Rob McCarthy’s two very different worlds unexpectedly collided last year when legendary musician Gord Downie announced he had terminal brain cancer.
“It hit home,” said McCarthy, who is the lead singer of a Tragically Hip tribute band – and a nurse on a neurology ward in Saskatoon. “I see people quite a bit with the same diagnosis.
“I know what kind of road he’s on … it’s an emotional road.”
McCarthy has loved the Hip since he was first introduced to the group in high school. He even met the guys during a stop on their famed Road Apples tour.
“July 27, 1991 … it was the best day of my life,” he remembered, adding he formed The 100th Meridian tribute band in 2010 to honour his favourite Canadian rockers – and their one-of-a-kind frontman.
“I just love his performances. I love how off the wall he can get. Singing his songs is pretty natural for me as far as range. It fits.”
While McCarthy rocks out by night, by day, he’s a nurse, where he has been meeting and treating patients with brain tumours and other neurological issues for the last 15 years.
McCarthy said he was shocked when news broke last summer about Downie’s diagnosis of a glioblastoma – a rare, aggressive and terminal form of cancer.
“I didn’t really believe it at first,” he said.
The diagnosis brought McCarthy’s two lives together. Now, not only does The 100th Meridian celebrate the Hip’s music of the last 30 years on stage – they also raise money for the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research.
McCarthy said the shows have taken on a whole new meaning for both him and loyal fans of the band.
“Everyone says if they close their eyes, they think they’re at a Hip concert,” he said. “There are some people that get pretty emotional, and they’re very grateful that we’re doing what we’re doing.”
That combination of music and message is what drew The Venue’s Bonnie Bye to the group, and she said she’s excited to bring the band to Cochrane for a fundraising gig at the Railway Street bar Saturday night.
“Cancer in itself … affects all of us in one way or another,” said Bye. “I thought it would go nicely hand in hand.”
Tickets for the March 18 concert are $15 and are available at the door or online. In addition to hearing all the Hip’s hits – from Blow at High Dough to Little Bones to So Hard Done By and many more – Bye said a 50/50 draw and silent auction will also help raise funds for brain cancer research.
“(Gord Downie) has offered so much to us,” Bye said. “We can give back however we can.”