Check your skepticism at the door, because the Imagine Concert is “absolutely in play,” tickets go on sale Thursday, and headliner details are coming “very, very soon,” according to Jennifer Frees, a philanthropic consultant helping put the mega-event together with OVCM Entertainment.
We can’t blame you if you glanced at your calendar, noticed that the initially promised July 10–11 date is coming up this weekend, and figured Imagine—promised as the largest concert in Toronto’s history—was dead in the water. But the details have changed, and the festival will now happen at Downsview Park on Labour Day weekend, September 4–5, with an audience that organizers hope will still reach into the hundreds of thousands.
After a series of evolutions, the official website has been updated with the promise that, despite the delays, it’s going to be something to remember.
What does that have to do with the funky axe up above? Well, as much as they’re emphasizing the music, the lovey-dovey-world-peace-recreating-Woodstock vibe has been crucial, since the concert was first envisioned to coincide with the G20. Ten guitars made by Carparelli are being given to international artists, who then turn them into works of art; the one above (called “No Poverty”) was made by Damien Hirst. Each guitar is being set up with a specific charity that will get it signed by musicians, and then it will be played at the event and auctioned off at Christie’s, in London. Hirst’s will benefit War Child.
The “Freedom Guitar,” by Jim Warren, will benefit Amnesty International.
Frees promises the guitars will be on display in galleries before the concert, lest they subsequently disappear into private collections.
“Imagine and the guitars’ purpose is to create a dialogue around critical world issues through the uniting power of music and art,” Frees says. “We look forward to growing over the next years and relaying that message to millions with the support of passionate, socially conscious citizens of the world.” (Also, not all the guitars are spoken for, so if you’re working for a charity and happen to be friends with Bono, Feist, or Anne Murray, email Frees.)
Robert Taylor, marketing director for Carparelli, says Christie’s has already valued the Hirst guitar at two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and that’s without the twenty-plus signatures he hopes to get from friends like Elton John and Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson. He suggests it will likely go for much higher—maybe becoming the most expensive guitar ever sold, given the prices at which Hirst’s work usually goes.
A well-connected Brit, Taylor has been helping OVCM land acts, something that has been a challenge given the upstart company’s choice to work outside the usual industry channels. “Because OVCM did this without the traditional mechanism, the mechanism put up barriers [but] they can’t stop it,” Taylor says.
It was ambitious for the promoters to think they could get things ready as soon as July, but with the deposits paid, and dozens of contracts signed by bands, Taylor has no doubts whatsoever the festival is a go. “Yeah, it’s going to happen. It has to happen,” he says.
So, is it going to be like Woodstock? “It is and it’s not,” Taylor says. “There are bands who are going to be reminiscent of that, and that’s okay.”
You want to know about the bands? No one’s talking about the bands, but Frees promises the imminent launch will include world-class headliners with other names dribbled out as the date approaches. Frees promises that the music will suit “everyone from young, screaming girls to the twenty-something lounge crew, up to people in their fifties and sixties”—and that the schedule will be set up so that your lounging won’t interfere with those young girls’ screaming, and vice-versa.
That’s not to say we haven’t heard a few good, reliable rumours. So far, they’re about mostly classic rock acts, including at least one that played at the original Woodstock. A rather popular local rapper has been in talks, as has one of the city’s most storied bands. (We can say no more!)
Ticket info will be officially available at the Imagine website shortly, but we already know a one-day pass will run you $90 and the “peace-lovers” weekend pass, $180. (If you purchase a two-day pass by July 15, it will cost you $30 less, and you’ll get entered in a draw to win a backstage pass.) [ : The final prices, from an Imagine press release: two-day passes cost $150, and early bird passes are $30 off of that—so $120.] As with the guitars, net proceeds will benefit multiple charities.
Co-organizer David Kam announced on his Twitter account, too, that oft-hated Ticketmaster will not be handling ticket sales. Instead, Ticketbreak and Tritickets will deal out the ducats. Sure, they’re smaller, but SARSstock tickets were sold at Dominion stores. [ : The latest official word on tickets: for now, they’re only on sale from Imagine’s website.]
Whether or not it meets the initial goal of selling hundreds of thousands of tickets, Frees says this is just the start of a multi-year event, at which the most important thing will be reigniting the social spirit of Woodstock and a “love-in vibe.”
The concert will include a green conference and festival, and ARC Sustainability are being recruited to reduce the carbon footprint.
If you can’t get in for whatever reason, there will also be a live 3-D simulcast in movie theatres across North America.
It’s not the first time Imagine’s date has been pushed back. The organizers initially hoped to schedule it alongside the G20, but for months now there have been delays in announcing the details. Early versions of the concert’s website showed plans to do something even bigger before paring the event down to two days, and the last time we checked in, in April, things were looking dicey, with hardly anyone totally sure of what was going on.
We’ve spent the time since then trying to mix natural skepticism with some of that Woodstocky, hopey-dreamy stuff, though, especially with Downsview Park’s senior vice-president of operations Robert Singleton confirming that the dates are held and a deposit paid.
You still want more?
Behold the Unity Guitar, concrete (well, wooden) proof that they’re going for broke here.
The video above shows Kam getting his custom-made, double-neck guitar blessed by Mohawk Chief Stuart Myiow and the tribe’s Traditional Council in the hopes that Jimmy Page will pick it up in Toronto (and bring you-know-who with him) and rock out for world peace.
And if Page doesn’t want it, we’re calling dibs.