9am – 4:30pm
I arrived at 8:50 am on Friday Morning and was the last person who shook Gord D’s hand as he floated off to the Band’s holding room at 1:50 am Saturday morning – What happened in between was no doubt a highlight of my 11 years of Following the Band which includes “working backstage” at the 1st Another Roadside Attraction, the IVL release party, I & I at Much Music, parting at an apartment in NYC where Johnny Fay stayed before a Henhouse show at Irving Plaza and Dozens of other small & LARGE shows somewhere in the 45 range….
At 9am the first team of about 25 or so “extras” were told that things would be an hour or so and we would start shooting with the Band would be arriving anytime. The second wave of about 150 or so “extras” would arrive for 2pm for the main shoot which should’ve ended at around 7pm. We were told if we were having fun that we could stay for the whole “shoot”. Nathalie from “Revolver Films” was a very upbeat “Hip-Hopper” who said she was slowly becoming a Hip fan…. She would lead us through the next 17+ hours. She told me that they received about 1700 emails and had to shut down the website! It was overwhelming. People entered from Buffalo, London and all-over. She actually hand picked by name, location, age etc…about 240 people to call….which resulted in the 130-150 chosen. (A few people brought friends and Nathalie didn’t seem to mind.??? (I know that hurts?) Also some of the girls I spoke with had only seen maybe 1 or 2 shows)
I will start here by saying that although there was some serious Hip Fans in attendance it is a complete SIN that dozens more from The Henhouse & Hipbase weren’t chosen! Most were early to mid twenties with a few in their 30’s. Things got all screwed up with the Stage set-up apparently and we got the run around for 4-5hrs… So a few of us went out for a Liquid Lunch to exchange stories and get to know one another . While we were gone we were told that the Hip came out into the “holding area” and signed autographs and allowed for pictures saying thank-you to everyone for coming and waiting it out. We missed that session which was fine knowing we had many hours ahead of mingling with the Band. Back with a Buzz and some new friends the 2pm people had arrived and the room we once owned was full of new anticipating faces and the waiting game was still on. To kill time Nathalie was giving signed posters away with the help of people giving her questions to ask in a Hip Trivia game….or if you sang infront of the 150+ crowd… you automatically got a poster. A few people did and it wasn’t pretty. My answer “the SAX” won me a poster…The Question of course – what was the 6th instrument the HIP used at one time back in the beginning?
NOW… sometime before 5pm the first group was asked to line up to be brought onto the set. HERE we go… Dark at first… we turned a corner and the Set appeared like a large hallway about 20 feet wide and maybe 50 feet in length…maybe 12ft high … Violet Walls with round clear\white lights running down each side at about the 7ft mark in a straight line… this hallway ended at a knee high-Stage where we were now standing. The boys were all wearing Black. Gord D & Bobby with the full suits and the rest sporting some black pant & shirt combo… Paul in cowboy boots & a pair of Black Oakley’s which he wore through much of the evening. Gord S’s Bass was see-thru… looked like plexi-glass and Paul and Bobby’s guitars had a Silver sparkle/glitter face. There were tons of lights which made it appear to be one big “tanning booth” … the rest of the “extras” piled in behind us trying to get closer even though we were constantly told to “move back & spread out”. Reverb from the Bass could be heard & both Paul & Bobby were plugged in… Bobby to what seemed to be some vintage Fender Amps. The only thing not plugged in was… Gord D’s Mic! I am standing behind one person in front of Gord Sinclair’s position…. Gord D begins to chat with a few people and while Paul is sitting on his amp plucking away someone asked if they can have their picture taken with him, he says sure and the guy hops up and goes over kneeling beside Mr. Langlois “cheese” ..Off the stage he goes and that’s that.
Things were very relaxed. The guys thanked small groups up front for coming and waiting numerous times. Smiles on all the tired faces appeared now that we were finally standing an arm-length away from the Band… many people had to leave and never even made it to this part of the experience. We were told it was time to Rehearse and that’s what we did, over and over. For the next hour or 2 we ran through SILVER JET 12-20 times….sometimes the full song and others just 20-40 second sections. Production would crank out the IVL Album version and The Hip would play live over top of it… while Gord D. lip-synced!
The music was usually so loud you couldn’t tell except the guitars had a small but different sound and with the Drums not mic’d they sounded like you were in someone’s basement on and off. Gord D had what looked like a set list at his feet which was really a detailed lyrics sheet for…”Silver Jet” with time intervals and verses. It is difficult to write here how it felt the first time they went through the full song, adrenaline, the lights, the heat, a nod from Bobby, eye contact from the Gord’s and “us” the select group of Hip fans chosen to be in “Silver Jet”… Gord D signed a few things while in between takes and joked with the 2 guys in front of him who challenged him to a game of ice or roller hockey…. At one point I referred to the PGA tournament being played here this weekend and said “Daley is at 10 under” looking for a response…Sinclair looked up at me and asked “Really?” I said “no”…that drew a small smile which the guys seemed to appreciate throughout the long evening.
