Actually, we can’t tell you. We blacked out after the first song and woke up hours later, surrounded by torn shrink-wrap, wallet empty, and clutching a brand-new Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant Smartphone.
Okay, that’s not true. But the concert was put on by Samsung specifically for the purpose of marketing that device, which is essentially an iPhone clone that runs Android.
“Metric’s one of the hottest Canadian bands right now,” said Paul Brannen, vice-president of Samsung Canada’s mobile communications division, “and this is one of the hottest Canadian products.” Brannen was Samsung’s product representative for the evening. He was tanned, and had gel-spikey hair. He wouldn’t disclose how much Metric was being paid for their appearance, which was to last for forty-five minutes.
An hour before the concert, organizers were making an effort to keep the crowd in front of Union Station from blocking traffic. The stage was as wide as the small plaza area in front of the station. Metal barricades had been put up along the sidewalk to form a closed-off column of viewing area in front of the stage, and police and Samsung personnel were corralling new arrivals inside the pen.
At the very front of this pen, pressed up against the barricade, were Maryanne Mendoza and Tonya Balmer, two friends from Mississsauga who had come downtown specifically for the show. They’d arrived at Union Station at 2:30 p.m., four-and-a-half hours prior to the 7 p.m. curtain, to stake out their prime viewing location, and they said they’d already been interviewed by media eight times before speaking to us. We hazarded a guess that they were big Metric fans, but they shared a glance, laughed, and told us that they were just casual listeners. “This is my first concert,” said Mendoza.
Were they aware of the cell phone whose ad budget was financing the show? Yes, they said, someone had come by with a demo model. “It seems interesting,” said Balmer.
The people in the pen were essentially a captive audience, and so the event organizers had allowed for a little brand synergy. In addition to Samsung reps, there were people giving away free bottles of Frank’s RedHot hot sauce (full disclosure: we took one), and there were also people repping Twilight (Metric has a track on the Eclipse soundtrack).
Metric’s role in this scenario was to act as a very large (and probably very expensive) magnet for a particular demographic of young people, whose media consumption habits make them unlikely to sit through a thirty-second TV spot, but who are, on the other hand, very likely to be influential with their friends.
It worked. As more people started to arrive, the crowd—which included children and the middle-aged, but was seemingly composed mostly of people in their teens to early-thirties— began to spill onto Front Street, making the barricade more or less futile. By showtime, the crowd stretched almost from the western side of Union Station to Bay Street and police had barricaded the road to traffic on both ends.
Before the start of the set, Brannen took the mic. “Welcome to Toronto’s worst-kept secret,” he said. (The band had only been announced on Tuesday.) Then he started explaining the features of the new phone and was immediately booed off stage.
The concert lasted forty-five minutes, almost exactly. There was no encore. In the rush to leave afterward, a member of the crowd was heard to say: “What? At least it was Metric.”
Spoken like a true potential eventual owner of a new smartphone. But that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The thing does, after all, have a certain appeal.
Photos by Harry Choi/Torontoist.