The Tragically Hip

tragically hipWith 54-40 done and in storage so to speak until we got another photo to add to it, we started looking for another band. I listened to CFOX Radio quite often. One day on The Fox I heard the DJ announce that The Hip were coming to town in November – in fact, the singer, Gord Downy Jr, was going to be on the show the next day just to chat about their newly released album. Of course, that’s all I needed – another great Canadian and well known band… and we had to ask them! But how?

My first instinct was to try and figure a way to contact Gord Downey after he finished his radio station gig but of course its not good policy to accost someone you dont know in the street and ask for a charity photo op 😉 So.. I tried looking up the band’s contact info and couldn’t find anything! No address other than Los Angeles or New York and not enough time for snail mail (internet was still relatively new at this time!)

So… what to do? I decided to write a letter and send it to the Venue! The band would be there for 4 shows in a row, but actually have to be in town for 6 days the way the dates were split up… I figured if the Tour Manager got our letter on the first day, it would give him 4 days to make a decision and call us – or not. It had to be timed just right too though! If the letter arrived at the Venue too early, the chances of the staff tossing it in the garbage was huge… so with fingers crossed and prayers said, I wrote the letter and put a date on the back to remind myself ‘roughly’ when to mail it off.

Time passed… and I didnt hear anything back. Sometimes I forget too that I’ve written a letter – once its gone, its almost as if its not real until I hear back.. its easier to not get my hopes up and be surprised when it does happen.

November 3rd came. Nothing. November 4th came. Nothing. November 6th came – nothing. On the morning of November 7th – the very last show for the band, I got a phone call from their tour manager. “I’ve had your letter in my pocket for 4 days and almost forgot about it. Can you come down today, in a few hours, and do the photo? Do you still have time to do this?”  (It always astounds me when THEY ask ME if I have the time – like I’m doing them a favor and not the other way around! Its pretty cool when that happens and never ceases to surprise me)

I grabbed my gear, the comfort doll, my nerves – and headed downtown on public transit and got to the venue at the appointed hour. I buzzed the security door and told the disembodied voice why I was buzzing and gave him the contact name. “Hold please” and then silence. He came back and told me “he’s busy, can you come back in half an hour.”… so … I went for a walk and did some window shopping on the strip. Half an hour later I went back. I could hear them doing sound check inside, and was hesitant about interrupting the band in the middle of working, but buzzed again, and again was asked to come back in half an hour. Understandable. Food seemed like a great idea, then I headed back and was asked to come back an hour later please.

This time I didn’t hear any sound check/music this time and figured I’d hit it right… I buzzed the door and was told that the fellow in question was gone. I was crushed of course, but sometimes these things just don’t work out.  I figured he’d gone for dinner – and the band wasn’t on till after 9pm so I had his contact phone number – but no cell phone! (it was 2006 remember – not everyone had a Blackberry or iPhone back then 🙂 )  I went to look for a pay phone and there weren’t any! The City had cleaned every single pay phone off the strip for a 10 block (or more) radius – I quit walking after 10 blocks. I went back to the Venue and the restaurant a few doors down and asked the very friendly guy behind the counter if he had a pay phone (knowing full well he didn’t). He must have seen either the determination or the crushed look in my face because he loaned me his cell phone! I told him it was a long distance call and he said go ahead.. so I called the Tour Manager and talked to him.

Turns out the person I spoke to through the Venue security door intercom didn’t even go look for the Tour Manager -just told me to come back later. The Tour Manager had been wondering where I was and if I was going to show up. A good lesson learned! He was very nice about it – told me the band had taken off for dinner and were not due back until after 9pm for last minute pre-show meeting but if I wanted to try coming back at that time – he’d try to round them up for the photo op.. that he’d leave a pass for me at the ticket window.  I said yes please!

So… off to kill more time and happy that things were going work out. I went back at the right time – and by then the doors were open and they were letting people into the Venue. I was lucky – I just went to the ticket window, gave my name and got my pass and was let in! I got into the Green Room with no difficulty thanks to the Tour Manager who personally came out to meet me .. and I set up the camera (and tried to calm my nerves) while I waited for the band to arrive.

