The Hip Show’s Sunfest tribute worthy of Canada’s rock royalty

If you were one of those cynical people who thought a tribute act couldn’t hold a candle to the originating band in The Hip Show to the Tragically Hip, you would not only have been mistaken but you would have missed out on one heck of a great show Saturday night in Kinsmen Park at Sunfest in Castlegar.

Those few hundred who did make it out enjoyed a toe-tapping blast or an outright grass-cutting dance party.

Matt Mattson as lead vocalist Gord Downie, Joe Foley as lead guitarist Robby Baker, David Van Andel as rhythm guitarist Paul Langlois, Mike Satchwell as drummer Johnny Fay, and Brad Uchida as bassist Gordon Sinclair delivered two solid hours of Hip classics.

The Vancouver-area band has been paying tribute to Canada’s rock royalty for eight years, and that time and togetherness was evident in Castlegar. Their playing was exceptionally tight, and they lifted each other’s energy as the show went on.

Possibly the hardest thing for a tribute act to accomplish is making you forget they are a tribute act if only for a few moments. There were several such moments during this show, and there were times went I got emotional as I remembered Gord Downie’s last show and his fight with brain cancer.

These guys were not only able to hit all of the notes and vocals, but they were — more importantly to me — able to capture the band’s oneness and stage vibe. That, perhaps, is the ultimate compliment.

Their quieter moments were sublime, the rocking tunes crunchy and angry. Matt’s acrobatic, manic Downie was eerily accurate. The intimate venue allowed a kind of access to the songs and band not normal for a real Hip show, and that added to the energy and connection.

Hip, hip hooray to this tribute act. I’ve seen The Hip four times over the years, and Saturday’s performance by The Hip Show brought back the electricity once again.

John White

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