Toronto Beer Fest marks the third time I’ve seen them in three months. In June I drove down to Nashville for Bonnaroo to support them, in July I stood in a line outside The Bovine for two hours to see them play the EdgeFest after party, and Sunday they played BeerFest.
It is interesting to see how things have changed for them post cover. That is to say, not much has changed about them – they still look and sound like they just walked out of 1973 – but they are no longer the guys I first met at a local show, who could walk into a room full of music fans and have no one know who they are. They are in the midst of rapid, well deserved fame that they worked hard for after touring for years and putting out three full albums independently.
I read an article recently that I expect to find more of in the coming weeks, about how they do not live up to the hype. I feel the need to address this because there is a lot of what might come across as jealousy or bitterness about a band like them making it big internationally from some within the Canadian music scene.
The Sheepdogs won because they are exactly what Rolling Stone was searching for and in desperate need of. If you were following their number of Facebook likes and Twitter shares during the voting, you would see they came nowhere near the numbers their competition was pulling in, but that didn’t matter for a few reasons 1) they had almost all of Canada on their side 2) they look like everything Rolling Stone represented when people still gave a shit about Rolling Stone and 3) the whole vote for beards campaign was a perfect example of good marketing. Even if they didn’t pull the most votes, they were obviously going to win (that’s not to say they didn’t, as far as I know they did!).
A lot of bands that are still grinding away playing music around Canada dreaming of making it internationally may not want The Sheepdogs representing the Canadian music scene to the rest of the world because they are such a shameless throwback. If you do not love classic rock you likely wont be a Sheepdogs fan. That is a fact. They are 100% classic southern rock and they go all the way with it, from the long shaggy hair to the bandanas and the bell bottoms. Some may call that a gimmick, and as someone who generally hates gimmicks in music I understand that frustration, but it is who they have been since day one and it is who they are on and off stage, so it feels genuine. This is the kind of music they love so this is the kind of music they create, and they do it well. Although the sound may be nostalgic they are not ripping off the bands they remind you of, the songs are original and catchy and everything a classic rock throwback should be. There are a million bands capturing the sound that is happening now, so I enjoy that The Sheepdogs are able to bring some of the past into the future without being a cheesy cover band.
The set at BeerFest was incredible, easily the best I’ve seen from them. The joy that they made the cover was palpable throughout the entire audience. People held up their copy of Rolling Stone proudly during the performance, hoping to get it signed.
“We’re turning this into Toronto BeardFest” said lead singer Ewan Currie.
Best of all was when the rain started to pour down and no one left. It actually made the experience that much more exciting and communal. All these people huddled together to hear this band, dripping wet, filled with pride singing along to the tunes. It is the kind of experience that has to make the band feel incredible, even moreso than having the entire audience at Bonnaroo cheering for them when their competition was onstage. Those moments of pure happiness and pride for music happen so rarely, and I think everyone in the Canadian music scene needs to be proud that hardworking talented musicians will now be able to make a living doing what they do best.
There was a perfect moment towards the end of the set where they played the single that gave them the cover, “I Don’t Know”, and like clockwork it stopped raining and the sun came out again.
To say they were the headliners of the day would be an understatement. The Trews were billed as the headliner before The Sheepdogs won the cover, and when they took the stage after The Sheepdogs they joked about it saying “We were once on the cover of Pulse Magazine” (a small Niagara region publication).
I took a whole bunch of pictures during the day that you can see below, featuring The Sheepdogs, Poor Young Things, The Trews, beer, food and other random fun. It was a great day and I have to thank TO Beer Festival’s social media team for being so kind to my friends and I. It is a very well organized festival, and the stream of free food and drinks in the media lounge made the experience that much more awesome. I ate as much as I drank – meatball sliders, ice cream, peameal bacon sandwiches, fried hot dogs, cheese burgers, veggie burgers, mac and cheese, brownies, grilled cheese – we tried it all. Also, I came out of BeerFest with a beer I will drink anytime, any day – Fruli Strawberry beer is incredible.
Start from the bottom last photo and hit the previous button to see them in order.