Jan. 28 is fast approaching and Hip fans in this region are getting stoked up for their first Tragically Hip show in Brandon since the night of "The Blizzard".
Oh yes, I remember it well ... Nov. 28, 2000.
The Hip was touring in support of their Music @ Work album. The then Keystone Arena was nearly sold out. While people were pulling into the Keystone grounds to find parking spots, the storm had just started; by the time the concert was over, the parking lot was a mess.
Vehicles were getting stuck left and right as concert goers were exiting the grounds. The parking lot was full of wet heavy snow, along with quite a few tow trucks and groups of people pushing their buddies out.
Many a concert-goer went into the night rocking out to the Hip and wrapped up their evening by rocking their buddy’s car out of its parking spot. Needless to say it was a good night to take a cab.
Fast forward 12 years and it’s nearly time for the stage to be set for the Hip’s third show in the Wheat City. By the way, can anyone guess when and where the first Brandon Hip concert took place?
One of the best ways to get stoked up for a concert from any band is to crank up some of their tunes. One of my favourite Hip tunes is the live version of "New Orleans is Sinking" with the killerwhaletank monologue.
This is a version that will weed out the long-term, hard-core Hip fans from the casual "radio hits" fan. If you’re hard core, you will instantly know what I’m talking about. If not, you might not even care.
Regardless, it certainly makes for a great subject worthy of this column. Whenever the band shifts into a space jam and Gordie Downey goes on a tangent in mid-song, you never know what you’re going to get.
Such is the case in a certain version of their classic kick-ass blues rock staple "New Orleans is Sinking." In the middle of this rare live recording, Downie goes off on a wildly adventurous rant about working at a killer whale tank. It’s a cool story that sounds perfect stuck in the middle of this tune.
This version was a B-side to the radio-only promo of "Long Time Running", and has been shared amongst Hip fans ever since. In fact I used to own the CD version. Not sure what happened to it. Might have lent it to a friend or lost it at a party but it and I have sadly parted ways and now I’m having the hardest time finding it online or anywhere for that natter.
But I managed to dig up an old mixed tape (yes, tapes are still in existence at my place) and in the meantime the least I can do for you Hip fans still reading this is transcribe the lyrics that I found on that old cassette:
"I had job before this, I had a job before this. Ultimately, it was that job that drove me into this. I worked at an aquarium, an aquarium with lots of money from the government so it was HUUUGGEE! I uh I was a clean ’n’ scrub man we called each other in the C ’n’ S union. I scrubbed the inside of the killerwhaletank. The, and after a while the boys in the C n’ S or clean n’ scrub we just sort of made it one word: the killerwhaletank, the killerwhaletank uh, the killerwhaletank uh. I’m going into the killerwhaletank UH yeah. I got along with these two big beasts so well, it was like they knew me they looked at me with their 100 year old eyes and it was like they knew me. High, I’d put on my SCUBA gear, my mask, my regulator (breath) and I’d fall into the tank with nary a sound maybe a pfftt. And then I was underwater. Sometimes, I’d jump out, right in front of the window when people are expecting a killerwhale and they see a human, they get spooked. Spooked. Anyway I’d do that. But I was in the water this particular day, unbeknownst to me, Shamu and Bartholomew, their relationship had grown stale, seems I was going in there so much and looking so good, Shamu took a shining to me, and they’re so smart those things ya know they’ve got all these human emotions, love, lust, GREED, 100-year-old eye jealousy. Bartholomew was LIVID. Unbeknownst to me I can’t hear a goddamn thing underwater. He came up he was bumping up against me a lot. The stale, killerwhale, bumping up against someone so pale and frail. How was I to know the killerwhale whose relationship had gone stale, well, he brushes up against me sometimes, skin’s like sandpaper I say "Hey man, Bartholomew what’s up? What’s up? What’s going on big fella? What is it? What is it? I, I don’t wanna steal your mommy, and I sure don’t want to take the place of your daddy, I only want to be your friend." And he circled around and I thought we were all patched up and I was scrubbing and he took my — he came up, he came up, he came up, he ripped my left arm off. I mean the killerwhale they’re beasts of the deep they’re I mean they’re quite docile and friendly in captivity but somewhere along the line, the thousands of years of breeding just snapped and he took my left arm, man he took my left arm, took my f***ing left arm. "Wha-What is it Bartholomew?" I spoke to him in a language he could understand, as I came back... (insert Gordie’s whale sounds here and segue back into the remainder of "New Orleans Is Sinking").
Some people hate when bands divert from the norm during live shows. They prefer to see and hear the songs done just like the CD.
Personally, I get a kick out of bands that go on wild and freaky creative tangents during live shows. That’s part of the beauty you experience at a live show!
With the Hip, it becomes a musical odyssey that varies from one night to the next so each fan experience is unique.
Plus, I’ve said it many times before but it deserves to be said again: Gordie Downie is one of the music world’s most dangerously unpredictable lead singers ever to grab a mic stand. The freakier Gordie gets, the more enjoyable the show can get for many a Hip fan.
Back in the spring of 2010, in an east-end apartment reminiscent of a smoky old west bar, Dallas Wesley and Aaron Deamel began throwing ideas around for a then-untitled metal project.
Almost three years later, Viral State is alive and well, rounded out by Mark Wiebe (guitars), Justin Currie (bass), and Cole Porter (drums).
Despite lineup changes and band members travelling to play together, the guys have been privileged enough to share the stage with some well-known bands, such as 3 Inches Of Blood, Kobra & The Lotus, Unleash The Archers, Cancer Bats, and Ninjaspy, to name a few.
They also jumped on the opportunity to get their music out, their way, and made the trek to Saxon Sound Studios in Winnipeg to record and master the seven-song ep "Abuse" in six days.
"Abuse" is a journey through the definition itself, with both observations and personal experiences being explored and questioned, and with fluctuating vocals, technical, razor sharp guitars, thundering bass, and rapid-fire drum. There’s a chiropractic appointment in it for every metalhead out there.
2012 saw Viral State hit the road through Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta on their first tour "Bloodletting 2012," which also featured Regina’s Lest We Fail, and Virden’s Torn From Flames.
2013 will see a new three-song ep coming in the spring, along with numerous local shows and a tour planned for summer.
If a good time, cold beer, and loud music is your thing, then this is a band you do not want to miss live. You can find them on their Facebook or Reverb Nation pages, and be sure to catch an upcoming show:
• Friday, Feb. 1 at The Zoo in Winnipeg, with The Ruined, Mortalis, TBA
• Saturday, Feb. 2 at The North Hill Inn in Brandon, with Tyrants Demise, The Ruined, Mortalis.
*** To have your band included in Locals Only and get some extra exposure that won’t cost you a cent, simply send your details in to Frank@KX96.Astral.com
Frank McGwire is a radio personality and booster of the music scene in Brandon and Westman.