Fears about a coronavirus outbreak have been bubbling around the States for the past month or so, but during the past few days, the concern seems to have grown into an outright panic. The stock market is in free fall, people are stockpiling medical masks, and President Trump has appointed Vice President Pence as the coordinator of the government’s response. “The risk to the American people remains very low,” Trump said at a press event, reassuring very few people. “We have the greatest experts, really in the world, right here.”
All of this might seem a little familiar to anyone who lived through the SARS scare of 2003. That disease started in southern China and spread across the globe in a matter of weeks, eventually reaching Canada and causing no small degree of panic. Many Canadians were placed under quarantine and there was a travel advisory warning that caused the country significant economic hardship.
The disease was ultimately contained, but a stigma lingered around Canada, and tourism numbers remained down even after the issue was dealt with. To advertise to the world that Canada was back open for business, a massive concert took place in Toronto’s Downsview Park on July 30th, 2003. The event’s official name was Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto, but most everyone called it SARSStock or some variation of that.
The show was headlined by the Rolling Stones, but also featured Rush, the Flaming Lips, the Isley Brothers, the Guess Who, AC/DC, and Justin Timberlake. The vast majority of the nearly 500,000 fans at the show were classic-rock lovers drawn to see the Stones, Rush, and AC/DC. Timberlake had just left ‘NSYNC and was not exactly welcomed by the fans. It’s 17 years later and the memories still sting.
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“I just remember saying to the band before going onstage, ‘I don’t think this is going to go well,'” he told Graham Norton earlier this month. “I had no idea how bad it was going to go. We came onstage and all of a sudden from the first two rows, bottles of urine were thrown on the stage. I still have a lot of trauma from this incident.”
Somehow or another, the Stones coaxed Timberlake onstage later in the night to sing “Miss You” with them. Here’s video of the performance. The fans must have run out of urine bottles by this point, or they were just happy he was singing a song they actually liked.
There’s no telling how the coronavirus will play out. It may make SARS seem insignificant or it might be just another big scare that doesn’t have any huge, lasting repercussions. Whatever happens, let’s hope that the Rolling Stones and AC/DC hold an enormous concert to celebrate when it’s all over. And if Timberlake comes back, don’t throw urine at him. That’s disgusting.