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Kingston presents a lot greater than its uniquely Hip music scene Specific Occasions

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Led by The Tragically Hip, Limestone Metropolis is house to an unusually excessive proportion of nationally acknowledged musicians

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“And everybody will agree that initiative, ingenuity, co-operation, and work are the cornerstones of a profitable future.” – Unnamed participant concerned with Kingston Penitentiary is On the Air, the jail’s half-hour weekly selection radio program from 1952-55.

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Tucked behind one in all Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka bottles in a liquor cupboard show stocked with premium whiskey, scotch and bourbon was one in all The Tragically Hip’s Juno Awards.

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So when Hip guitarist Rob Baker walked into the room — an authentic Financial institution of Montreal vault reworked into a personal downtown Kingston bar contained in the Frontenac Membership lodge’s restaurant — we requested him concerning the Juno, a Finest Rock Album trophy for 1998’s Phantom Energy.

He scratched his head. Wasn’t positive the way it wound up there.

Such is life as a member of arguably Canada’s foremost rock band. The accolades understandably are inclined to blur over three-plus a long time of constant success.

The aim of our latest go to to Kingston was two-fold. Town, which is a couple of three-hour drive from each Toronto and Montreal and on the shores of the place Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River, is as charming as they arrive. The house of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, and in addition Canada’s first pre-Confederation capital, it’s brimming with heritage websites, spectacular structure and extra eating places per capita than another place within the nation.

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Generally known as the Limestone Metropolis due to its many heritage buildings constructed utilizing sedimentary rock, town’s rock ’n’ roll scene has likewise served as a stable basis, producing world-class musical expertise that deserves to be celebrated.

So come for the limestone, however keep for the music.

It’s a far cry from being Nashville. No circus environment right here. A stone commemorating The Tragically Hip’s ultimate live performance in 2016 is considerably tough to seek out inside Springer Market Sq. and when you do discover it, you’ll be even harder-pressed to learn the message. It matches Kingston’s general music vibe: Heaps of expertise, however it’s totally approachable, pretty low key and everyone seems to be seemingly extra humble than the following.

Led by the Hip, Kingston is the proud house of an unlikely proportion of nationally acknowledged musicians for a mid-size metropolis of its form.

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Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip take the stage as the main act at Live at Squamish on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. POSTMEDIA NETWORK FILES
Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip take the stage as the principle act at Stay at Squamish on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. POSTMEDIA NETWORK FILES

Not counting Bryan Adams, who moved away at start, no fewer than 38 Juno Awards have been gained by Kingston musicians (22 by Gord Downie and the Hip). The key gamers embody Adams, The Mahones, Headstones, Sarah Harmer, The Wonderful Sons, Miss Emily (Emily Fennell) and Bedouin Soundclash, although the record is much extra intensive.

You may’t even exit to eat on the town with out touchdown on a musical affect (Chez Piggy restaurant was began by Zal Yanovsky, a member of Sixties pop group The Lovin’ Spoonful).

Is it one thing within the water?

We requested round and it appears the solutions do exist as to why Kingston, inhabitants 140,000 or so, has churned out so many hit-makers.

As a penitentiary and navy city, town is probably higher protected than most from financial uncertainties.

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Having Queen’s College means there’s a built-in urge for food – and viewers — for leisure.

There’s a wholesome mixture of venues for upcoming musicians to place the reps in, but town’s dimension means alternatives are finite. Ultimately, bands eager on constructing a profession should enterprise out alongside the Hwy. 401 hall and into Toronto or Montreal, superb markets to enter after first honing expertise and constructing confidence domestically.

Co-operation amongst venues and fellow musicians is probably equally key, as is having sufficient bodily venues. There are dozens of live-music areas all through Kingston.

“Having the areas which can be obtainable is basically vital,” Tourism Kingston’s music commissioner Moira Demorest stated. “Each (venue) is simply barely totally different. It’s not the identical competitors.”

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Timing may be all the pieces. It didn’t harm the Hip to be rising up the ranks with the nation’s CanCon mandate firmly established and MuchMusic hitting its stride in Canada.

“All of a sudden, there’s type of a delight in Canadian homegrown music that hadn’t actually existed earlier than,” Baker stated of the late Eighties/early ’90s. “Individuals began having fun with their native music. That gave us an opportunity.”

Maybe most vital is management.

“I give credit score to individuals like (Michael) ‘X-ray’ Macrae (Prince George Lodge, Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern),” Baker stated. “Truthfully, it’s individuals which can be dedicated to having a stay music venue. They sow the seed. They convey musicians in from elsewhere. The native youngsters see that and are impressed and see that it’s attainable. That’s what impressed us.”

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Within the phrases of legendary Hip frontman Downie, it by no means hurts to be “armed with will and dedication, and charm, too.”

