Daniel's Review of Bobcaygeon
Bobcaygeon is a small town in Ontario, not far from the small city of Peterborough, and it's known for cottages and farmland - but the reason it's known at all can be traced back to Canadian rock and roll road warriors, The Tragically Hip, who had one of their bigger radio hits with a song named after the town, (the one frontman Gord Downie has cheekily said he mentioned because it rhymed so well with "constellations"). So when The Hip announce plans to, as many locals interviewed in the film dreamily muse, "play Bobcaygeon... in Bobcaygeon," considerable excitement takes hold of the sleepy village. On the screen, the results are unfortunately mixed. The film captures some excellent concert footage that speaks for itself, but it also attempts to explain the appeal of this show, meaning that it also contains a bunch of unenlightened interviews in which locals similar to the characters in Juno express their adoration of the band - often citing few reasons other than "they named a song after Bobcaygeon" or the drinking escapades of previous concerts they've seen - and some dull town council action in which parking and buses for the influx of people are debated. The "explanation" of the hype does little that would draw in the uninitiated: were it not for the recording of the concert itself, I would have no sense of why I should care to see or listen to this band. I did, however, have the pleasure of seeing this film on its opening night at the Bloor Cinema, in Toronto, with a friend who is a dyed-in-the-wool, long-time Hip fan - and not one of the bad ones. Allow me to explain, if you're not familiar: Hip concerts are particularly notable in Canada for boorish behaviour, including high levels of alcohol consumption, booing the openers and chanting "Hip, Hip, Hip, Hip..." after every song until the headliners take over. In the theatre, there were definitely a few that fit the stereotype and who frequently yelled at the screen, shamefully drowning out (what my friend said was) a rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes world of the band; though Downie does frequent (and frequently unintelligible) interviews, the rest of the group is kind of invisible, and little is known about the subtle how and why of a glorified bar band that's more than capably rocked a whole country for a quarter-century. It makes me think it might be time for a full-length documentary about the group itself - leaving aside the fan sections, the film's most interesting parts were by far the ones showing the pre- and post-show interactions of the band members, and of course, the recording of the brilliant concert performance. It's clear from Bobcaygeon that The Hip has a strange and special hold on the Canadian music scene, but this film's project somewhat failed, as it didn't give the neophyte any help in understanding why.