Concert Review: Blue Jays fans were treated to a Sheepdogs show before series opener


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A full house outside the Rogers Centre for the Sheepdogs performance as part of the Blue Jays’ Summer Friday Fan Festival.

Image: Ben Fisher

As the on-field action gets more exciting and intense around the Toronto Blue Jays and their playoff push, the buzz surrounding the club is beginning to reach a similar fever pitch. The marketing department for the team engineered another year of Bacardi-sponsored (and awkwardly named) Summer Friday Fan Festivals long before the Jays started crushing the competition and David Price and Troy Tulowitzki came on board, so it has been a fortuitous bit of happenstance that the live concert series has ramped up as crowds have begun to flock to Rogers Centre.

The Summer Friday Fan Festival is a clever tool aimed at building a pre-game energy to the proceedings, the type of energy that was lacking as recently as two months ago with the Jays mired in what appeared to be another mediocre season. The Festival sees the club bring in local musicians to serve as the centerpiece for an hour of pricey tailgating and merchandise-hawking, albeit one that still offers live music, plentiful alcohol options and a nice lead-in activity to the game (you do need a ticket to that day’s game for access to the Festival).

The most recent – and, as of now, final – Friday Fan Festival of the season took place immediately before the team’s recent 5-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers. And to no one’s surprise, it was their biggest showing yet. Not only did it come with the Blue Jays sitting a game up on the New York Yankees, their closest AL East rival, and having won 22 of their past 26 games, but it also featured the cult favourite Sheepdogs, who represented a significant step up from previous Festival entertainment such as country singer Chad Brownlee and Hamilton rock outfit Monster Truck. According to team staff at the gates, the August 28 event marked a big bump in fan attendance.

The Sheepdogs hit the Festival stage, located just outside Gate 11 at the Rogers Centre, around 5:45 for what was an eight-song set that led directly into the 7:08 game start inside. The Saskatchewan-based foursome seemed to genuinely be having fun for what was a great promotional opportunity that included throwing out the first pitch (bassist Ryan Gullen got the honors and threw a strike to pitcher Mark Buerhle), interviews on Sportsnet and the Fan 590 to promote their upcoming album Future Nostalgia and even being the subject of an in-game “Name That Tune” contest.

But it was the Friday Fan Festival that really offered them an opportunity to grow their fan base, albeit with plenty of people on hand who were clearly familiar with their work. The majority of the crowd, which I’d estimate at over 1,000 as the game time drew nearer, seemed willing and able to sing along to hit singles like “I Don’t Know” and “The Way It Is”. For the Jays, meanwhile, it was one more indication that the red hot team was becoming cool again.

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