To borrow some extra lyrics from Downie: “No costume rehearsal. That is your life.” So why not take advantage of it by hitting the highway and heading to Kingston for a music-themed getaway? Sounds good, we all know.

This photo from the Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Insitute 1982 yearbook features Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, Mauro Sepe, drummer of The Mahones, and the Hip's Paul Langlois.
This Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute 1982 yearbook photograph options The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, second from left, Mauro Sepe, drummer of The Mahones, second from proper, and the Hip’s Paul Langlois within the again row.


Whereas historic sights like Fort Henry, trolley excursions and the Kingston Penitentiary have all the time been a draw, solely just lately has Kingston begun leveraging its music scene to draw guests. One such instance is the newly launched Inventive Kingston music strolling excursions. Guests can discover town’s musical previous, current and future at their very own tempo with three self-guided excursions, every narrated by location musicians and music lovers.

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Our hour-long downtown tour began at 1 The Tragically Hip Approach, a bit of roadway in entrance of what’s now the Leon’s Centre, town’s 6,700-seat leisure advanced and hockey area that hosted the Hip’s ultimate live performance on Aug. 20, 2016.

After studying concerning the Hip — together with their first present in 1984 on the Kingston Artists’ Affiliation a block away — we ventured over to the Service provider Faucet Home, the place Juno winners The Wonderful Sons had a weekly gig in 2011.

Different tour stops embody the Copper Penny restaurant (the location of early Hip recordings), Skeleton Park (house to the Skeleton Park Arts Pageant); the Grand Theatre (the place Harmer has carried out on many events); Chez Piggy and The Toucan (the previous began by the aforementioned Lovin’ Spoonfuls member and the latter the place Hip drummer Johnny Fay was rumoured to do his highschool homework within the basement between units); the Prince George Lodge (together with Greenback Invoice’s within the again room, common on the blues circuit); and Springer Market Sq. (the place 25,000 followers gathered exterior throughout the Hip’s ultimate present).

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The 2 different strolling music excursions embody stops at Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute, the place members of the Hip, Moist, Headstones and 13 Engines attended, as nicely at Queen’s College, the place Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy attended and performed his first present at Grant Corridor.

You could possibly even run into Baker throughout one of many walks because the guitarist spends numerous time strumming on his entrance porch, which is on the route.


There’s no higher factor to do in your go to to this music metropolis than take a look at some stay music.

We noticed Blue Rodeo carry out on the Leon’s Centre in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of their seminal album 5 Days in July. They sounded nice, as per typical, and the venue is town’s big-event centrepiece, house to the Ontario Hockey League’s Frontenacs.

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Head over for after-show drinks at Musiikki, the place you may catch a neighborhood efficiency seven nights every week.

Kingston’s latest venue, the Broom Manufacturing unit, boasts a powerful record of stay acts, whereas working as an all-ages, accessible, eco-friendly venue. Apart from concert events, the venue is used for workplace area and hosts workshops and extra. The choices are loads for stay music in Kingston with many venues internet hosting music seven nights every week.

A tasty chicken dish at The Everly. IAN SHANTZ/TORONTO SUN
A tasty rooster dish at The Everly. Picture by IAN SHANTZ /TORONTO SUN


Do you imagine in magic? That’s the title of the hit track by New York Metropolis’s The Lovin’ Spoonful. It’s additionally reasonably magical inside Chez Piggy, launched by band member and Kingston resident Yanovsky. The restaurant has been a mainstay because the Toronto-born musician retired from music and have become a chef and restaurateur, renovating what was an deserted limestone secure alongside together with his second spouse, Rose Richardson, earlier than opening in 1979.

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Yanovsky died in 2002 and their daughter Zoe now runs Chez Piggy and the household bakery Pan Chancho. Like “the Pig,” The Everly ranks among the many metropolis’s finest eating places, providing a rotating menu of seasonal dishes and a considerate wine record.

Head up Princess St. for some rockin’ eats at Union Kitchen + Cocktails, partly owned by The Wonderful Sons guitarist Jay Emmons. The restaurant shares a reputation with the three-time Juno Award-winning band’s debut full-length album.

Kingston Pen Tours operates a variety of tours and events within the prison walls. IAN SHANTZ/TORONTO SUN
Kingston Pen Excursions operates quite a lot of excursions and occasions throughout the jail partitions. IAN SHANTZ/TORONTO SUN


Opened in 1867, the Kingston Penitentiary — Canada’s oldest penitentiary – endured three main riots, together with a four-day riot in 1971 that was deemed the worst one in Canadian historical past.

We’re betting the inmates had a extra fun-loving riot throughout their time creating music behind bars, one thing the jail inspired with the creation of the Kingston Penitentiary is On the Air radio program, a half-hour present broadcast on Saturday nights each summer time between 1952 and 1955. The present included a swing band known as the Solitaires, a western group known as the Hay Shakers and comedians. Eric Clapton’s organic father, Edward Fryer, spent 3 1/2 years within the Kingston Clink, taking part in piano with the Solitaires.

