While the sprawling sea of pea-sized heads sweating in the heat made for great CNN shots, backstage at SARSstock was an entirely different world. You didn't have to worry about heat prostration or some mulleted loogan in a Slayer shirt treading on your knuckles in the grass. S.S.-calibre promoter security kept wilted-looking press plebs sequestered in an air-conditioned compound of white circus tents stocked with water, pop and land line laptop hookups.
And the celebrities? Behind the tents, picture a massive green barn/warehouse, the sort of place where you'd put on an amateur musical at summer camp. Now picture big Restricted Access!!!! signs on fluorescent poster board. That's where the hired talent was herded.
Between the two camps, zoned off with yellow police tape, was a no-man's land of scorching tarmac. Although it was mostly populated by hangers-on, you could figure out where musicians fell in the celebrity hierarchy by whether they'd let themselves - gasp! - be seen in public.
Jann Arden boldly strolled across the strip after belting O Canada; Tea Partiers Jeff Martin and Jeff Burrows desperately tried to get noticed. They looked like one autograph request would've made their day. Everyone ignored unfortunate Quebecois rockers La Chicane while they quaffed beer in the sun. Members of Rush and the Guess Who chilled with their families; minor bold-face figures like Canadian Idol judge Jake Gold and Jian Ghomeshi tried to figure out which side of the police tape they should be on.
Most fun of all were the things nobody noticed. A lightly toasted Greg Keelor was seen casually strolling around the grounds with a guitar slung over his shoulder until he was suddenly shocked back to reality by hearing Blue Rodeo being introduced and made a mad dash for the stage.
"I totally forgot we were on," admitted the breathless Keelor later. "Then I heard Mike Bullard saying our name up there and I panicked." Lucky for him, cohort Jim Cuddy sang the first song of Blue Rodeo's solid (if seriously abbreviated) set they'd flown all the way from the West Coast to perform.
Midway through Justin Timberlake 's bottle-dodging stab at Señorita, a scrawny figure in shades swiftly sauntered avec entourage - two young girls and an Amazonian lady friend - toward the stage. Most folks were too glued to JT's Jumbotron yelps to recognize Mick Jagger , whose Timberlake-smitten daughter demanded Daddy drag her stageside for the set.
Good ol' JT had more admirers than you'd realize. A refreshingly down-to-earth Kathleen Edwards crooned a few bars of both Señorita and Cry Me A River after taking profit-hungry concert promoters to task in her press conference. Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne shared a heartwarming anecdote about young Justin's turn as a bass-playing dolphin during the Lips' appearance on Top Of The Pops.
Coyne also brought a much-needed dose of wackiness to the generally buttoned-down backstage interviews, going on about his love of Toronto, watching the northern lights in rural Canada and the LSD-fuelled origin of the Flaming Lips' dancing animals.
And as for those animals: a ragtag contingent made up of Sam Roberts , Edwards and their bands scurried ecstatically in fuzzy suits right before the Flaming Lips' set. Hmmo.
According to Roberts, Coyne won over big-name fans backstage by spreadin' the love. You could see it. While Randy Bachman - who'd sent his daughter over with a song he wrote for Timberlake on the way to the show - dozed en famille on the shuttle back to the city, and the Stones finished up their set back in the park, rows of exhausted musicians grinned and held up their hands for high-fives as Coyne made his way down the aisle of the train. email@example.com