As The Tragically Hip arrives in Alberta, a Red Deer man is paying tribute to Canada’s beloved band by launching an experimental pop-up radio station online that plays all Hip music, all the time.
Jeff Murray has been a huge fan of The Tragically Hip’s ever since he first heard the Kingston, Ont., group as a 17-year-old.
“It was 1989, when the band put out its Up to Here album, that I first heard the song Blow at High Dough,” he recalled. “I thought it was pretty cool that the band sings about Canada — about Canadian landmarks, people and topics that are Canadian.”
Being a personal devotee, as well as someone who slots The Hip’s music on Z 98.9 FM in his job as program director at the Red Deer station, Murray was as shocked and saddened as other Canadians when he heard of lead singer/songwriter Gord Downie’s inoperable brain tumour.
Murray is among thousands of Albertans planning to attend one of the band’s possibly final Alberta concerts, happening in Edmonton today and Saturday and Calgary on Monday and Wednesday.
To further celebrate the group’s music, Murray thought it would be great to start a pop-up radio station that could run an all-Tragically Hip format during the week of July 28 to Aug. 4 at www.hipradio.ca.
He noted this pop-up radio concept, popular in the U.K., is being tried in Canada for the first time.
The idea was inspired by the great listener response to Z 98.9 FM airing The Tragically Hip’s music for a full 18 hours on Canada Day.
Murray received help with the pop-up radio project from Steve Jones, VP of brands and content for Newcap Radio in Toronto, which owns Z 98.9 FM.
Jones said he first had to get permission from Universal Music for the right to air 32 years of Hip music online at www.hipradio.ca. The label was co-operative and agreed to keep royalty costs from becoming too prohibitive for the non-commercial station because they were interested in seeing what would come of the experiment, he added.
“We could get thousands of listeners world wide, or we could get tens …” In any case, the online station will be operating outside CRTC licensing requirements. But Jones said, “they should be happy since it’ll still be 100-per cent Canadian content.”
Creating the temporary radio station (which is not affiliated with the band) “was a labour of love” for Murray, who noted everyone at Z 98.9 is a fan of The Hip’s. “We wanted to put together something to show and share our passion for the band.”
Music and commentary on www.hipradio.ca will be hosted by the on-air team from Z 98.9. The band’s followers will have to tune into their computers this week, since the station will sign off once The Hip leaves Alberta.