Twenty Years Ago This Week, Edenfest Was a Great Success But an Even Greater Disaster

Edenfest 1996 - Toronto Sun

The middle 90s saw an explosion of music festivals: Lollapalooza, Warped, Summersault (an Our Lady Peace touring project), Edgefest (remember the touring edition), Another Roadside Attraction (the Hip’s tragically circus) and a few more. All did rather well–except one: Edenfest.

Edenfest 1996 - Poster

Staged by Eden Entertainment Group of Buffalo–a startup with grand ambitions but short on experience–it was very well attended but turned into a disaster. Here’s what happened, both good and bad.

  • Over 70,000 tickets were sold for the three-day festival at Mosport Park July 12-14, 1996. And then another 20,000 people broke in after security surrounding the track broke down.
  • It was one of the first festivals in North America (maybe the world) to be streamed over the Internet. Then again, this was the era of RealAudio and RealPlayer and tiny, stuttery postage stamp-sized video windows. Still, give them props for trying with the available technology. The streaming site still exists, too. And if you want a real retro trip, check out this Angelfire site. Soooo 1996!
  • The lineup was pretty outstanding (see below) and there were plenty of rumours about surprise guests, including Green Day, Soundgarden and the Chili Peppers. For a while, the rumour was that Pearl Jam was going to helicopter in at the last second. They never showed.
  • When secret Sunday headliner never materialized, the crowd kinda went nuts, lighted piles of trash, tents and even golf carts on fire. (That sounds worse than it actually was. After all, we are Canadians and we don’t riot well.)
  • Promoter Mark Drost suffered a financial meltdown as a result of all the financial pressures. There were rumours of a faked heart attack on Saturday afternoon and the airlifting out of three duffel bags of cash.
  • Drost was later investigated by the FBI for trying to extort $2 million from a US bank, a children’s charity scam and various other issues (a bomb threat?).  There was talk of a 20-year jail sentence at the time.
  • The town of Clarington was stiffed by the promoters with some big bills. Mosport also wasn’t paid what they were owed.
  • Edenfest ended after one year when it was originally envisioned to run for ten.

Any Edenfest memories? Lemme know.

Edenfest 1996 Lineup (Via Wikipedia)

Friday, July 12

Main Stage

Second Stage

Saturday, July 13

Main Stage

Second Stage

  • Hoarse
  • Supergarage
  • Hell Billys
  • Muse
  • Ruth Ruth
  • 7 Year Bitch
  • Letters to Cleo
  • Solution ad
  • Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies
  • Sky Diggers
  • Buzzcocks

Sunday, July 14

Main Stage

Second Stage

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

18 thoughts on “Twenty Years Ago This Week, Edenfest Was a Great Success But an Even Greater Disaster

  • July 13, 2016 at 9:06 am

    I remember the unisex “shower truck” which was a converted transport truck where you went to get cleaned up.
    You lined up for what seemed like an eternity just to have a freezing cold shower. But the amount of filth and grunge that was built up over a few days, it was worth it…sorta.
    There was a dude standing at the entrance of the truck and he was letting people in – one in, one out.
    Inside the truck was a hallway with stalls lined up along both sides with little to no privacy. I just remember walking down this hallway to find an open stall and there were naked bodies everywhere, both dude and girls, but no one really seemed to care. It must have been what jail feels like.
    Quite the experience none the less.

    When the riots started, it was actually quite scary. Not only were people burning trash, but they started burning tires and even golf carts and groups having Braveheart-esque battles with one another hurling objects at one another. Anything went.

    I haven’t camped since.

  • July 13, 2016 at 9:35 am

    That’s me on the cover of the Sun, dancing while Spirit of the West was on their set. I had no idea who was taking the photo, but my mom was pissed to see me in the paper wearing “nothing but a bra”.
    I remember guys carving wicked art into the sand that surrounded some paths…
    Being one of about 40 people over the age of 22 who went wild when Howard Jones took the stage in a bright orange jumpsuit.
    Yes, the showers…
    And running into an ex-boyfriend that wanted to leave early. We knew there would be no big final act. He and I left and only heard about the riots from our friends.
    This was one of my last big outdoor concerts. Not well-organized, shitty food, $5 bottled water, crappy “camping”, and one of the best memories from my youth.
    Thanks for the reminder, Alan.

    • July 13, 2016 at 10:28 am

      ha! there’s no way you can tell that’s a bra. that’s pretty tame compared to the rest of the shenanigans that went on that weekend 🙂

      • July 13, 2016 at 9:09 pm

        Very true, Keith. If my mother only knew…

    • July 14, 2016 at 9:02 pm

      I was one of those people excited about Howard Jones and loved every second of it!!

  • July 13, 2016 at 10:15 am

    I went to that show. I had a blast as I remember. The announced lineup was killer. I remember being towed behind a golf cart right outside my camp ground after the Hip played.

    I was disappointed The Cure got cut off, and couldn’t finish their set as a result of the time limits, even though the Hip blew right through it.

    That being said, I as very happy to have attended. I always wanted to head to a big multi day festival in England and this was my opportunity.

