TORONTO - RUSH has been on the music scene for 25 years but today is the rock trio's first gig at Ottawa's stately Rideau Hall.
Rush members are being invested as officers of the Order of Canada alongside mass media moguls, captains of industry, scientists and philanthropists.
Not exactly the high school gyms and low-rent bars where Rush got its start in the early '70s.
"It is certainly a different group of people to hang around with," said guitarist Alex Lifeson. He'll join bandmates Geddy Lee and Neil Peart for the ceremony presided over by Gov. Gen. Romeo LeBlanc.
"The recognition is wonderful. It's very flattering. At the same time I don't really know why I'm getting it."
Bryan Adams, Stompin' Tom Connors, Bruce Cockburn, producer David Foster and jazz musician Moe Koffman are all past recipients.
But Rush is the first rock band to be decorated with the Order of Canada since the national honour system was created in 1967 to recognize "significant achievement in important fields of human endeavour."
Perhaps it's for carrying on as Canada's leading export to the world of pop music and doing so by ignoring pop trends.
And Rush has done that without joining the exodus of Canadian musicians living abroad. Ottawa's Alanis Morissette calls Los Angeles home. Quebec diva Celine Dion spends most of her time in Florida. Bryan Adams prefers London's damp weather to Vancouver's. Country star Shania Twain may hail from Timmins but her fan mail should go to New York.
Yet, the progressive-rock trio has stayed put.
"Canada has always been our home," says Lifeson, who was born in British Columbia but moved to Toronto when he was young.
"This is really a good place to live and it's a good place for kids to grow up in, relative to, say, America," said Lifeson.
"I had my kids when I was young and I like the stability and the security of being here, the place where I was accustomed to. I never really saw any place that really attracted me, that made me feel really welcome."
Lee, lead singer and bassist, lives in Toronto while Peart, the band's drummer and lyricist, spends most of his time at his house in Quebec.
The band is currently taking a break from a tour promoting their latest release, Test for Echo, which has been certified gold in the United States for selling 500,000 copies. They hit the road again in April with Canadian dates still to be confirmed.
Lifeson, whose side project, Victor, is nominated for a Juno on March 9, plans to proudly display his Order of Canada lapel pin, bearing a stylized snowflake, crown, Maple Leaf and Latin motto.
"Everywhere, in the gym, the golf course - how often do you get to wear a medal?"
The band members also earn the right to use the letters O.C., for officers, after their names.