Mitchel Raphael on some hirsute visitors

… and what about Tony Clement gig with Elvis?

Mitchel Raphael on some hirsute visitors and Tony Clement’s Elvis gig

Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

Mitchel Raphael on some hirsute visitors and Tony Clement’s Elvis gig
Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

The Sheepdogs break Hill protocol

Saskatoon band the Sheepdogs were in the capital to play a special concert at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa along with the Quebec rock band Karkwa. The event was part of an ongoing music series put together by Heritage Minister James Moore to help expose MPs to Canadian music. This was the second such night he organized. The first was in December and featured Jim Cuddy and Marie-Eve Janvier. The idea stemmed from the success of the special Canadian movie nights Moore has been hosting for some time. The concert series has no official name but the folks at Music Canada, who helped organize the evening, refer to it simply as the minister’s “Music Night.” Moore was unable to host the event at the last minute and asked Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose to step in to emcee. This infuriated Treasury Board President Tony Clement, who pointed out he actually bought the Sheepdogs’ music way back. Clement joked from his seat at the NAC concert: “I have a bone to pick with James Moore.”

In 2011, the Sheepdogs were the first unsigned band to grace the cover of Rolling Stone. All members sport signature long hair with serious facial scruff or full beards. At the concert’s pre-party, Ambrose joked: “They make my hair look small.” At the party, they met Tim Hockey, Canadian banking group head for Toronto-Dominion Bank, one of the evening’s sponsors. Hockey said he wanted to hug the band after bassist Ryan Gullen told him that TD was the only financial institution that would give them a line of credit. For years, said Gullen, the Sheepdogs lived off that credit, which helped fund the band’s creative endeavours like producing their CDs. Gullen said there was never a lineup in their bank and all the tellers knew them by name.

Earlier in the day Speaker Andrew Scheer met the Sheepdogs for a meal in the Parliamentary Restaurant. The band showed up for lunch before Scheer and hit a bit of a roadblock with the restaurant staff. None of the band members had a jacket and tie, which is one of the mandatory rules at the dining room. When Scheer arrived and they realized they were his guests, the staff calmed down and let the band in as they were dressed.

The Speaker, who represents the Saskatchewan riding of Regina-Qu’Appelle, also held a reception in his Centre Block salon for MPs to meet the band, saying he wanted to bring more Saskatchewan culture to the Hill. Tory MP Joyce Bateman said to the group: “You guys look like the cool kids from my high school.” The Sheepdogs liked NDP MP Tyrone Benskin’s ponytail, declaring: “You’re the Sheepdog of Parliament.”

At the reception, the Sheepdogs said they would like to put forward a bill to bring back the beard to Parliament. No word if this was an indirect nod to bearded NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. The band was particularly impressed by paintings of former speakers from the 1850s. “The great sideburns of Canadian politics,” joked Gullen.

Tony Clement jams with Elvis

For about a year, Tony Clement has been teaching himself how to play the guitar via the Internet. So far his audience has been his wife, “who never recognizes the songs I play.” Then at a riding association fundraiser for fellow Conservative MP Nina Grewal, Clement was called up on stage spontaneously by Elvis Presley impersonator Darren Lee of Langley, B.C. “Is Tony Clement in the building?” shouted Lee. Clement was asked to pick up a guitar on the stage and join Lee. The minister says he stuck to classic 12-bar blues and felt he did pretty well for what was his first public performance.