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Musicians akin to Gordon Lightfoot and Stompin’ Tom Connors additionally carried out on the penitentiary, which closed in 2013.

At this time, guests can hear customized accounts from former workers, whereas studying concerning the jail’s historical past throughout public excursions of the power. The most effective half for company, after all, is that they get to depart.

Canada’s Penitentiary Museum, positioned throughout the highway from the Pen, is a must-visit.

Inside the Queen's Suite at the Frontenac Club, a boutique hotel in downtown Kingston.
Contained in the Queen’s Suite on the Frontenac Membership, a boutique lodge in downtown Kingston. IAN SHANTZ/TORONTO SUN


We completely loved our keep at The Frontenac Membership, a 20-suite boutique lodge in a renovated 175-year-old constructing that was the primary purpose-built department of the Financial institution of Montreal. Every room is uniquely designed primarily based on a neighborhood theme. We stayed within the Queen’s suite with views of the Royal Navy Faculty and Fort Henry from the window. Guests can full their music-themed getaway by staying within the Backstage suite, outfitted with a turntable together with The Tragically Hip information and framed artwork.

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Breakfast and parking are included within the nightly price, as is a classic Pac-Man online game and a number of sweet on the second flooring.

For extra info on Kingston’s tourism choices, go to visitkingston.ca.

Sarah Harmer is one of Kingston’s best-known musicians.
Sarah Harmer is one in all Kingston’s best-known musicians.


A listing of notable musicians and bands from Kingston:

— The Tragically Hip

— Headstones

— The Mahones

— Bryan Adams (born in Kingston)

— Sarah Harmer/Weeping Tile

— Miss Emily (Emily Fennell)

— The Wonderful Sons

— Bedouin Soundclash

— Kasador

— Luther Wright and The Wrongs

— Ryan Malcolm/Low Degree Flight

— Devon Sproule

— Jason Englishman

— PS I Love You

— Mary Jane Lamond

— Zal Yanovsky (retired in Kingston)

The Tragically Hip (minus Gord Downie) on the red carpet for Long Time Running during the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. From left are Gord Sinclair, Johnny Fay, Paul Langlois and Rob Baker. ERNEST DOROSZUK/TORONTO
The Tragically Hip (minus Gord Downie) on the pink carpet for Lengthy Time Operating throughout the Toronto Worldwide Movie Pageant in Toronto on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. From left are Gord Sinclair, Johnny Fay, Paul Langlois and Rob Baker. ERNEST DOROSZUK/TORONTO SUN


When Rob Baker isn’t engaged on numerous tasks out and in of the music studio, The Tragically Hip guitarist enjoys the most effective of what’s round his hometown and basic space. A have a look at a few of the musician’s native favourites:

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Espresso: I drink my espresso at house and I’ve in all probability saved sufficient to purchase a automotive at this level.

Music venue: Greenback Invoice’s on the Prince George, traditionally, was one of many coolest music venues anyplace ever. Presently, there’s a little bit tiny place known as Musiikki Café. If the climate is sweet and it’s outside, they’ve a little bit outside spot and it’s below a tree out again. It’s simply magical.

Favorite band in Kingston: Kasador, The Wilderness, I really like them each. The Dukes of Earl (a undertaking he’s engaged on together with his son, Boris) goes to be large. Actually large.

Bookstore: The E book Service provider.

Breakfast: I miss Windmills, however the Northside. It’s fairly nice.

Swimming gap: I float. I can swim a little bit bit. Not a lot. Not a lot in Lake Ontario, however I used to swim loads in what’s now Gord Downie Pier.

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File store: The 2 that I am going to on the town are One thing Else and Zap Data. However the biggest report retailer I’ve ever been to in my life was in Kingston. A spot known as The Home of Sounds.

Burger: I like Harper’s on Princess St.

Clothes: King & Bay.

Bar/restaurant: Chez Piggy is a go-to for me purely for consolation. It’s like a second house to me.

Tenting spot: I’m like Zsa Zsa Gabor. I’m like probably the most allergic man on this planet. I really like the idea of tenting. I really like the idea of being on the cottage. I get a mosquito chunk and I swell up.

Place to ponder: My porch. I used to spend so much of time down on the waterfront, down round Macdonald Park. I used to go down there and simply grasp on the market for an hour.

Hip followers can quickly get their fingers on one thing new. The twenty fifth anniversary field set for the band’s iconic album Phantom Energy comes out on Nov. 3, whereas The Tragically Hip ABC image e-book is being launched on Oct. 24.

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Dollar Bill’s at the Prince George Hotel was Hip guitarist Rob Baker's favourite music venue.
Greenback Invoice’s on the Prince George Lodge was Hip guitarist Rob Baker’s favorite music venue.