Some where around 7pm the Production Crew needed to do a few tweaks etc…so the Band got a small break here and as they climbed off the stage and into our standing area some chose to stick around to say Hi, pictures etc.. While most of us headed back to the holding tank. Here there were boxes of bottled water and a box of apples waiting for us there and a boom-box on in the background. I stuck to the door we would be going back into since it would only be 20-30min. and I wanted to be right up against the stage again. Nathalie from Revolver actually announced at this point that we could call any friends who we thought may come down and join in since we had still another 4 hours at least to shoot. I called a friend and left him a message with the address. They were obviously concerned with the amount of people that had left and where the numbers may be in 2 hours?
Break over – In we go… onto the set and right up against the stage this time in front of Gord D and Paul. As we stake our ground Gord is front and centre… he says hi… the others just fooling around with their instruments. Johnny Fay looks as tired as everyone else but more irritated now heading into the 10th hour or so of being in this old warehouse they called a studio. As Paul stands up off his amp… to stretch his legs I ask him if he had given Bobby the “wooden guitar Pic” I handed him backstage at Darien Lake last Sunday? He looked at me for a second and said “yes, actually just yesterday I gave it to him” and I responded with a thank you, telling him I appreciated it. It’s now close to Rehearsal again… and again the sweat appears on everyone… ready to get started… I lean over to the people next to me and say “imagine if they played Silver Jet?”…just loud enough for Gord D to hear of course… he smiled and they started from the beginning again. Gord leaned way back with each hand hovering over his chest pretending to hold himself up by his nipples. When they stopped 20 seconds later he looked down at us and asked if liked that… “the inverted nipple hang ?” Then someone asked for the “peacock”? The rehearsals went on and on and the Director’s helpers were asking for more energy! Gord D really did look to the crowd and a few of us who were right in front of him to inspire each 30 second or 3 minutes of Silver Jet take… the rest of the Band fed from us also followed by Gords moves and gyrations. At the beginning of each take I tended to look at the lyrics sheet taped to the stage almost as if it was a set list at a real concert and asked Gord if he could squeeze in “Silver Jet” or look at the guys beside me saying “Why don’t we go with Silver Jet next?” Now I am no comedian (obviously) but if you were as hot, tired, hungry and thirsty as we all were …it did get a chuckle… and finally as we headed into the last take before our next break Gord D actually looked down at me smirking… and said “what do think… what should we go with?” …
The band left the stage and again signed a few things for people saying hello’s & thank-you’s. Johnny told the girl beside me he had to go to Kingston and then to Boston. He clearly wanted to get the hell out of there. Revolver then announced that Pizza had been ordered and that we would be back for one final session. Out into the holding tank I was almost dizzy with exhaustion. I grabbed a piece of Pizza and headed outside for air, called my friend again and left him a message. Back in and over to the Door where a line-up had formed of people who wanted to be closer. I did a count and there were about 6 of us from the 9am crew who were still there. New faces appeared, new age groups (40’s) and Matt who I called showed up and was more than ready to join in. Nathalie from Revolver asked how many could stay another 2 hours? Then how many could stay another 4 in total even though it was close to 10pm. Most said ya to the 2 hours but not sure about beyond that.
So now we are told they are shooting close-ups of the boys and that we can go in and sit at the back and watch until we were needed again. In we go jockeying for positions for when we are aloud to go up to the front. The Cameras were right up in Gord D’s face. He gyrated and did his dance and then left the stage to join some of the Film Crew back in the Director’s Chairs about 10 feet away from where we were waiting. They blasted out the CD version over and over as they shot Paul, then Gord S and Bobby and finally Johnny. This easily took an hour and now Gord was sipping on a Coffee brought in by one of the “runners”. Each guy left the stage after his part and headed by Gord D and the film crew and went back to their Holding Room. At one point when they were still up on stage except for Gord D they were waiting for something and began jamming away softly one instrument at a time…now they had done this earlier but this time Johnny joined in and it started to sound like something medium tempo… bluesy, jazzy but nothing we had heard before… it got a bit louder and they actually seemed to get into it. Drifting off …the instrumental ended and we applauded… the music was cool, the lights were still very warm.
