Tragically Hip tribute band plays Saturday

Tragically Hip tribute band Fully Completely Hip will play at Bitters and Bones in Saranac Lake Saturday. (Photo provided)

SARANAC LAKE — Sean Harley of Cornwall, Ontario, originally thought about creating a tribute band for the prog-metal group Tool, but then he realized he wanted to make music that was a little more accessible to a wide variety of audiences, a little closer to home and little easier to play.

He finally decided on a tribute band for Tragically Hip, a staple of the Canadian music scene.

Fully Completely Hip will perform at Bitters and Bones Saturday. Doors open at 8 p.m., and the show starts at 10 p.m. Tickets are $10.

For the rest of the article, Tragically Hip will be referred to as “the Hip” as they are generally called by in Canada, and Fully Completely Hip will go by “Fully Completely.”

The Hip are kind of like the Canadian version of the Pixies and Bruce Springsteen in that they inspired pretty much every rock band afterward they’re the quintessential musical representation of their country. Their influence can be heard in modern Canadian rock bands such as the Weakerthans, Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene. Even pop-idol and Ontarian Justin Bieber will occasionally bust out a cover of “Wheat Kings” during his concerts.

Tragically Hip tribute band Fully Completely Hip will play at Bitters and Bones in Saranac Lake Saturday. (Photo provided)

The Hip mixed blues, jam and alternative-rock instrumentation with lead singer Gord Downie’s poetic and narrative lyrics. It all came together and made a sound that really can only be described as “Canadian.” They were poignant stories wrapped in the intricacies of post-punk rock music.

“He was one of the greatest poets,” Harley said. “He sang a lot about water and being outside, which I think, actually, plenty of northern New York audiences can relate to, as well.”

Harley described Fully Completely’s music as a celebration of the Hip, not a copy.

“We try to play as close to the CD as possible,” he said, “but we also throw in variations from their live shows and original improvisations as well. Gord would sometimes change lyrics around for concerts, so I do that, too.”

It’s not just the songs though, Harley does his best to look like Downie, as well.

“Some of the guys in the band make fun of me because of it,” he said laughing. “But yeah, Gord had very eclectic style, so I do the whole thing — shiny pants, top hats, “Jaws” T-shirts. I never thought I’d be carrying a wardrobe trunk to shows.”

In early 2016, Downie went public with his illness of glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer.

“We were actually still practicing in the basement went Gord came out with that stuff,” Harley said, “so it the time, for lack of a better word, was great but terrible obviously when it comes to Gord’s health.”

Later that summer the Hip played their final concert in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario.

“Everybody was tuned into the [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] that night, “ Harley said. “You could hear that farewell show coming from every home in Canada.”

Downie finally died of his cancer in October 2017. It was an hard blow for all of Canada. He was memorialized by fellow musicians, on news and sports shows and in the House of Commons. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered a tear-filled speech commemorating the deceased rock star.

“We are less of a country without Gord Downie in it,” Trudeau said.

If you go …

Who: Fully Completely Hip band

What: A Tragically Hip tribute band

Where: Bitters and Bones, 65 Broadway, Saranac Lake

When: Saturday. Doors at 8 p.m. and show at 10 p.m.

How much: $10