Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto is a benefit rock concert that was held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on July 30, 2003. It was also known as "Toronto Rocks," "SARSStock," "SARSfest," "SARS-a-palooza," the "SARS concert," or, more descriptively, "The Rolling Stones SARS Benefit Concert." Estimated to have between 450,000 and 500,000 people attending the concert, it is the largest outdoor ticketed event in Canadian history, and one of the largest in North American history, hence nicknamed "Canada's Woodstock."
It was organized in about a month, upon the suggestion of headliners The Rolling Stones, who wanted to help revive Toronto's economy after the SARS outbreaks earlier in the year. When The Rolling Stones announced the concert, Toronto was still under a SARS warning from the World Health Organization.
The concert was held at Downsview Park in northern Toronto, a former military base which also accommodated 800,000 people when Pope John Paul II visited the city in 2002. The concert was hosted by actor/singer Dan Aykroyd, and vendors also sold Alberta beef in support of the Canadian beef industry, which had recently suffered because of a single case of mad cow disease. North York General Hospital, which had been hit the hardest by the SARS outbreak in previous months, provided emergency on-site hospital services. The Toronto water department was initially supposed to provide free water by tapping the groundwater at the site, but were unable to do so due to health concerns; instead, almost 1 million bottles of free water were handed out to the crowd. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and cable music station MuchMoreMusic provided coverage of parts of the concert throughout the day, including the end of The Rolling Stones' set.
The concert opened in the afternoon with the Have Love Will Travel Revue, Sam Roberts, Kathleen Edwards, La Chicane, The Tea Party, The Flaming Lips, Sass Jordan, The Isley Brothers, and Blue Rodeo. Each band had 15-20 minutes to perform.
The second part of the concert began later in the afternoon and lasted into the night and included Justin Timberlake (with much booing and bottle-throwing), The Guess Who, Rush, AC/DC, and The Rolling Stones. The Stones performed a much longer 90-minute set to end the concert.
- CBC Coverage (http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/sarsbenefit/)