The Saturday night hoedown is alive and well on the Northern Plains. Across the region, farm work slows for the winter. Wednesday nights are reserved as church night, but Saturday night still reigns as dance night. There was a time when the weekly ritual was in the “freshly-strawed” barn, but that’s a rarity by any count. Instead farm folk head in to town to their local watering hole to get down. That was the case at the generations-old Stage Stop Bar and Grill in Mandan this Saturday night. The Low Down Dirty Dogs brought their talents to set up on the end of the building.
There under the mixed up colored lights of beer signs, musicians set up next to the wide-screen TV with an outdoors program, hunting and fishing videos. There wasn’t much a dance floor. Old time dances had saw dust on the floor so dancers could slide and shuffle. This well-weathered Berber carpet didn’t allow for much sliding and shuffling. Classic rock lovers packed the room, listening to the music, catching up with the neighbors and doing their part to make a profitable night for the bar. The crowd listened to and sometimes mouthed the words to songs that Amie powerfully belted out — songs that were popular a decade or two before she was born.
All the band members have day jobs. Bob, for example works at the North Dakota
Water Commission. He’s well past the age when many people retire, but he’d rather keep working his day job to support his weekend love: classic rock, classic country rock, outlaw rock, Americana.
North Dakota’s rural mindset doesn’t allow for much specialization of music genre. When neighbors drive to town to mingle, drink and enjoy music, they don’t separate to their own respective establishment, some to a jazz club, others to a country western club, some to a blues club and others to a rock club. Instead, one band at one place is expected to fit all the music tastes. That’s why the Low Down Dirty Dogs can shift from Janis Joplin to Waylon Jennings to Bob Dylan to Queen. It’s about keeping the audience entertained and giving them what they came to hear.
The Low Down Dirty Dogs were only one of several offerings in town Saturday night. There must have been five or six bars, clubs and taverns with music, talented musicians playing their recognizable variations and arrangements of songs most of the crowd has heard on their tractor radio.