Funtastic Music Festival revellers can Ballroom Blitz to the new Sweet

Funtastic Music Festival revellers can Ballroom Blitz to the new Sweet

Songs are still ‘Sweet’ after all these years

It’ll be a ‘ballgame’ blitz when glam rockers Sweet play the Funtastic Music Festival June 29.

It is tempting to open an interview with Steve Priest with a certain question when he answers the phone at his Southern Californian abode in the Spanish-pronounced town of La Cañada Flintridge.

It’s a question that was first asked of the bassist with glam rock band The Sweet (now known simply as Sweet) more than 40 years ago.

“Are you ready Steve?”

The opening line to Sweet’s classic dance hall burner Ballroom Blitz, Priest has been ready since he reformed the band in 2008.

And his “uh-huh” response will be heard when Priest and Sweet headline the Funtastic Music Festival June 29.

“That was a good song,” he says nonchalantly when asked about the staying power of Ballroom.“It’s amazing. It’s not like I’m that young now, but we have people from 15 to 50 at our shows and they know all the lyrics. They are singing along to it.”

Speaking in his Middlesex-tinged accent, left over from his British roots, Priest is the only founding member in this version of Sweet (an attempt by his former bandmate Andy Scott was made in the ‘80s/early-‘90s under the name of Andy Scott’s Sweet) and he says it was after seeing Eric Clapton perform that he decided to start playing all those classic songs again.

“I asked myself ‘why is (Clapton) still up there and I’m not?,’” said Priest. “I knew then I had to get back to this. It was silly not to.”

Priest went from backseat driver to manager, and says he had to learn quickly the other side of the biz, from booking shows, flights and hotels to all the other things that come along with the job.

“Before we had everyone else doing it,” he said. “Back in the ‘70s, it was quite amazing – you get caught up with that ‘you’re a rock star.’ Now I just take it with a grain of salt. It is what it is.”

Looking back at when Sweet was starting out, the one regret Priest says he has is the band didn’t tour this side of the ocean enough during their heyday.

“We also didn’t do enough TV shows in Europe, which were really big back then,” he said. “Lots of people didn’t associate us or know we had done the songs.”

Restarting the group years later was one way to change that, he added.

Priest last played those classic Sweet songs — Ballroom Blitz, Fox on the Run, Little Willie, Love is Like Oxygen, Hellraiser, Teenage Rampage, Blockbuster and Action to name a few —  at a few fundraisers after 9/11.

Five years ago, he gathered a group of musicians, including fellow bandmates from L.A. metal act Heaven and Earth, guitarist Brit Stuart Smith and drummer Richie Onori, as well as keyboardist Stevie Stewart to join him in the new Sweet.

“We all came together would be the common expression,” he said.

Priest also set out to find a lead singer who would be able to hit those high falsetto notes originally belted out by Brian Connolly, who left The Sweet back in 1979. (Priest filled in on lead vocals until the band officially disbanded in 1981.)

“When the original band ran its course and Brian left the band, it made it difficult. I mean we’re a band that needs a lead singer – the vocals are what we’re known for,” said Priest, who enlisted L.A. vocalist Joe Retta to fill in those big shoes.

Soon after forming, the new Sweet appeared on a radio show in L.A., and then kicked off the aptly titled Are you Ready Steve? tour at Hollywood’s famed Whisky a Go Go club.

As soon as the band played the spacey keyboard intro to Fox on the Run, Priest knew he had made the right decision.

“I love to see people singing it. It never gets old,” he said, adding the band has since filled clubs and casinos from coast to coast. “We still have a following. It’s great.”

Priest, who just built a home studio he calls Logic, has been recording new songs with Sweet and says he is looking forward to the band’s dates in Canada, which include a number of casino shows before they arrive to rock the Funtastic Music Festival and slo-pitch tournament just before Canada Day.

Just like Steve, Funtastic revellers will be ready.

Sweet takes the stage on the Saturday night during Funtastic at 10:30 p.m. Opening for the band will be Heart tribute Barracuda, as well as local acts Mace and The Legendary Lake Monsters.

Weekend and day passes for the Funtastic Music Festival are now on sale at all A&W restaurants in Vernon or online at funtasticsports.ca