Joe Nolan and friends set to celebrate the music of ‘hero’ Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip

Don’t call it a memorial or a tribute — although it was that.

But Joe Nolan thinks there’s probably a better term for the evening of The Tragically Hip music he and some area friends brought to the Ironwood Stage this past February, four months after the passing of frontman Gord Downie.

“It was a full-on celebration,” the Edmonton-based roots artist says. “Basically it was sold-out and it turned into a big dance party at the end of it. It was awesome, we had a lot of fun.”

So much so that they’ll do it again. Twice.

On Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2 Nolan and Co. will return to the Inglewood musical mecca for another couple nights of celebrating what many consider to be the quintessential Canadian band.

Those who packed the last one should know there’ll be a few different songs and the Alberta all-star-laden band will welcome the mighty Tim Leacock into the fold.

“But it’s pretty much the same deal, the same band, the same guests,” Nolan says of the crew that includes Mariel Buckley, Todd Stewart, Brooke Wylie and Ken Stead.

“We want it just to be a celebration of Gord and the Hip, of course, and their tunes.

“We want people to come and dance and sing along.”

And doubtless they will.

The music is engrained into the psyche of anyone who calls the True North home, and the loss of Downie has only underscored how important those songs are to many who grew up with them, had them passed down to them or couldn’t avoid them even if they wanted to.

So, for those who didn’t make it out last time, obviously it will be all of the old favourites and hits that are staples on most Canadian radio stations and around every firepit, but Nolan says they’ll also dig a little deeper for some “more obscure” songs from the Hip’s three-and-a-half-decade career.

“We cover their whole discography. We do a couple of songs from a lot of different albums,” he says.

Ask him to name a favourite, he admits it’s a difficult task to nail it down to one — even five proves a difficult feat — but the first he goes to is a Road Apples’ staple.

“I really enjoy doing Cordelia, that’s probably my favourite Hip song,” he says of King Lear-inspired tune. “When you actually learn it, I’ve been memorizing the lyrics — some of Gord’s poetry and writing is really out there, and I didn’t even know what he was talking about until I got into it.”

And, again, that’s what the entire evening is about — celebrating

“He was such a hero to me and many of my buddies here,” he says of the scene he runs with two-and-a-half-hours north of this city.

“The day that he passed away I was having a beer with my buddy Nigel and we just decided to do this (in Edmonton), and I made some phone calls and everybody was into it. So our first show we put on we did as a one-time thing.”

That first successful show, which was a fundraiser for a homeless charity, of course, led to a similarly popular Calgary version of it, which has now led to this weekend’s double-down.

And what will that lead to?

“We’re just huge Hip fans growing up. As I said, Gord is such a hero to me and so many people, I just felt like we had to do something, I don’t know,” Nolan says.

“So we don’t plan to — these will probably be our last shows. We don’t want to turn it into a tribute, cover band thing, but just a celebration.”

When it’s pointed out, though, that the Ironwood has several such celebrations on its annual calendar — such as a Bruce Springsteen event, a recently added Tom Petty appreciation evening and a two-night Bob Dylan birthday affair that just took place — the singer-songwriter wavers slightly.

“I want to do it for the right reasons,” he says. “There’s so many people that love those Tragically Hip songs — they don’t ever get old.

“So who knows.”

(Photo courtesy

The Tragically Hip tribute takes place Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2 at the Ironwood Stage and Grill. For reservations please call 403-269-5581.