The band arrived – and were the most friendly, down to earth, nice guys… I had literally just enough time to snap 2 photos and have them sign the card, and as they were signing the card – they were being introduced on stage! They all took the time and signed though (cool) – and gave the comfort doll to the Tour Manager, then jumped on stage amid a cheering crowd.  The Tour Manager was very nice – thanked me for my patience and perseverance and told me if I wanted to stay for the show, I was most welcome to. We make it a policy to always decline- but thanked him for the kind offer. I did however, stay long enough to watch the first two songs and hung off to the side. The guys in the band saw me and sent smiles my way, then I headed out and home with the hopes of a good camera shot.

Got the film back from developing and to my utmost disappointment and sadness – neither of the shots turned out. Even with flash, the Green Room was so dark that having my camera on ‘auto’ didnt enable the shutter speed to be fast enough. I moved when I took the shot, and one band member was badly you couldn’t tell who he was. That was the better of the two photos 😉 … I sent an email to the Tour Manager (who had given me his email that night so he could know about the auction results) and told him about the blurry shots and suggested a fix. My friend Tom Tharp who lives in Portland, is a good photographer. The Hip were going to play in Portland a day or two after Vancouver, so if they would let Tom take a photo – in theory, the band still had the comfort doll! The manager agreed and so thats how this shot of the Tragically Hip ended up coming into being – thanks to my friend Tom Tharp and a band and manager willing to bend over backwards to help out.

auction results for Tragically Hip – we added their photo to Collective Soul for our 6th auction and raised $220.00 for World Vision.



In September, we heard that local band 54-40 was playing downtown Vancouver at the Commodore Ballroom in October… and we decided to try for them! IF they said yes, this would really be our ‘first’ band – Caedmon’s Call and Third Day had been done through the mail and by email at a distance, this would be our first local band.

The letter was sent off to their management (yes letter – remember this was late 2006 and email wasnt that well used yet by average people 😉 ) Then we waited. And waited. And we got an email back saying ‘yes the band would be delighted to do this’ for us. Whoohoo!

54-40 are a band that have lasted, and are really somewhat of local celebrities – really good, clean, fun tunes from a hard working band that loves what it does. The meeting was set up, and the hardest part was waiting for the day to arrive. I knit the doll, got the autograph card printed up, bought new film for my camera (still using film at this point), and waited some more. The day arrived, and I went down to the venue at the appointed time – did I say the hardest part was waiting? I lied! The hardest part was standing in front of these four great musicians and trying to explain what the doll was, who I was, what our project was all about etc… while not shaking like a leaf from nervousness. AND trying to look somewhat semi professional with my camera!

The guys were amazing… put me at ease right off the bat.  Super nice, calm, soft spoken. And the fellow who looked the scariest when I walked in, turned out to be the one who asked the most questions about our project! (and no I won’t tell you who it is hehe). It was relaxing, unstressful and unhurried, and I was able to give as much info about our project as the guys wanted to know – very cool. The funny thing is the one fellow automatically picked up the doll after they all signed the card, and was about to take it with him, when he ‘realized’ what he was doing and brought it back to me. We had early on decided that all participants would keep the doll as a token of our appreciation so the look of delight on his face when I told him this, was great.

The photo was done, I let myself out – stood in the crowd to listen to two songs – Ocean Pearl, and Casual Viewing – my fav 54-40 song of all time. Then it was time to head home and hope that I got a decent shot amongst the 5 or 6 that they allowed me to snap. (I did). We only had one band photo, so decided to wait and do another band or two and combine them into our next auction – so 54-40 went on the backburner for the time being while we scouted for our next participant.

(we combined 54-40’s photo with a new friend, Frankie Whyte and the Dead Idols, and it became our 8th auction and helped raise $70.00 for World Vision )

Tom Griesgraber and Bert Lams – house concert

marotta griesgraber, photo credit drummerworld mag

I met Tom Griesgraber through surfing Jerry Marotta’s page – he and Tom collaborate on music quite frequently and have formed a duo Marotta Griesgraber . Tom plays something called Chapman STick (seen in the photo to the left). A stick is like a guitar neck only wider, and has up to 12 strings and you use it two handed.. one hand plays the bass line, the other plays melody. You can plunk it like a guitar, tap it like a piano or twang it like a harp.. its one of the most versatile and coolest instruments I’ve ever listened to, and Tom is a phenominal player.