OK now they are changing the camera’s tracks and overall angles while the boys break we get handed water and prepare to head back up to the front. But it seemed like forever. My feet were pulsating… like I was in a standing up contest or something. In position finally… right back in front of Paul… they ask us to close in abit towards the centre where the camera is going to crawl from back to front. They brought in another woman to play a part outside of us extras… that would be standing 15 ft or so away from the stage grooving to the band as we all had been doing all night. The guys appeared again, Johnny stopped briefly beside me to say hi to this fairly attractive 22-23 yr old beside me, thanked her for sticking around and then hopped up and over to his kit. This Rehearsal was pretty much the same only with the crowd bunched up towards the centre, a different camera angle, this new “hot extra” at the foot of the camera and they wanted ENERGY and there didn’t seem to be much left in the building…. ..We went through a 30sec window once or twice and the energy didn’t seem to be there… in the band or in the crowd.
What happened next was like a little scene from “Rocky” The Director said “we need energy”… Gord looked down at a few of us… and the one guy beside me starts the chant just slightly “HIP – HIP – HIP – HIP” well that caught on and it got LOUDER…and they just threw the KEW, Gord smiled and flew into the 30 sec challenge like it was a unplanned Encore with us “extras” going crazy! It ended and Gord did a few jump shots (basketball) and I commented “swish”… Gord walked over towards us smiling and looked right at the guy who started the chant saying “thanks guy, you pulled that out just on time… the HIP…right on” Again though we went through more sections of the song and tested everyone’s endurance, will and determination. Finally at 12:30am or so that was it! Johnny left the stage first giving his sticks to the “queen” beside me who he had been eyeing for a couple of hours. Some other girl in the centre said… “Those are mine he promised those to me.” Johnny was long gone now and I believe Billy-Ray hooked her & others up with a set.
Paul hopped down in front of me and I said “great seeing you again, (I reached in my pocket) here is another one of those wooden guitar picks. This one is African Blackwood.” Paul shook my hand and thanked me saying it was cool and to take care. I looked over and Bobby, Gord S and Gord D were all taking pictures and signing posters. In 10 minutes or so Bobby was gone. Gord Sinclair was gone and then there was Mr. Downie signing every single last poster and posing for every last picture. No security at this event just an exhausted Gord thanking us. A few more people left but there was one more shoot as they assembled everyone together around this “video chick” the camera was to film her walking towards the stage slowly past a few of us….going crazy for this Rock Band. I finally got Gords attention and he reached his hand out and said “Thanks for keeping it Lite out there tonight man, it really helped out” I said “no problem I have a “wooden pick” here for you. They sound great on the acoustic, it is made out of Bloodwood I told him.” He actually stopped walking and said “thanks” in a very genuine way.
We wandered over to the small crowd of 25 or so left and gathered around this area for the final shoot. I was just in behind the first row of people who the girl was going to walk by which is right where the camera was. Well Gord D walks up just behind me and snuggles into the crowd as an “extra” and actually stood with us for a few minutes joking about how the director didn’t even see him. They did one take or so while Gord was still there. He eventually said thanks again and wandered off. We were now expected to “come out of our shoes” with excitement looking up at a blank stage with the music on in the background?? That wasn’t gonna fly until Nathalie & another guy got up on stage and did a crazy go-go style dance together during the song-takes making us all laugh and get into just enough to pull it off after 5 or 6 takes. THAT’S IT ! at 1:30 am approx. we were done.
Everyone headed towards the exits and Gord D was still standing talking to some guy. I hung around for a few minutes on set and chatted with my friend Matt about his conversation with Bobby he had earlier. He had asked about a request from the Henhouse… “Another Midnight” Bobby said, that’s a good request. Matt said if there is anyway to work it into the Hummingbird Shows it would be VERY WELL accepted…. So we began to leave and Gord D just finished up his conversation and we ended up walking down the outside of the set towards our door to leave and his door to the Bands Area. He shook our hand again and I mentioned to him that I really enjoyed his solo album with “The Never Ending Present” being my favourite track from it…he answered with a “Really?” then I added that I was curious to hear what he thinks the “wooden pick” after he gets to try it. He pulled it out holding it up saying “Take Care guys” and he was gone his way and we headed into an empty holding room where there was one poster left…. Matt grabbed that for himself and “we headed for home”
Thanks to Nathalie & Revolver Films for being very professional and treating all of us “extras” so great, Thanks to all the new Hip fans I shared the day with and thanks to The Tragically Hip for appreciating their fans and signing every last poster that was asked of them.
“Fast forward to 2006 I believe thehip.com gets a new look and within minutes of browsing the site I notice that one of the main sections called “The Hip Story Project” has a banner up top with a typewriter and in the background is some writing… like a story… with a partial title of “…R JET VIDEO SHOOT”. Really quite an interesting thing to have happen after following this band for the last 15 years at this point.“