Beware of the Dogs Review (Nashville Film Festival 2013)
by Mike Holtz, WeWatchedAMovie
Directed By: Jeff Kennedy (Directorial Debut)
Kurt Cobain once had a memorable line (Though try as I may, I cannot find it today) about how there is no moment better in a band than that moment right before you make it. When you know success is just beyond the horizon. Where crowds are showing up to see you play, singing the words back to you, treating you like a full blown rock star and then the next day you wake up and go to your job at the shoe store.
Atleast that’s what Sam Corbett; drummer of the Canadian rock band The Sheepdogs did.
Beware of the Dogs is a film about the early struggles and ultimate success story of The Sheepdogs. It also tells the story of a competition between 16 bands to be on the cover of vaunted magazine The Rolling Stone. You get the feeling that when this Documentary began it was about the competition as a whole but The Sheepdogs and their blue collar story happened to catch the attention of the Director more so than anyone else. The Documentary ultimately became about The Sheepdogs while still giving the competition and its several finalists their due. You see the story of what this hard working band was doing before the competition, working full time jobs to make ends meet back home and going full steam ahead as a rock band trying to make it. You have the story of this Rolling Stone competition and the eclectic group of musicians it introduces you to and finally you have the beginnings of The Sheepdogs success story as they grace the cover of Rolling Stone.
First things first; this is a Rockumentary in every sense of the made up word. Sitting in the crowd at the Nashville Film Festival with the band and their friends and family in attendance (and obviously having a great time) may have added to this, but Beware feels like a rock show. You would be hard pressed to find a movie where the sound sticks out more than it does in this film. It’s ferocious and raucously loud as the sound reverberates through the auditorium as if the band was on stage in front of you and for that you have to give massive credit to the band,, for being good at the loud rock and roll they play of-course, but also to Gary Arnold, who worked as a sound editor and mixer. I spoke with Mr. Arnold at the Festival and he assured me this was no accident. He wanted to capture the guts of a rock and roll show and he did and did it well, in a way I have never seen or heard before. The film looks great and is shot well with the fitting ambiance of every moment from the bands old dingy apartment littered with beer bottles and fruit flies to the rich successful feel of the digs The Rolling Stone had the band staying in. The Director Jeff Kennedy does an incredible job of making you feel like you are on this ride with them.
Beware thankfully stays easy to watch and doesn’t try to go ham-fisted and attack you emotionally. There’s no insane drama with the band fighting and nobody has a nervous breakdown or gets hooked on drugs. You actually root for and like the guys in the band. The movie, much like the band, is a what you see is what you get, hope you like it sort of deal. This is a nice change of pace for documentaries as the audience doesn’t have to wonder what’s true or what was exaggerated for the purpose of adversity. There’s enough excitement, competition and underdogs to root for in Beware without them having to embellish. It feels like a story you can trust as you get taken along by the band at work to see what they do for a living. As mentioned before one of them works in a shoe store, another as a bartender and the most surprising was when one of the band members took us along with him as he visited the mentally handicapped people he worked with. They all threw a party for his return and cheered louder than I imagine some of the crowds he’d been away playing music for did. Seeing stuff like this coming from a hard working band trying to make their dreams come true really takes away the need for manufactured emotion. This is clearly a group of guys that are deserving and so easy to root for and that helps to make Beware such an fun film.
We even meet one of the band members parents, who are beyond like-able as the dream band parents who would let them use their basement to play in, even though it would vibrate the walls of their neighbors homes. It’s all good things in Beware and it’s great to see success go to the quiet guys who wail the loudest rather than the guy jumping off the wall, free style rapping and calling his music Hip Hoppy. (This is not made up but actually a real person, whom the band was competing with…. no seriously) Had the title of the movie not given away the outcome already I would have never thought The Sheepdogs would win this competition. Not because they aren’t good (because they are) or because they shouldn’t (because they should) but rather because the guys in the suits in this day and age typically go for the obnoxious over done lady gaga gimmicky type rather than a bunch of sweaty dudes playing rock and roll music. I’m not the only one to feel this way either as Kid Rock made it known in the film how much he was even rooting for the band to make it big and stay who they are….. just pure rock music. Not hip hoppy.
The vast differences in the artists made this a fun watch. As well as a couple extremely talented rock groups there were some extremely pop laden abstract acts and it was nice to see a band more about the music and less about the gimmick succeed. You get the best sense of the vast differences when, after The Sheepdogs received a louder applause from their performance on Jimmy Fallon than a female pop singer they were up against, she told the camera (in pure pouting, sore loser fashion) that basically it was because they play louder music than she did. For good measure and sympathy she throws in that their fans called her a certain C word online. To this one of the band members nonchalantly responds “naahhhh”. Beware doesn’t throw any high end drama your way but it also feels honest because of it and that is a trait that fits well with this band. What you see is what you get and the hard work and charisma of this band is enough to provide you with all the rooting interest you need. It was good to see The Sheepdogs succeed and the doc succeeds as well! If you are a music fan I recommend watching Beware and if you are in or have ever been in a band than this doc has a lot to relate to and is a must see. I’m off to buy The Sheepdogs record!