THE SHEEPDOGS HAVE AT IT (John Barnard). 85 minutes. Screens tonight (June 20) as part of Open Roof Festival (w/ live performance); see Indie & Rep Film, page 88. Then opens Friday (June 21). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: N
Since Robert Johnson made a deal with the Devil, rock music's defining myth has been the Mephistophelean bargain. The fame, the fortune, the sex - it comes at a steep price: long bus rides, ruined friendships, substance abuse, all that VH1 Behind The Music "but backstage things were falling apart..." stuff.
That narrative has always seemed a little disingenuous - like, boo-hoo, the big rock star has too much sex. But the myth, and its aura of danger, collapses altogether if your celebrity is the result of winning a contest held by an irrelevant pop culture magazine. See the Sheepdogs, a classic rock revival band of good ol' boy archetypes from Saskatoon who were launched to superstardom overnight in 2011 after winning a contest to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone draped in the Emperor's New Denims.
The Sheepdogs Have At It feels like another part of the grinding self-promotional apparatus that is the Sheepdogs. An 85-minute commercial for the band, it captures their reverse engineering as they struggle to complete a record after already becoming a household name. The film desperately tries to authenticate the band, which suggests that at some level they know they should be less worried about living up to the expectations set by being on the cover of Rolling Stone than with living them down.