Thousands join The Hip at RMC

Tragically Hip’s front-man, Gord Downie, belts it out to thousands of fans who attended “Across the Causeway” on Sunday.
Tragically Hip’s front-man, Gord Downie, belts it out to thousands of fans who attended “Across the Causeway” on Sunday.
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As thousands were crossing the causeway towards the benefit concert featuring Kingston’s own The Tragically Hip on Sunday, hundreds of others were still waiting for tickets.

A line-up approximately 150 people long stretched outside of Sunrise Records on Princess Street at 1:30 p.m., even though the gates at Royal Military College had opened at noon.

At RMC, the campus soccer fields began to fill with what would add up to about 20,000 people, according to the Community Foundation of Greater Kingston.

Concert-goers, security, police and the military were in agreement that the concert was a success.

“It was awesome,” said Pat Welsh, ArtSci ’06, whose one critique was that the Tragically Hip should have played less of their new album and more crowd favourites because the event was a benefit concert.

“But they salvaged it in the end with ‘Wheat Kings’,” he said. “Everyone sang, the lighters were going ... it was cool.”

Jenn Haines, ArtSci ’06, said the concert was worth her $40.

“People were awesome. Great crowd, great bands, great day,” Haines said.

In the middle of their set, the Tragically Hip thanked the residents from Merrickville and Tweed for coming out to the event, acknowledging the diversity in the crowd.

Everyone from parents towing young children licking popsicles, teenagers in cropped Tragically Hip T-shirts and Queen’s, St. Lawrence College and RMC students, to Kingstonians, Torontonians and Montrealers came out to the show.

Some got around the rule forbidding blankets by bringing rugs and spreading them out on the grass.

On the steep hill leading up to Fort Henry, just outside the venue boundary, groups set up lawn chairs and lounged with picnics, enjoying a birds-eye view of the concert.

Boats also congregated in the narrow inlet on the east side of the venue, where the passengers could hear the music.

People crowded in front of the stage and inside the beer tent.

Beer went for $5 a can. Food prices were a little steep. A slice of pizza ran for $4 while a hamburger cost $4.50.

Tickets for beer were sold outside the drinking area, which made for fast-moving lines inside.

Port-a-potties stood at the entrance and inside the beer tent, and line-ups remained reasonable.

The mood was peaceful, but sheer numbers caused some pushing and shoving close to the stage.

Impatient concert goers close to the stage began throwing water bottles in between Matthew Good and the Tragically Hip sets. Several people were hit on the head.

Body surfing also picked up during the break.

People of all ages were hoisted by many hands over their peers’ heads. Some reached the front of the stage and were pulled down by security, while others disappeared into the tightly packed crowd.

Kingston police spokesman Mike Weaver said police were pleased that the event ran smoothly.

“Everything went fantastic,” he said. “Everyone had a fantastic day.”

He said there were no arrests made and, after the show, the field cleared out in an hour and a half.

James Robbinson, an officer for one of the security companies hired to keep order in the venue, Group 4 Falk, said the officers were looking for anything that could compromise the safety of concert-goers.

“We’re making sure people aren’t actually hurt if they’re lying down,” he said. “We’re making sure there’s little smoking of weed because this is federal property.”

If anyone was causing trouble, security would turn the offender over to the police, Robbinson said.

The city police were primarily in charge of traffic, while the Department of National Defence took care of some of the internal security.

Capt. Bernard Dionne said the school and military were happy with the event.

“The show went really well and we were happy to support this charity event,” he said.

Clean-up was also a success. Dionne said when he arrived to work yesterday morning the grounds were clean and the tents and stage were being taken down.

—With files from Matthew Trevisan

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