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‘Welcome Home, Hip’: Tragically Hip fans begin to roll into Kingston


KINGSTON, ONT.—Don’t call it Kingston because today this is Hip-town.

At least that’s how it felt Saturday afternoon on the historic streets of the north-eastern Ontario city as hordes of music fans prepared for a massive tribute to the Tragically Hip.

The hometown rockers are winding into the city for the final stop on their “Man Machine Poemtour, which many believe will also be an emotional farewell. Lead singer Gord Downie revealed earlier this year that he’s battling terminal brain cancer.

If this is goodbye, then Kingstonians want to make sure this send off won’t soon be forgotten.

Reminders of the prolific Canadian band canvas the city’s downtown. Local restaurants wiped away daily specials on their sandwich boards and put up nods to the Hip’s fans.

Even the public transit system pulled out all the stops with a “Welcome Home, Hip” message that flashed across the bus route sign. Rides are free to help ease the onslaught of visitor traffic.

Locals couldn’t stop talking about the Hip either.

On the sidewalks it’s one of the most commonly overheard conversations as people discuss their plans for the big show, which is being televised across the country.

“It’s the hometown people that keep them going,” said Kingston native Chris Harris.

Early in the afternoon he was passing around a marker pen so visitors could write notes to the Hip on a wall outside the city’s market square.

“The Tragically Hip has been the soundtrack to the best years of my life,” read a message signed by Natalie from Prince Edward Island.

“You guys were my first concert,” another unsigned note said. “Honored to be here for your last.”

Tonight’s finale brings the Hip back to where their storied musical journey began in the early 1980s. Tens of thousands of fans — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau among them — are expected to be there.

Those with tickets to the sold-out show will be inside the 6,700-seat Rogers K-Rock Centre. Others will gather a few blocks away at Springer Market Square, an outdoor space next to city hall that’s streaming the show on a giant screen.

Even more are expected to watch a live broadcast of the concert airing across the country on the CBC.

Tickets for the “Man Machine Poem” tour sold out almost immediately after they went on sale in June — leaving many fans disappointed they’d miss a final chance to see the Hip live.

That led the CBC to lock in the one-time broadcast rights for the Kingston show.

It will air starting at 8:30 p.m. ET on the main CBC network and various other platforms such as CBC Radio One, the CBC website and its YouTube and Facebook channels.

Going to the final Tragically Hip show in Kingston, Ont. Saturday? If so, please send us your best pictures of the concert for a chance to be published in the Toronto Star and online.

TORONTO STAR | ENTERTAINMENT