One of the events at the 2006 High Performance Rodeo, an annual theatre festival in Calgary hosted by One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre, was an evening of music inspired by the Group of Seven, created and performed by the Rheostatics. They walked onstage, took up their instruments without a word and began playing with a kind of focused attention I’ve never seen in a band before. The show was well along before they spoke to the audience or took a break. It was the first time I had seen the Rheostatics, a band engaged in the ever-current question: What does Canada, and Canadian, mean anyway? The more I learned about their long career, the more I felt remiss—downright embarrassed, in fact—in having failed to discover them sooner. Later that night, my husband told me about his days as a tree planter in northern B.C. He and his oldest friend drove down the Nass Highway in an old two-tone blue Volvo station wagon, then parked and sat on the hood to watch the mountains and the setting sun while the Rheostatics’ Music Inspired by the Group of Seven album (DROG) blasted from the car stereo. They didn’t know then what to do with their lives, but took refuge in music that allowed them to feel as free as they were. In the last twenty years, the Rheostatics’ music has interpreted the prairies, hockey, les coureurs du bois, even the government of Mackenzie King. “People have painted us as being iconoclasts although, more often than not lately, I hear us described as Canadian icons,” says Dave Bidini, the band’s guitarist. “I think it’s great to be iconoclastic icons. It means that people acknowledge you as being this force that represents constant change and constant challenge. Canada is recognized for being a cavalier place, culturally, always trying to push it harder, certainly in the audacity of Canadian film and literature. There’s no reason music can’t have that same reputation.” If the Rheostatics are any example, maybe the very stories and songs that tell us who we are also encourage us to question what that means.