You can listen to them playing my favorite song, In a Step (live) in the video below:

YouTube Preview Image
bert lams

Bert Lams – nightMair photography 06

So I met Tom through Myspace, and heard Tom was coming to Vancouver with a fellow named Bert Lams, a classically trained guitarist. Bert is 1/3 of the California Guitar Trio. Tom and Bert were coming up to play a concert in someone’s home. I was terribly intrigued, and Tom and I had already discussed the doll project somewhat, so of course I arranged to take a doll to the concert. I contacted Bert and asked if he’d be interested in participating as well, and he said yes, so we were set.

tom griesgraber

Tom Griesgraber – nightMair photography 06

The night of the concert was pretty unique. The show, as I said, was in someone’s home downtown Vancouver, and there were about 50 people in the audience which was mostly in the living room of this stunning old Victorian home, but spilled out to the staircase and into the hallway and kitchen as well. The two ladies that lived in the house had fresh baking for us, and coffee, tea, and juice, and Tom and Bert were set up in the bay window. Bert was amazing on the guitar, and he and Tom played as if they were of one mind – it was amazing. After the show, they wandered the room speaking to the guests and answering all sorts of questions, etc.. many of the listeners were old friends and musicians themselves.  Both Tom and Bert posed for doll photos and I had a great time that evening.

After shooting photos with Tom and Bert, we had enough photos for our second charity auction, and sent the proceeds this time to World Vision. The brainstorming began yet again – who would we try for next?

Video of Tom and Bert playing together:
YouTube Preview Image

Massari, Caedmon’s Call, Third Day

After shooting photos of Jerry Marotta at the Commodore, we needed more photos for our second auction. Again, we had no idea who, or how, to even find someone. I’m always under the impression that things will come when they’re supposed to, and sure enough: I was watching T.V. one night and Entertainment Canada had a blurb about this Hip-Hop artist named Massari, who spoke about supporting World Vision. I was mesmerized – and right away Googled him. I found his website and instead of writing a letter, sent an email to his manager. I received a reply within days – yes, Massari would love to pose with a doll when he visited Vancouver for his current tour! We were ecstatic. It was so easy it seemed, and approaching the management and setting up appointments (rather than standing outside the stage door) seemed a much better idea 🙂

massari comfort doll project


September 4th arrived, and off I went with no idea what to expect. I’m not much for hip-hop music, and I had visions of gangsta rap etc, but I was in good hands. The one thing I didn’t know about the music industry at the time, which I do now, is that its very much a ‘hurry up and wait’ thing. Things are never done on time, there are always minor problems to sort out with sound and such, and that’s just the nature of the business. This night was no different, but Massari’s manager offered me a soda and the best seat in the house and I got to watch Massari do a few songs as if he were doing a private concert for just me. It was pretty cool actually.

Once he was done, we were introduced, and just as with Jerry Marotta in the photo session before this one, he allowed me as much time as I required to make sure I got a decent shot with adequate lighting etc. (Still shooting on ‘auto’ of course, and film)

I was quite struck by this young man – every inch the showman on stage; he ‘owned’ the stage at the tender age of only 23 or 24 – but once off the stage very polite, quite soft spoken, and an air of respect for people in general that was very apparent. I very much enjoyed working with him for the time I was there.

Caedmon’s Call and Third Day both came about through my Myspace foray. I have always liked both band’s music; Mac Powell has an incredible voice and ‘Mountain of God’ is one of my all time favorite Third Day songs. I contacted both bands through Myspace with the intention of sending Caedmon’s Call a doll and card in the mail with the intention of them mailing it back to us.

massari comfort doll project

Caedmon’s Call

Caedmon’s Call said yes, so off the doll went in the mail, and shortly thereafter, I got the photo via email. They also mailed the autographed card back, as well as two 8×10 glossy autographed promo pictures of the band, for inclusion in the auction. Very cool 🙂

mac-powell comfort doll project david-carr comfort doll project brad-avery- comfort doll project

tai-anderson comfort doll project mark-lee comfort doll project

I found out Third Day were going to play in Calgary, and as we were set to take our summer holidays traveling to Southern Alberta, I figured it would be perfect. Things never turn out the way you think though 🙂 The band said yes, they’d be very happy to help out, but our plans changed and it was suddenly impossible for me to do the photo myself. However, my friend Rene was going to see Third Day in her home town of Salt Lake City, Utah, so we set it up for her to do the photo there.

All things considered, Renee did a great job. Because the show was at an open air festival, there really was no ‘green room’ for her to meet the band in to do the photo, and so she met them in what basically was a hall closet 🙂 not even large enough to stand the entire band side by side – but it all worked out in the end, and we had two more great bands and an awesome musician help our project.