And treating him to a night of ear bud busting metal fury is the best possible way that I can express that to him.

Rock on D, you skiddy metal-head weirdo.