    • July 13, 2016 at 11:38 am

      Agreed about The Cure not being allowed all the encores we were demanding!
      But I am so happy to have attended too. 🙂

  • July 13, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    I remember there was this big dude…complete stranger laying in fetal position completely out of it in my friends tent when we got back from something. We had to wake him up and let him know he was sleeping in wrong tent.

  • July 13, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    For all of the bad things that happened, they didn’t impact me. While being hot & filthy I remember great music, good people, there was always free water refills and the outhouses were clean & always had tp. And yes, HoJo rocked with his jumpsuit and hair 🙂

  • July 13, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    I worked at the Music World tent that weekend. Had some great experiences: met spirit of the west and was able to watch their performance from backstage, saw some great bands from the 90’s and met one of my long time friends working in the tent.

    Since I lived in Pickering, I was able to run home to have a shower and a bite to eat. The food options at the event were expensive.

    I also remember the chaos at the end. Those of us working at the tent were kinda scared and we quickly packed up and left.

    Too bad it didn’t work out to be an annual event. Mosport is a great place!

  • July 14, 2016 at 9:48 am

    Most amazing outdoor event I’ve been to even til this day!!!
    Myself and 3 friends hitchhiked there from Stoney Creek (near Hamilton) with very limited funds, no tents, no drugs, no food, and NO TICKETS. Hopped the large concrete wall near the entrance and engaged in 3 days of utter debauchery and mayhem…BEST WEEKEND EVER!!!!

    The lineup was incredible and the crowd was even better. Generous, fun/music loving people combined with the spirit of outdoor festivals that had come before it…this was definitely out generation’s version of Woodstock.

    I’m the guy who was getting his head shaved in the global village atop the hill, only to have the guy stop and ask for a donation, which I did not have and therefore ended up walking around with 1″ of hair on one side and shaved bald on the other. Lost my clothes following/during the best Tragically Hip performance they have ever put on (my opinion), except for my Docs, boxer shorts and the sunglasses so generously placed upon my face by a passerby whom I asked “have you seen my clothes man?” Picture it if you can, 6-7am arrives and I still haven’t slept, strolling down one of the dirt pathways with half a shaved head, boxer shorts (which by this point had been pulled up my butt by a girl who found that to be hilarious), a pair of shades and probably the biggest shit eating grin you’ve ever seen. People diving into tents in order to grab their cameras before I got too far past and they missed the chance to take that bizarre memory home with them…


    Fondest regards to those who were able to experience this along side me!!


  • July 14, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Amazing time…it was great having my Mom help my friends and I come up with James Bond ways of smuggling booze in, gluing caps back on OJ containers, zip lock bags full of vodka and rum, only lost 1 26er, sleeping bag smelled like rum but smelled better than I by the end of the weekend…believe some guys tried to bury beer in the middle of the park before the weekend. wa interviewed by rick Campanelli (when he was a punk, hand waving kid on Muchmusic) asking who the final act was…I thought Dexy’s Midnight Runners..nope…and then seeing the stolen golf cart go by and the crazy began. …wished I was a little more sober now that I see the line up again…Can we have a do over ?

  • July 14, 2016 at 10:52 am

    To be honest it was one of the best weekends of my life so far… I fortunately ,and my group did not have any of those negative experiences …people help us put our tent up…I bought a fabulous piece of jewellery to remember the weekend up in the market …the showers were amazing the beer was ice cold and the music was out of this world !!!
    I’m 56 years old I still go to as many concerts as I can , but that for me was an amazing weekend and an amazing time!

  • July 14, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    That’s my wife in the bottom left. She’s still just as beautiful 20 years later.

  • July 14, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    I loved it! Never saw any rioting, can’t even remember half the bands, but it was all a good time. People were extremely well behaved (Canadians) and it was all a really good, laid back vibe. One life lesson I took away from it? Never wear sandals in the mosh pit. Heck the bus rides around the track to the various camping zones was even fun after a few libations. All in all a great success from a fans perspective.

  • July 14, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    I was with my wife, then girlfriend. Drank too much beer, not enough water and got sun stroke and missed Love & Rockets. The Hip and that many people was fantastic. Still my favourite festival of all time. Too bad the promoter screws up so bad.
    My recollection of what started the riots was the fact that they sold beer tickets right up the last band, told people they could stay overnight on the last night and then closed the beer tents after the last band.

  • Pingback: Back to Eden(fest): The awesome and disastrous 1996 Ontario music festival | 25 years ago, alternative rock was kicked out of an idyllic garden east of Toronto. Was it for eating forbidden fruit, or charging $5 for bottled water?

  • March 9, 2022 at 3:22 pm

    I was there, took an ounce and a half of mushrooms in with 3 bottle of rye hidden in our coolers….lmfao!!! Hard to remember most of the weekend as I was flying. But I do remember crowd surfing from a hundred rows back to get to the front when the Hip played. My voworkers saw me on the news lol. Was totally wild….me and my buddy left just before the riots started as we had to drive back to London Ont. Hr passed out and only way I could drive was doing mushrooms to stay awake….well…made it alive…Will never forget the experience.


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