Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Forget shaggy dog story, just check out the music

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Surprise, surprise: The Sheepdogs are a band that likes to party, and there isn't much to do in Saskatoon on a Tuesday night.

These are just two of the salacious facts readers of Rolling Stone magazine will learn in the current issue, which features the boogie-rock group on the cover.

The quartet ended up with a cover story in the magazine after beating out 1,200 bands and singer-songwriters in the Do You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star? Choose the Cover contest. The lengthy piece, written by Austin Scaggs, has generated some controversy in the band's hometown of Saskatoon, owing to its description of the city as a place with not much to do; its characterizations of some bar patrons as "toothless degenerates, binge-drinking collegians and alcoholic members of the First Nations"; and a look at the band's partying habits.

Members of rock bands like to drink beer and smoke marijuana? Shocking.

"It's not an exposé on Saskatoon; it's actually a rock SSRqn' roll article about the Sheepdogs," says the band's frontman, Ewan Currie, 26. "It was a Tuesday and Wednesday night in Saskatoon and it got some people talking and some adverse reaction, but I don't know that those people know what rock SSRqn' roll is all about.

"I can't take him (Scaggs) to the symphony; that's on the weekend. He wants to see what we do. The bar that gets described in it, young people go to it and drink. He's describing a bar -- he's not describing all of Saskatoon.

"We consider ourselves, on some level, ambassadors for Saskatoon. Wherever we're playing we always say, 'We're the Sheepdogs from Saskatoon.' If anything I look worse than Saskatoon: I smoke drugs. It makes me look like a sheepdog."

Hopefully people who read the article will actually check out the Sheepdogs' music, a mixture of southern rock, jam bands and 1970s rock SSRqn' roll.

The band -- Currie, bassist Ryan Gullen, guitarist Leot Hanson and drummer Sam Corbett -- formed in 2006 and has been on the road ever since, winning over fans one by one with its authentic, old-school RNR vibe. The group has performed in Winnipeg numerous times over the years, usually at the Times Change(d) and most recently at the West End Cultural Centre, but its next two gigs will be arena shows, as the opening act for Kings of Leon on Oct. 4 and on Saturday at Rock on the Range, headlining the second stage at 7:40 p.m. (Original second-stage headliner Sum 41 cancelled its appearance earlier this week after frontman Deryck Whibley injured his back).

The scheduling shift is lucky for the Sheepdogs, as it's unclear how many people are going to spend the entire day inside the MTS Centre during the 10-hour music festival, headlined by the current version of grunge-metal band Alice in Chains and goth-pop group Evanescence. The third annual day-long festival was supposed to be held at Canad Inns Stadium, as the two previous events were, but ticket sales stalled at less than 10,000 and ROTR was moved to the arena, prompting a flood of disgruntled comments on the event's Facebook page and other online sites. (Check www.mtsrockontherange.ca for updated schedule information.)

The official reason for the move cited by organizers was a murky statement about a "consistent experience... where the unpredictability of weather isn't a factor," but considering Winnipeg is enjoying one of its nicest, driest summers in recent memory, few people believe it.

There are plenty of theories as to why ticket sales tanked, from the move to a date later in the summer when people want to get out of the city, to the lineup, which lacks any true "must see" bands (two original member of Alice in Chains are dead, Evanescence has been off the radar for a few years, Sum 41's heyday is over, Hinder sucks, etc.).

Whatever the reason, the show is going on, with organizers promising to allow in-and-out privileges so people can still enjoy some of the day. Tickets are $52 to $93 at Ticketmaster with deals for four-pack specials

No matter how many people show up, the Sheepdogs will still deliver the high-octane rock show they are known for -- even though they won the Rolling Stone contest and earned a major-label deal in the process, they are still the same four hairy young guys from Saskatchewan who like to kick out the jams every which way.

The only difference so far is the hiring of a new crew member.

"We just had our first show ever with a guitar tech. I kept asking him if he needed help and he said, 'no.' It was strange," Currie says.

rob.williams@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 18, 2011 E7

History

Updated on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 11:16 AM CDT: Corrects date of Nicole Byblow's show to today

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