Markham Fair

That Night in Markham: My Tragically Hip Story (1993)

Group post! 

Today our community of bloggers has come together to write about the Tragically Hip. In the wake of Gord Downie’s news last week, we wanted to come together and share our experience with this household name in Canadian music. Each story is unique, but with a common theme. Hope you enjoy it!

This is the story of how I got to see the Tragically Hip live in concert.

Summer 1993 was a time of new beginnings. I had just graduated from High School, and had accepted an offer to attend the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario for Visual Arts. Going to Western was something I had worked hard to achieve, and made it. I was looking forward to the change of scene by moving away from my Northeastern Ontario town of Sudbury, and was also looking forward to moving in with my sister, who at the time was also attending Western. Some big changes were afoot – new geography, new faces…a new life! And I embraced it all.

I remember the day my sis called and asked if I would be interested in attending an all-day concert of mostly Canadian bands. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as it was two days after my 19th birthday, and I was planning a visit with my sister before I made the big move down south. My musical tastes during this time were pretty eclectic – marry Led Zeppelin and Clapton with the Smiths and Canadian radio, and you pretty much have it. Canadian rock was in my repertoire. So it should come as no surprise that I was salivating at this concert’s line-up. Called Another Roadside Attraction, it was chock full of bands I was very much familiar with: Andrew Cash, Midnight Oil, Crash Vegas, Hot House Flowers, 13 Engines, Thomas Trio and the Red Albino, Richard Seguin, Daniel Lanois and the Pursuit of Happiness. Even more exciting that it was headlined by the Tragically Hip. At this point, my exposure to the Hip was radio and MuchMusic. Having had a few albums under their belt, Fully Completely had been released in the Fall of 1992, and Locked in the Trunk of a Car, as well as Fifty Mission Cap were common songs heard on the radio. I recollect, their song, Courage (for Hugh McLennon), was scorching up the Canadian charts, and I loved it. I wouldn’t consider myself a die-hard fan at this point, but I very much enjoyed their music. This was gonna be one fine concert!

The concert was to be held in a remote part of Markham, Ontario, located 20 minutes north of Toronto. The venue was the Markham Fairgrounds; basically a dirt field amid farmland.  The date was two days after my 19th birthday – July 24, and my Step-Dad offered to drive us to the event, and even pay for a hotel. A shuttle bus would drive us back to civilization to the Markville Mall’s parking lot where my Step-Dad would pick us up afterwards.

The day of the concert, my Step-Dad dropped us off early enough to catch the first act, Andrew Cash, on stage. The day was hot and humid, and not a cloud in sight. Hats and sunscreen were in order. At this point, it was easy to get into the venue; It wasn’t yet packed full of people, and my sis and I were able to get right up to the stage to see many of the bands play. The fairgrounds were dusty with a hard dirt floor. To be honest, everything was pretty non-descript and bare-bones. I don’t remember much about it other than there being food stands with a 200% mark-up (because we had to buy water), and a bank of smelly johnny-on-the-spots (because…well…y’know…). I have no take-away from the day – no pamphlet, or poster…I don’t remember there being CDs for sale there, but maybe there was…? And back then, they didn’t like people taking pictures during concerts – so, no pics!

The acts before the Hip were amazing, and because the venue was small, it felt intimate. It was a long day being in that heat. At one point, bouncers got out the water hoses to cool down the crowd. There wasn’t much shade, either but we persevered. The Hip were the last act of the night and we weren’t about to miss it for anything. As the time came to them coming out on-stage, the place really started to fill up, as though the Hip were all they paid money to see, and just showed up in time to see them; the Oils be damned.

And when the Hip took to the stage, it was complete pandemonium.

My sis and I stood somewhere in the back of the mostly male crowd when the Hip started, and moved a bit closer to the middle to get a better view. A mosh pit had developed almost immediately close to the stage. Meanwhile, the crowd at the back were moving their way closer to the front. Without even trying, thanks to force from the crowd my sis and I were being led forward. We weren’t noticing initially, as we paid more attention to the Hip. It wasn’t until they started in on their fourth song of the night, the Hundredth Meridian, that the crowd lost their minds, and became one large mosh pit, pushing and shoving each other. Next thing I know, I am there in the middle of this giant mosh pit! In an instant, a big guy shoved me, I lost my balance, and I hit the dirt. The scary part was when others involved in the mosh pit used me as a rug and stepped on me. I tried to pull myself up by grabbing people around me, but then I’d get stepped on and I would fall back down. Out of nowhere, this hand reached down and grabbed me by the t-shirt and pulled me to safety. It was my sis who said, ” That’s it, we are out of here!”

The incident was mere seconds, but felt a lifetime! I got away with little damage – only some cuts and bruises. I wanted to stay longer, but there was little crowd control. As it was, the crowd were almost preventing my sis and I from leaving the concert, as the whole area was now a mosh pit. I agreed – it was time to go.

Today, I live 15 minutes away from Markham Fairgrounds, and pass it by weekly. Amazing how this seemingly nondescript swath of land had a venue that hosted the Hip and a number of other bands I liked at the time. Another Roadside Attraction was one concert I won’t soon forget.

Now go read from others in the community who have shared their stories on the Tragically Hip:

Boppin from Boppin’s Blog
Aaron from Keeps Me Alive
Scott G (Guest post) from Mike Ladano
Geoff from 1001 Albums in 10 Years
Deke from Stick It In Your Ear
James from Keeps Me Alive

Thanks for reading!!