The Sheepdogs and Karkwa performed last week for the latest installment in Minister Moore’s Music Night series. As sponsor and producer of the series along with our friends at Quebecor, I had the honour of escorting Ryan, Sam, Leot and Ewan from The Sheepdogs around Parliament Hill. I should add that the band was exceedingly generous with their time.
We started with a lunch hosted by Speaker Andrew Sheer. The Speaker is a fellow Saskatchewan native and clearly enjoyed his time with the band. Also joining the band for lunch were Minister Yelich and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister, Paul Calandra. The band seemed to enjoy themselves a lot. The Parliamentary Dining room is actually a very interesting room with a ton of history but it does have its rules – such as the one requiring jacket and ties. I have more than once have found myself wearing one of the garish 70’s era ties that the Dining Room staff keep in a drawer at the entrance.
Pictured: The Sheepdogs with the Honourable Andrew Scheer and the Honourable Lynne Yelich
However, with the Speaker at the head of the group, and the Dining Room staff clearly in awe of their famous guests, there was no attempt made to press jackets and ties on the band – they may well be one of the first groups in without jackets and ties!
During lunch the Speaker corralled the visiting Brian Mulroney and brought him to the table where he welcomed The Sheepdogs to the Hill.
Pictured: The Sheepdogs with the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney
After lunch the Speaker took the band onto the empty floor of the House of Commons – a rare privilege indeed. I have never been there in all my years of working on the Hill. Unawed by their surroundings, the band immediately asked where the Prime Minister sat. They made a bee-line to it, with Ewan slipping comfortably into the PM’s seat and remarking, “I could get used to this.”
Pictured: The Sheepdogs behind Prime Minister Harper's desk in the House of Commons
We were able to get a series of pictures of the band in the Chamber which have to rank up there as some of the more unusual (and iconic) rock and roll band photos. Ewan also amusingly consulted some of the weighty parliamentary tomes which festoon the table in front of the Speaker’s chair.
It was pretty obvious what was coming next. After first checking with the Speaker, the band one by one trooped up to the Speaker’s chair. Some of the photos I managed to take were hilarious including a brilliant posed shot with the Speaker himself.
Pictured: The Sheepdogs take a turn in the chair of The Honourable Andrew Scheer, Speaker of the House of Commons
I should also point out that despite the levity and humour, the band was actually extremely respectful of their surroundings. There was something quintessentially Canadian about a rock and roll band being allowed to wander the corridors of power in Ottawa, entering onto the floor of the House of Commons itself and even sitting in the PM and Speaker’s chairs. It was all done cheerfully, without pomp and circumstance without a hint of security. I can’t imagine this happening in Washington or London.
After the tour of the House, it was onto a reception in the Speaker’s Dining Room (another room loaded with history) where they were also joined by Karkwa. Here the bands met and mingled with a wide variety of staffers and MPs (including Elizabeth May who I was rather surprised to see show up given her astonishingly anti-creator position on Bill C-11). The bands were treated with terrific respect throughout and Minister James Moore (in absentia) and the Speaker are to be commended for being such absolutely terrific hosts.
Pictured: The Sheepdogs tour the House of Commons with MP Paul Calandra
Pictured: The Sheepdogs with fellow musician and MP Andrew Cash
Pictured: The Sheepdogs with The Honourable Tony Clement
Pictured: The Sheepdogs with The Honourable Rona Ambrose
The band then took a quick tour of the rest of Parliament, including the Library. Along the way we were all provided with running commentary and historical perspective by the inimitable Chad Rogers of Crestview Strategy.
Pictured: The Sheepdogs tour Parliament Hill
While photographs are forbidden in the Library for reasons that are totally beyond my understanding (hey, we OWN those books, don’t we?!), an exception was made for the band, producing yet ANOTHER astonishingly iconic photo. We made our way to the Senate foyer and thence out into the sunny Ottawa afternoon air.
Pictured: The Sheepdogs outside the House of Commons
One postscript. I mentioned that security was no where present during the entire time we wandered the Hill. Well, that was not quite right. As we stood outside the Senate, police patrol cars suddenly started to converge on us. At first I had a creepy feeling...then it suddenly dawned on me that they were cruising The Sheepdogs! And sure enough a couple of the RCMP lads left their cars to chat with the band and have their pictures taken. It was PERFECT.