On Saturday in Kingston, Ont., The Tragically Hip is playing an epic, sold-out show to a crowd of Canadian music fans.
There are estimates that upwards of 25,000 people will be in attendance — and that’s mostly outside the K-Rock Centre, the venue where the concert is being held. There’s apparently a huge group live-screening of the concert happening at Kingston’s Springer Market Square. (The stadium itself is rather tiny, only holding 5,700 people.)
Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is attending the show (he’ll be with the fans in K-Rock).
In terms of peoples’ migrations and nationalistic pride, this is shaping up to be Canada’s Woodstock. The sentiment is summed up perfectly in this man’s Facebook status. Indeed, Canada will be closed this Saturday night.
But this isn’t the first time a concert in Canada has been an earth-shattering, mind-blowing experience. Here are some of the biggest, most buzzworthy concerts that’ve taken place in the Great White North. (Obviously we can’t list them all for every genre in every province, so let us know in the comments what we’ve missed.)
SARS-stock, Toronto (2003)
Not only is this Canada’s biggest concert of all time, it’s also listed as the world’s fourth-largest live audience. It’s reported that between 450,000 and 500,000 people descended on Toronto’s Downsview Park to see Canadian acts like Rush, The Tea Party and Blue Rodeo. International acts like headliners The Rolling Stones, Justin Timberlake and AC/DC were huge draws as well.
During a performance of The Jackyl, lead AC/DC guitarist Angus Young lowered his pants to reveal some maple leaf underwear. Now that’s some CanCon.
Teenage Head, Toronto (1980)
Teenage Head, a punk band out of Hamilton, Ont., put on a show that somehow turned into a punk riot at the now-defunct Ontario Place venue in Toronto. The outdoor concert was filled to capacity, and cops shut the gates before everyone could get in. The angry crowd tossed bottles at security guards and essentially wreaked havoc. The police were called, and Teenage Head literally ran from the stage after their set was finished. Ontario Place “banned” hard rock concerts for many years afterwards.
The Beatles, Vancouver (1964)
The Beatles performed their first Canadian concert at Vancouver’s Empire Stadium, and tickets were sold for $5.25 (which was expensive then). The performance lasted 27 minutes with 20,261 people in the audience. The Beatles almost didn’t make it to Vancouver, after the band’s pilot nearly cost them the gig.
Spirit of the West, Vancouver (2016)
In a hauntingly similar scenario to The Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie, Spirit of the West singer John Mann was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2014 at the young age of 51. Since then, Mann has been persevering and continuing to tour with the rest of his B.C. band. Their last show in their native province took place at the Commodore Ballroom in April, and the place was packed and sweaty. The band played a setlist for their fans, knowing that they wouldn’t be touring anymore. It was an emotional, melancholic event, and definitely one Canadians will always hold close to their hearts.
Alberta Flood Aid, Calgary (2013)
More than 30,000 people attended this outdoor concert at McMahon Stadium, which featured acts including Alberta rockers Nickelback and Calgary-born Jann Arden. It raised at least $1.5 million for flood relief in Alberta and holds the record for biggest concert in the city’s history. Many other Canadian stars took to the stage including Loverboy, Tom Cochrane, Matthew Good and Corb Lund.
Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a surprise guest at the show and spent the evening in the stands with Alberta Premier Alison Redford while comedian Brent Butt hosted the event. The concert was broadcast across the country on TV, but prior to Nickelback’s performance the program came to a stop, which left many viewers at home wanting to know what happened. Apparently, Nickelback didn’t sign the clearance form to allow the band’s performance to be televised.
Edgefest, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Saskatoon (1997)
This festival, which got its start in 1987, really became a “thing” in the ’90s. Arguably its biggest phase was in the mid-late ’90s, when grunge rock and Canadian indie rock took off on a country-wide scale. As such, Edgefest organizers took the festival on the road, featuring such Canadian bands as Sloan, Moist, Matthew Good Band, Bif Naked, Our Lady Peace, I Mother Earth and international acts like Collective Soul and Foo Fighters.
The crowds were huge, often sell-outs, and they were the closest ’90s Canadian teens could get to the massive shows of their parents’ heyday.
Pink Floyd, Montreal (1977)
Everyone’s heard about Pink Floyd shows and how epic they are, packed with visuals and psychedelic elements. This tour featured huge inflatable puppets and an elaborately designed stage, and this show took place in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, which was actually still under construction. (Some concertgoers were fortunate enough to watch the concert from the lip of the stadium bowl.)
Pink Floyd closed out their world tour in Montreal, and the stadium was filled to its 80,000-people capacity. Rumour has it that Roger Waters came up with the idea for legendary album The Wall that night, after he expressed a desire to put up a gigantic wall between himself and the crowd.
The Rolling Stones, Ottawa (2005)
The Rolling Stones went to Ottawa to perform in front of 43,000 fans at Lansdowne Stadium in 2005. Thousands of people who couldn’t get tickets to the show crowded Bank St. just to be able to say they were there. Our Lady Peace and Les Trois Accords opened for the rock n’ roll band, and the Rolling Stones ran a half hour late. Mick Jagger joked with the audience about not being to the city for 40 years, saying: “We haven’t been here much, if that isn’t an understatement. We’ve added a few more songs since then.”
Elvis Presley, Ottawa (1957)
Elvis Presley travelled to Ottawa to perform a concert at the Auditorium in April of 1957. His presence in the city sent thousands of teenagers and young adults into fits of hysteria, and there was a special train nicknamed the “Rock and Roll Cannon Ball” packed with over 500 concertgoers.
When Presley stepped onto the stage, the audience of over 9,000 were so loud it was almost impossible to hear Presley singing. There were 125 police officers at the venue, and the media was disgusted by Presley’s music and pelvis shakes.
OVO Fest, Toronto (2010)
This concert, now an annual event, began when Canadian hip-hop artist Drake wanted to give his hometown fans a show to remember.
The concert was held at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto on August 1, 2010, with a sold-out audience of 22,500 people. Drake brought some guests along to perform, including Jay Z, P. Reign, Bun B, Francis & the Lights, Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, Kardinal Offishall, Fabolours and Eminem, who performed for the first time since 2001.