2010 Villain: The Imagine Concert
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2010 Villain: The Imagine Concert

Illustration by Matthew Daley/Torontoist.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—Toronto’s very best and very worst people, places, and things over the past twelve months. From December 13–17: the Villains! From December 20–24, the Heroes! And, from December 27–30, you can vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

We want to grab the Imagine Concert, give it a Corleone-style kiss and tell it, “You broke my heart!”
The multi-day festival set for July never happened, of course, but if it had, Imagine would have been much more than a concert. It would have been a bigger-than-Woodstock musical event combined with an eco-summit that would’ve shown the world we’re as green as the best of them while putting Downsview Park on the cultural map for all time. It would have been precisely the event this insecure, not-quite-a-world-class-city has always needed.
If it happened. But it didn’t.
The idea started with Montreal artist David Kam. He drafted Artie Kornfeld, who had co-organized the original Woodstock and continued to work in the music industry. The two men knew that pulling off something on the scale that they, um, imagined would be hard, but they thought they could do it.
Torontoist announced the plans back in Feburary, and then we waited for things to materialize. Each time we saw a major act announce a Toronto date that wasn’t Imagine, we swallowed a little harder and kept our fingers crossed a little tighter. They were crossed through delays and excuses, and they stayed crossed right until we got our first look at the anemic performers list.
Paul McCartney? Nope. Led Zeppelin reunion? Hardly.
Jet Black Stare and Colby O’Donis? Mos’ def.
Even then, the organizers promised bigger acts, put tickets on sale, and then said it would be a free concert (with a food bank donation) on Labour Day weekend, before finally, mercifully pulling the plug. With the collapse came finger pointing and rumours of broken contracts.
A combination of hubris, naïveté, and time constraints conspired to ensure the dream didn’t become reality. It didn’t help that a near-monopolistic concert industry wasn’t keen to see outsiders stage something so huge. Organizers were trapped in Catch-22s where they couldn’t sign bands without the money, and investors wouldn’t pony up the money until there were major bands on the bill. For people using Woodstock as a model, it was a harsh reminder that this wasn’t 1969 anymore.
There is a silver lining: Carparelli Guitars is going all independent, with plans devised by Kam, to auction off artist-painted guitars for charity. Damien Hirst will put his on the block in February, and the Jim Warren guitar has been signed by the Beach Boys, Kris Kristofferson, and Alex Lifeson, and should go on the block around the same time. The proceeds will go to Amnesty International and War Child, respectively.
Kam assured us that lessons were learned and that with more time he can pull it off in 2011. We just don’t know if we can believe him. Deep down, we still hope that music can change the world, but we don’t know if we can stand to have our hearts broken like that again.