Friday night at Corona Theatre was, in many ways, like stepping into a time capsule. From the moment I entered the venue, I was dumbstruck by the realization that the mass majority of the people were teenagers; I did not expect this. One of these eager adolescents clearly had never been to a bar before, as he nervously asked me how much the beer cost with a thinly veiled attempt at confidence. He reminded me of myself when I was a pimply-faced high school weirdo. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a fake I.D., and hadn’t shaved a day in his life.
Why was any of this surprising? Well for starters, Beat Cops and The Sheepdogs are hardly Top 40 material, nor trailblazers of an innovative sound. They themselves are time capsules. I would think they would appeal to an older crowd, but Friday night felt like it refreshingly belonged to the kids. It was nice to not be standing with a large group of 60 year olds reliving their glory days. Everyone here was ready to make new memories. It gave me hope for the next generation, who have most probably been exposed to processed drum tracks and auto-tune for most of their young lives.
Montreal’s own Beat Cops set the tone for the evening by digging up a wide variety of 70’s hard-rock riffs and performing the hell out of them. Their energy was impressive, and their aura even more so. Sadly, at first they didn’t really seem to connect with the audience. The problem was that they were so good at capturing a period of popular music that it almost bordered on self-parody. Humorously, the first comparison that came to my mind was Stillwater from the film Almost Famous. The long keyboard noodling and flashy guitar solos instead of solid song-writing doesn’t help things either. Thankfully things did pick up a lot. By the end, their playing was so tight and face-melting that I didn’t know how I would possibly regain my senses to enjoy the remainder of the show. As they accelerated into hyper gear on the raw and memorable “Get Even,” there was an uplifting sense that everyone was in for something special.
Nothing could have prepared the crowd for The Sheepdogs though. They too could be criticized for mining familiar territory without any desire to broaden their musical scope, but all I could think was, “Who the hell cares?” They have always been great on record, but as a live band they are almost legendary. I have not seen a rock show like this in years! Singer Ewan Currie had the smooth voice of Burton Cummings and the animal magnetism of Jim Morrison. He seems so aloof when he sings, but his eyes suggest that he is going to stuff his sweet tone right into your ear canal whether you fucking like it or not. But the real trick is in the guitars. Those dual harmonies and driving bass grooves courtesy of Currie, guitarist Jimmy Bowskill, and bassist Ryan Cullen are the magic behind the band. They are why The Sheepdogs should never be branded as shameless rip-off artists.
Oh, and how the kids loved it! The second that the opening bars of “I’m Gonna Be Myself” rung out across the theater, the kids counteracted with their own howls of joy. “So this is what our parents have always been bragging about!” they seemed to say. The Sheepdogs definitely ate it up, by busting out every southern-tinged guitar passage and catchy refrain in their arsenal. At one point, Currie shared that Bowskill had lost his virginity in Montreal, knowing full well what reaction he would get. The crowd went wild and started chanting “Jimmy! Jimmy!” much to the band’s amusement. Such was the comradery of the event. We all felt like teenagers, even if for the small percentage of us, those days were long gone.
The band never let up. As they plowed through hits like “Take A Trip,” “Feeling Good,” and “I Don’t Know” with a laidback yet exuberant attitude, they were met with more and more enthusiasm. At one moment a security guard had to pull down a crowd surfer, and a mosh pit broke out right before the end of the set. But it was when they came out for an encore and played the Allman Brother’s “Whipping Post” and Neil Young’s “Down by the River” that they ironically transcended time altogether. Forget the past, man. Rock isn’t dead, and all of us who were there now have the proof. I bet even the long-haired, pot-smelling ghost of Duane Allman was floating around with a smile, and giving a well-deserved thumbs up.
Written by Shawn Thicke
Photography by Stacy Basque
*edited by Kate Erickson