On Kingston’s demographics: You’ve gotten youngsters from each background right here and that’s nice. Our band, we have been merchandise of that. We’d play at a picnic after which play a Queen’s frat factor, then play a neighborhood get together or highschool or candy 16, we’d do all of it. Any gig was an excellent gig.

On the hardships of operating a stay music venue: It takes loads to run a stay music venue. It’s a must to be actually devoted to do it. It signifies that your margins are smaller. It’s a sacrifice to do it. You do it since you actually find it irresistible. It’s form of like being a musician. In case you don’t find it irresistible … that’s obtained to be your primary purpose.

On the built-in co-operation amongst native musicians: It feels prefer it’s not as aggressive as in larger cities, so bands are extra inclined to assist one another out and to work collectively. “Oh, you guys have a gig in Brockville, take our van.” Or, you already know, loaning gear round.

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On his post-Hip life: I work 5 days every week, within the workplace because it have been. Doing songwriting, writing songs or portray work that nobody will see or hear and that’s effective. I’m reconciled to that and that’s OK with me. But when I will help my son (Boris, a member of the band Kasador) out or one other native band … If I will help native bands, that’s nice.

On Kingston musicians staying humble: Have you ever been to Newfoundland? You don’t stick your neck out. You don’t attempt to rise above different individuals. They’ll reduce you off on the knees. Kingston is a little bit bit like that. The tall poppy will get chopped off, so maintain your head down and don’t placed on airs.

On town pumping its tires a bit extra: I believe possibly it must be celebrated extra. Canadians aren’t superb at celebrating our nation inside our personal borders. You get exterior of the nation and speak about Canada on a regular basis and we wave the flag. At house, we aren’t speaking about it and possibly that’s an excellent factor. Nationalism, it’s the final refuge. Singing the praises of Kingston, each metropolis can sing its personal praises to some extent, you already know? We’re doing the most effective we will. There are good issues about Kingston. If it interprets right into a wholesome music scene, that’s nice.

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On his first paid gigs at The Commodore: I’d have gotten $50 money and all of the beer I may drink. I used to be 18 and that was my going price. I’ll play anyplace for $50 and all of the beer I can drink. I had no bills.

On burning the candle at each ends within the early days with the Hip: We would play one of many lodges on the town – the Ramada Inn or one thing – play there from midday till two, then we’d play a gig at Queen’s, possibly an out of doors venue like a homecoming or a frosh week occasion. Then we’d play an evening gig on the Lakeview Manor from 9 until one after which we’d go and play after-hours from 2:30 until 4:30. We’d try this form of factor on a fairly common foundation, play two, three, even 4 gigs in a day. If there’s a little bit little bit of demand, you run with it.

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On selecting to remain in Kingston: Kingston is larger sufficient that your child can go off and do stuff and get into bother, however you’re not going to lose them. Perhaps that’s how my dad and mom felt. That’s how I felt with a child.

On who paved the way in which for the Hip: Krissy Abbott from The Pursuit of Happiness was a neighborhood gal. She was possibly two years forward of us. We have been in awe of Krissy Abbott. She was this stunning younger gal who performed killer guitar and we simply thought, ‘She’s a punk, man.’ We beloved her. After which she form of made it. We have been very fortunate that there have been individuals round us like that. All these bands have been like a yr forward of us. The Northern Pikes, The Spirit of the West, 54-40, The Pursuit of Happiness, all of them appeared to be like one yr forward of the place we have been, however then this complete factor occurred. There are such a lot of luck elements.

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On celebrating your previous: I believe it’s an excellent factor to honour your historical past, however there are limits to it. I believe you must maintain centered on the current and the longer term. To the extent that if a little bit little bit of give attention to the historical past would profit the current and the longer term, then it’s an excellent factor.

On his portray pursuits at house: I do them for me. It’s form of like taking part in music. It will get form of bizarre and philosophical making an attempt to clarify this s***, however it’s a approach to disappear your self so that you simply’re not even there. I’ve spent sufficient time with myself. I want numerous trip time from myself.

On deciding on songs for an album: We’d all the time go into the studio with 17 songs and attempt to launch 11. That was all the time the goal. Typically there’d be 12, typically 13. Every time we had 13 songs on an album, the report often sucked. You’ve obtained to chop until it hurts. The extra it hurts to depart a track out, the higher your report goes to be.

On what’s subsequent for Kingston’s music scene: Kingston trades loads on its historical past and it wants to remain centered on the current and the longer term. They need to use the historical past to advertise the longer term and ensure the music scene and different scenes are wholesome on this city. I believe the music scene – for a metropolis its dimension, Kingston does very well. Continues to carry its personal and is nicely located for a lot of causes we’ve mentioned – geography and demographics.


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