A new mural has been unveiled in North Buffalo and its subject is that is near and dear to the hearts of Buffalo music lovers: the Tragically Hip and the band's dynamic poet-performance artist-singer, Gord Downie.
The mural, depicting Downie in concert during the Hip's "Man Machine Poem" tour, adorns the side of the Hertel Liquor Library building, directly across from the Lexington Co-Op.
"Gord is a person I love and respect as an artist," said Rory Allen, who hatched the plan for the mural and is the graphic artist responsible for it. Citing the work of Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra as an inspiration, Allen sought to create "a bright mixture of portrait, color and shape" that would "honor and celebrate Gord's artistry and his career, and all that he has meant to people in Buffalo."
Allen worked with the Hertel Business Association and said he received support for the project from Delaware District Councilman Joel Feroleto and Attorney Tom Eoannou, who owns the building at 1673 Hertel Ave. that will host the mural. Allen said he saw a chance "to brighten up the neighborhood, to do something cool that also has some meaning."
The text on the mural, which was designed by Allen using the digital art software programs Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, was excerpted from the Hip's viscerally nostalgic 1996 song "Ahead By A Century" – specifically, the lines "No dress rehearsal/This is our life," a haunting bit of abstract existentialism that hit this writer directly in the heart from the very beginning, as it did with much of the band's legion fan-base.
The choice of lyric might be interpreted as a reference to Downie's stoic insistence on living his life to the fullest, even following the May, 2016 announcement that the singer has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
During the time since, Downie has been perhaps more active than ever, releasing the well-received solo album "The Secret Path," and recording that album's follow-up, a 23-track collaboration with Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew known as "Introduce Yourself," due for release on Oct. 27.
There has been some bickering on social media regarding the coming mural, most of it suggesting that honoring a Canadian band in Buffalo goes against popular notions of civic pride. However, the Tragically Hip has been performing in Buffalo since the 1990s and during that time, Downie and his Kingston, Ont. bandmates have been outspoken about their love for the city and its fans.
Allen said the criticism is misplaced.
"I'm not selling anything, there is no profit being made through this," Allen said. "It's all about showing love to someone who has shown a lot of love to us."