On July 30th, 2003, I was lucky enough to attend one of the greatest, if not THE greatest concert, since Woodstock back in 1969.
I was a part of the Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto concert, or otherwise lovingly known as SARSStock. This was a gathering of half a million people on a former military base in the North end of Toronto. People who wanted to hear amazing music and support a good cause all came together on this scorching Summer day.
Because of the SARS pandemic alert issued by the WHO, tourism in Toronto was WAY down. And that's no good right? So a concert to help boost the city's poor tourist numbers (and wallets) was put together very quickly, with the help of the members of The Rolling Stones. Apparently they love our city, what with their tour rehearsals, arrests and trials being held out here, why wouldn't they? They headlined the show, Dan Aykroyd hosted it and a number of amazing bands played. Want to hear my experience of it? You got it.
My sister, my friend John (he of the Tony Danza fame) and I arrived fairly early, around 11AM. We were able to choose a good location. Close enough to the stage to kind of see what was going on, but just far enough away that we were off to the side of a jumbo-tron, which helped us to see better the darker it became.
It was hot folks. And when I say hot I mean I mean holy depths of hell hot. It was a balmy 35 degrees (for those of you who like the fahrenheit, it was 95), but with the blasting sun and no shade around whatsoever, it felt more like 40.
Look at all the people.
And another look.
People were THIS CLOSE to each other. Brutal in the heat.
But despite the heat and the cramped conditions, the day was awesome. Everyone was happy to be there, performers and concert-goers alike, and the vibe was like nothing I can describe. HALF A MILLION PEOPLE yelling and happy is a GREAT thing. I was squished and hot, and I didn't care...I was having a blast.
The bathroom situation though, wasn't so hot. I could see port-a-pottys in the distance. The far distance. And to manoeuvre through all those people to get there....no thanks. My brilliant plan was to not drink too much water, and keep the food intake to a minimum. Fucking kids right? If I did that today I would be close to death within minutes. I need to be a fully functioning bathroom user, food eater and water drinker to get through my day. I cannot break from this, or I will DIE. For real.
The concert opened in the afternoon with the Have Love Will Travel Revue (Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi!), Sam Roberts, Kathleen Edwards, La Chicane, The Tea Party, The Flaming Lips, Sass Jordan, The Isley Brothers and Blue Rodeo. Later in the afternoon Justin Timberlake, The Guess Who, Rush, AC/DC and the Stones all took the stage. The highlights for me were definitely Sam Roberts, The Flaming Lips, Blue Rodeo, The Guess Who, AC/DC and the Stones. I remember that when the Guess Who took the stage, helicopters started flying overhead, and the sun was just starting to go down. The first few notes of a song started playing and ALL 500,000 people were flashing the peace sign. I handed my camera to a girl that was sitting on someone's shoulders and no lie...EVERYONE was flashing the peace sign. It was a beautiful sight, and definitely one of the more magical moments of the show.
I left feeling like I had been a part of something HUGE. Something I would most likely never be a part of again. I also left feeling sick from the lack of food, no water and all that sun. I dry heaved into a half full bag of rice cakes on the subway, on the way home. But I was smiling while I did it.
My sister and I didn't make it home that night until almost 2AM. We were bone tired, sore, dirty and HAPPY. I was supposed to work the next morning (or in this case, later that morning), but I had to call in sick. I had sunstroke, and I needed to nourish my poor body back to health. When I got home that night and finally went to the washroom after not going for a full 15 hours, my pee was BROWN. Think about that, because I am not going to elaborate. Ok, maybe I will. THICK AND BROWN. Delicious, I know. When I had a chance to study my war wounds from the previous day, I found that I was caked with dirt from head to toe. Dirt mixed with sweat mixed with more dirt and sweat. I found dirt in places where I am not sure how it even got there. Dirt was caked in the creases of my elbows and in the corners of my eyes. Needless to say, a shower was much needed and much appreciated.
Even with all the dirt, and gross pee and sweat, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Not quite like the 1969 Woodstock, but it's as close as I will get. And it was amazing.