Sheepdogs Live, Sheepdogs Mercury Lounge, Sheepdogs CMJ
Despite being born a generation too late and a nation too far North, Saskatchewan’s Sheepdogs have its Southern Rock schtick down to the mustache. The band’s five-man touring lineup covers all the appropriate burnout iconography: bandanas, bell bottoms, torn denim jeans and jackets, fuzzy guitar straps, facial hair in varying stages of bushiness and one-length-fits-all manes of sweaty locks that would probably end up writing the same bayou bopping songs if they managed to shear themselves free and form a band of their own.
But then, there’s the songs themselves: three-guitar-thrumming, 12-bar-chugging, solo noodling jams about “Feeling Good,” getting “Laid Back” and making time for some down-home “Southern Dreaming.” It’s a convincing vibe—one that, in August 2011, inspired 1.5 million voters to elect the Sheepdogs the first unsigned band to ever fill the cover of Rolling Stone magazine (teaser copy: “a very hairy rock & roll fairy tale”). Last night at Manhattan’s Mercury Lounge the same heady vibes filled the ‘Dogs sold out 11 pm show with equal numbers of balding, beer-swilling boomers and sundress-swirling Bonnaroo bait seriously pushing the venue’s 21+ mandate. One drunk 40-something went around high-fiving his younger neighbors, throwing up the horns and congratulating people on their t-shirts.
The inherent stomping glee of Juno-winning ditties like “I Don’t Know” got the room writhing, but even more compelling than the solo-laden tunes was the band’s onstage energy. Frontlumberer Ewan Currie frequently mounted the small speaker-supporting table in front of the stage to toss back his frizzy ponytail and solo skyward. Lead axeman Leot Hanson spiced his shreds with behind-the-head noodling and punctuated power chords with Pete Townshend high jumps. At one point drummer Sam Corbett hopped atop his stool to rain down on a cymbal.
During an epic encore jam all five members got a brief solo of their own and earned the giddy whoops and cheers that met them. Throughout the hourlong set nobody in attendance questioned the band’s dadrock authenticity; only one chatty front row bro ribbed Currie for his choice to guzzle Tecate (“You skipped a country!”), but let the Canadian $5 bill affixed ceremoniously to the frontman’s mic stand slide. The crisp turquoise note was just another prop in the Sheepdogs’ rockstar moment, and they earned it.
Setlist for Sheepdogs:
I Need Help
Southern Dreaming
Feeling Good
The Way It Is
Laid Back
The One You Belong To
Hang Onto Yourself
I Don’t Get By
Learn & Burn
I Don’t Know
How Late, How Long