At the Marquee on Friday night, the hearty Haligoon crowd was ready for a double dose of retro-soaked rock n’ roll from two relatively new Canadian acts in Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs, and the much beloved Sheepdogs. The two Halifax dates (Friday night was the first of 2 shows) mark the end of a month-long tour that took the bands across the country from the West Coast to the Best Coast.
It was interesting to watch, that as showtime neared the crowd crept closer and closer to the edge of the stage, but never in one fell swoop, instead they sort of shuffled forward ever so slowly, almost as if they were auditioning for a spot on the upcoming season of The Walking Dead. While the crowd was clearly not in attendance for opening act Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs, they gradually warmed to the power pop-infused punk rock stylings of the Toronto-based band (who happened to be celebrating lead singer Coffey’s birthday).
From the opening salvo of the band’s infectious breakthrough hit “Talk 2 Her”, the band slammed the pedal to the floor and had the set rocketing along. For the next 40 minutes, the band worked through the majority of their eponymous debut album, and slowly but surely won over a few Haligoons in attendance, but no one was as excited as one exuberant blonde young lady in the crowd, as her excitement erupted when the band closed out their set with their follow-up single “Tough”, another infectious single that bears strong similarities to bands such as Cheap Trick and Trooper. It was a fantastic set that hopefully impressed the band enough to come back to town in the future.
After a brief changeover, it was time for the sons of Saskatchewan to hit the Marquee stage to kick off their headlining set. The Sheepdogs launched right into the lead single from the band’s latest release Changing Colours, “I’ve Got a Hole Where my Heart Should Be”, and got the Haligoon crowd grooving right along with them. While the band is currently touring their new album, this set was loaded to the teeth with fan favourites such as “Bad Lieutenant” (which absolutely brimmed with swagger and smoldered with intensity thanks in large part to the scintillating guitar wizardry from both Jimmy Bowskill and Ewan Currie), “Who?”, and “I”m Gonna Be Myself”. These were fed in amongst newer cuts such as “Kiss the Brass Ring”, “Let it Roll” , “Nobody”, and “Up in Canada”; it allowed the new material to shine as brightly as those adored songs we all know and love.
It was a great night of modern-retro Canadian Rock from two bands who are forging their own paths forward, while having a foot firmly rooted in a bygone era of ’70s era Canadiana rock and folk music. While the two distinct styles may initially seem disparate, they complimented each other quite well, and seeing the bar set unreasonably high by Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs was quite a treat. With each subsequent visit, the Sheepdogs’ production has grown more elaborate, and the band has become a well-oiled machine, that operates so tightly as a unit, it allows room for improvisation and some fantastic interaction between the trio of Jimmy Bowskill, Ewan Currie, and Ryan Gullen. I look forward to my next Sheepdogs show, as do the legion of Haligoons who were singing right along with the band on Friday evening.