Imagine Concert is not dead, not resting, not pining for the fjords, and not even waiting for one of Miracle Max’s magic pills for the mostly dead—not, at least, according to organizers.
It’s been an uphill battle but things are moving forward, co-organizer David Kam says, and a lineup and ticket details should be released in about three weeks.
Will we be totally surprised if the ambitious show doesn’t come off as planned?
Probably not. There’s only been concert even close to this scale in this city’s history (and not many more worldwide), and SARSstock had the support of every level of government and bigwigs such as Molson.
“In the last forty years there haven’t been many large events. The biggest challenge is probably getting the city on board,” Kam says.
Kam says that City staff are concerned about the influx of people and see the negatives rather than the positives of bringing hundreds of thousands of tourists into the city.
Local councillor Michael Feldman (Ward 10, York Centre) told Torontoist that, given how urbanized the surrounding area is, he’d want to be assured there would be no significant negative effects from the concert. The two prior mega-events at the site, SARSstock and World Youth Day, went relatively smoothly, but the latter caused sewer blockages, particularly in the nearby Idomo store, which was forced to undergo major renovations. Of course, residents were also affected by basic things like road closures, Feldman said.
Somewhat surprisingly, given that his ward abuts the park’s eastern edge, Feldman was not up to speed on the plans. The City of Toronto’s communications staff also seemed a bit baffled as to just who could speak to what concerns the City might (or might not) have. The City told us first to talk to the (federally owned) Downsview Park. When we persisted, we were told that we could only talk to someone at the City about concerns if we knew who was concerned in the first place. (We leave it to you, dear readers, to decide whether this says more about City bureaucracy, the lack of concern about the concert, the fact that no one at the City knows there are even plans for the concert in the first place, how little progress the concert planners have actually made, or whatever else you can come up with on your own.)
After speculation about troubles last month, worries that the fest was dead in the water kicked into high gear following a posting last Friday on the concert’s Twitter:
It soon disappeared (but not before we got a screencap!) and was replaced by an apology: “sorry for the last post. our account was hacked and we have fixed the situation. Imagine is ALIVE and WELL…cant wait 2 see u all July10,11”
According to Kam, the posting came from a disgruntled employee at OVCM, the concert promoter, who hacked in after being taken off the account.
Before that, the last post on the feed was an enthusiastic March 19 notice: “Amazing series of meeting this week! This concert is really taking shape…we have an amazing team in place. RU ready to rockn’roll with us?”
Encouraging, no? But even that post was after the date planners Kam and Artie Kornfeld hoped to have announced the acts.
In the meantime, their website has been updated, but the details of who is performing and how much tickets will cost haven’t been released yet. Instead, Kam spent last weekend seeing if anyone out there reading his Twitter feed could help land big-time acts like Roger Waters and Paul McCartney.
Waters is starting a big tour of The Wall here in September and while he doesn’t seem like the type to pop in for a few solo numbers, Kam says they are in negotiations.
And The Cute Beatle? He’s doing some scattered European dates in June, so he could be available. You’d think he might consider it if for no other reason than to infringe on the legacy of John Lennon’s historic Toronto show. They always liked to take digs at each other like that.
The Imagine website touted tributes to old-timey artists like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, but those aren’t sure things, particularly if Image can land the hoped-for fifty-to-sixty original acts spread across multiple stages, Kam says.
Enough time has passed since we broke the story in February to look at how some of the big concert tours are shaping up, take some educated guesses, and rule some people out.
Tom Petty is coming here in August with Crosby, Stills and Nash; Rush is here only three days after the planned dates; Dave Matthews Band is here just over a month earlier; U2 is here the week before. You can probably rule out the likes of John Mayer, Jack Johnson, and Green Day, who are all coming through town on their own this summer. In terms of acts already floated by the promoters, Pearl Jam will be in Portugal, Lady Gaga is at the ACC that very weekend, and (phew!) Nickelback just played here the other week and hopefully will be in quarantine or something the rest of the year. Sorry, Justin Beiber fans—he’s in Utah that weekend, but Woodstock original Santana is here with Steve Winwood, though the two are at the Molson Amphitheatre, not Downsview.
Kam says he tried to get Rage Against Machine via a booker who wanted $1.5 million. He hopes he can get the politically minded band onside if he can get in touch with them directly and pitch the concert’s message of peace, love, and telling the G20 leaders to get with the program.
That still leaves plenty of good acts out there—Phish is on a mid-tour break and doesn’t have a Toronto date on their sched, for example, and the Flaming Lips, who rocked the joint at SARSstock, are in a similar situation.
No doubt, you can all think of dozens more cool acts, but a show this size won’t come off without a few major headliners on board.
It may just be that the cruel realities of capitalism won’t work in favour of Kornfeld and Kam, but they still have time to prove everyone doubting them wrong. They may be a couple of dreamers, but hopefully they’re not the only ones, you know.
Photos of Downsview Park in February by Christopher Drost/Torontoist.