Ticket stubs and tributes: Fans recall Gord Downie's energy and the Hip's biggest concerts

As the grief over Gord Downie's death spread across the country, it also gave rise to a wave of collective memories of how the Tragically Hip's frontman and his tireless energy had touched so many. We've collected some of those stories — and the ticket stubs — from the band's memorable concerts.

The Tragically Hip travelled across the country, playing a brand of Canadiana that unified a nation

Gord Downie's death was announced Wednesday after a diagnosis of brain cancer nearly two years ago. The passionate frontman for the Tragically Hip continued to perform despite his illness.

As grief over Gord Downie's death spread across the country, it also gave rise to a wave of collective memories of how the Tragically Hip's frontman and his tireless energy touched so many. 

We've collected some of those stories — and the ticket stubs — from the band's memorable concerts.

Secret Path

Although the Hip last performed in Halifax in 2015, Downie came alone the next November and played to a sold-out crowd at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium. It had been part of his Secret Path tour, a project about 12-year-old Indigenous boy Chanie Wenjack, who died of exposure after escaping a residential school in 1966. 

(Dave Irish/CBC)

Substitute teacher

Laura Bouchard still has faded ticket stubs from seeing the Hip perform in 1993, 1999 and in 2005 when they opened for the Rolling Stones in Moncton. 

"Gord was a one-of-a-kind entertainer and he had a great sense of humour," she wrote. "I remember at the concert we went to in Ottawa in 1999, Gord showed up on stage in a sports coat and tie … and stated, 'I'll be your substitute teacher for the evening.' One of the best."

(Laura Bouchard)

Inspiring change

​Just months after announcing he had been diagnosed with an incurable form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma, Downie launched into what would be his final tour with the Hip. Screens erected in public squares and parks drew crowds of thousands as an estimated 11.7 million people tuned in to listen to the band play in its hometown of Kingston, Ont., on Aug. 20.

Downie then spent the last year of his life advocating for Canada to do work to reconcile with its Indigenous communities. 

"I had never realized how much Gord epitomized the 'ideal' Canadian until after I saw his second-to-last show in Ottawa last year," Chris Goudge wrote in a note to CBC News. "I started looking into what he believed and the work he did to try and reconcile the differences with our Indigenous community."

(Dave Irish/CBC)

Reaching across genres

The Tragically Hip attracted fans from all genres of music, @j4y_n wrote in a tweet to CBC Nova Scotia. Despite being a lifelong listener of hip hop, the fan was also captivated by the Hip and went to countless concerts.

"Gord was the type of artist who just went insane on stage," he said. "That wasn't just a one-time thing. Every Hip concert I went to was like that."

(Dave Irish/CBC)

First concerts

The Hip has a strong base across Nova Scotia, selling out shows in Halifax and in Cape Breton. 

And Downie's songs captured some of the country's hidden gems, its beauty as well as painful stories from the past. Those lyrics have been hailed as uniquely Canadian, taking a narrative path that travels from David Milgaard's wrongful conviction to a tranquil night spent stargazing in a small town northeast of Toronto.

(Dave Irish/CBC)