Black Creek Music Festival: Survival Tips

Saturday, 4 June 2011

My visit to the first ever Black Creek Summer Music Festival taught me one very important thing: never underestimate the importance of creature comforts.

Cold temperatures, ticketing issues, and traffic congestion all played a part in the audience experience. Usually, I wouldn't mention these peripheral things, but if Black Creek is planning to come back again next year, here are some simple survival tips to get you through this season comfortably and enjoyably.

1. Keeping warm

If you are huddled up in the cheap seats, don't forget to pack a blanket, dress in layers or throw on extra heavy coat! The higher you climb in the seating chart, the lower the temperature drops and it's hard to enjoy even a world renowned tenor when your legs are frozen matchsticks and your nose is turning blue (of course in June, thanks Canada!)

Some audience members who came dressed for a night out or who had pre-existing medical conditions (senior citizens, pregnant women, etc.) regrettably left the show early once their threshold for cold weather was breached.

The bright side is, frozen misery loves good company as you'll quickly bond with others over which coffee line is the shortest and what seats may be up for grabs after intermission.

2. Traffic Jam

Speaking of arriving early, I'd say 90 minutes to curtain is a good time to aim for since there will be line-ups everywhere. The parking lot closest to the Rexall Centre is the busiest so I would definitely recommend parking at a lot further out and riding a free school bus to the venue. Pickups are frequent and don't forget to note down the letter of your parking lot so you know which bus to board after the show.

Sadly, the buses are not wheelchair accessible, so exercise this option only if you don't mind scrambling for the big yellow buses to/from the concert or if you are nostalgic for your summer camp or school days.

3. Ticketing Tango

I was fortunate enough to attend the concert for free (thanks to a work perk), but I was less lucky when I arrived at the front of a lengthy 'will call' line with no tickets for me anywhere in sight.

The Black Creek staff quickly remedied this problem by providing a replacement set of complimentary tickets in the upper bowl. Another pair of concert goers also received the same solution and we ended up sitting next to each other for the show.

This answer would have been fine, except I noticed that no one had asked me where my original seats were located and I only saw one other employee in my section that arrived late. It's a 50/50 chance that our new seats were better/worse, but the speed and ease with which we got our tickets was simultaneously great and worrisome that this might have happened more often than I think.

So the moral of the story is, arrive early or get the tickets mailed to you to save yourself the stress on the concert date.

And now to Placido...

As for the concert itself, Placido Domingo was vibrant and showcased a voice that's been tempered and polished through years of training and experience. He is both eloquent and expressive and a real treat to watch.

My only critique is that he wasn't on stage as much as I thought he would be for a headliner. He alternated songs with soprano Sondra Radvanovky or the Black Creek Festival Chorus and rarely appeared in pieces back-to-back. However, his stage presence is very authoritative and he made the moments when he appeared before us captivating.

My favourite number was when he replaced Besame Mucho for an Italian aria to mark the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, which illustrated what an amazing and powerful voice Domingo still has at the ripe age of 70.


It was an entertaining evening though I likely won't be purchasing tickets for Pink Martini/Chris Botti/Jesse Cooke (yes, they are all on the same bill, can you believe it?!) in July until closer to the date and after I've checked the weather forecast.

Organizers announced that concerts will happen rain or shine (umbrellas are not allowed so pack a poncho) and it may be too close to call whether the exuberance of these three artists would outweigh the possible experience of being cold and rained on for two solid hours.

I think that just about wraps it up for me, but feel free to post a comment if you have any questions about the festival!


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