Anyone strolling through Kensington Market on Sunday morning may have noticed an odd sight: the sign for the long-running Supermarket bar/restaurant replaced with a banner reading "Now For Plan A." Neither restaurant takeover nor Nuit Blanche hangover, the reality was far more Canadian: a surprise performance from the Tragically Hip. Or, rather, many surprise performances from the Tragically Hip.
In celebration of their upcoming 13th album, Now For Plan A, the veteran CanRock band turned Toronto's Augusta Avenue into their own private campfire, playing a micro three song set every hour throughout the afternoon and evening. While amblers from the concurrent Pedestrian Sunday street festival (the last of the year) munched on churros and dodged errant hula hoops, the Hip gathered them outside Supermarket (apparently renamed "Reindeer Lounge") for an appointment performance at the top of every hour made up of, usually, two new songs and one bona fide classic.
Debonair as always, charismatic lead singer Gord Downie took the makeshift window stage, pointed outwards to the street, wearing a feathered fedora and grey suit, and filled it with the awkward drunk-uncle charm that has woven the Hip into Canada's aural tapestry. As merch salespeople wandered through the audience armed withvinyl and CD copies of the new album, fans waited for the hit to come, unabashedly belting along with tracks like Grace, Too and Ahead By A Century.
The unique three-song performance setup even let them get a bit creative (a defense against detractors that accuse them of always rewriting the same song). Sunday's second set, for instance, was made up entirely of songs with the word "ahead" in the title.
Those who missed the pop-up performances will have many more chances to see the Tragically Hip in action. According to a rep from their home label, Universal Music Canada, the band will continue their Kensington Market residency, playing mini-sets at 3pm, 5pm, 7pm and 9pm every day from Monday, October 1 until Wednesday, October 3.
Video by Andrew Williamson