By Karen Bliss
For concertgoers in and around Toronto, it’s CNE time (until Sept. 4), which means free concerts at the Bandshell with admission ($11-25). Many of the names that have played over its 80-plus years are marquee acts, so this is a bargain, especially with all the screaming going on over the price of concert tickets these days.
The CNE, commonly known as The Ex, stands for Canadian National Exhibition, a fair and midway that has taken place annually since 1879, in recent memory lasting 18 days and always ending Labour Day before kids go back to school.
The Bandshell is a heritage structure built in 1936. The capacity is about 10,000.
The outdoor venue has hosted shows by such greats as Louis Armstrong, Bob Hope, Chubby Checker, Jose Feliciano, Johnny Cash, Simon & Garfunkel and Peter Gabriel, and, of course, an equal share of great Canadians: Joni Mitchell, The Guess Who, Bruce Cockburn, The Stampeders, April Wine, Susan Aglukark, Trooper, Lighthouse, Guy Lombardo, Blood Sweat & Tears, Michel Pagliaro, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tom Cochrane, Loverboy, Colin James, Downchild Blues Band and Platinum Blonde. More recent acts that now headline cross-Canada tours at arenas or amphitheatres are Marianas Trench, Arkells and The Glorious Sons.
Among the Canadians on this year’s lineup are Kim Mitchell, Amanda Marshall, Julian Taylor, William Prince, Jay Douglas, Kardinal Offishall, Choclair, Haviah Mighty, Jon Kabongo, The Spoons, The Washboard Union, and LØLØ.
The Canadian National Exhibition Association, the non-for-profit that operates the CNE and Bandshell, gets very little financial support from government agencies, CEO Darrell Brown told the U.S. trade VenuesNow.
“Events like the CNE tend to tend to fall outside those funding envelopes for whatever reason. When you’re working more at the federal level, for example, on the heritage side, they don’t regard us as a heritage event,” he said.
The Bandshell is a great opportunity to see a range of acts of all levels and genres. Other Canadian acts booked there over the years include Big Sugar, The Tea Party, Monster Truck, Tokyo Police Club, Leroy Sibbles, Moist, A Tribe Called Red, Shawn Hook, Kiefer Sutherland, Megan Patrick, The Box, Sam Roberts Band, Walk off the Earth, High Valley, Headstones, Lights, Sloan, The Trews, I Mother Earth, Hawksley Workman; Glass Tiger, The Spoons; Iskwé and Monowhales.
“We look at our demographics,” Brown told VenuesNow. “One of the interesting things about the CNE is, from an income standpoint, we have an almost even distribution from people that are below $25,000 to above $200,000. We also have an almost even demographic across all the age groups. It’s interesting what the demographics are just in terms of ethnicities and attendance as well. So we try and have a little bit of something for everybody.”