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Waterloo, Ontario, Canada | SELF

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada | SELF
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"SweetFire Wins Moral Victory At Band Final"

March 10, 2008


There tends to be a shortage of morals in rock 'n' roll, what with the sex and drugs and all.

But here is a rock 'n' roll tale with a moral. Several morals, actually, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

First, the tale:

It was a white and stormy night in Toronto when a band called SweetFire played the single most important concert of their career on Saturday.

SweetFire had shimmied down the 100 kilometres of snowy highway from their hometown, Kitchener, to compete in a high-stakes showdown against 13 of the best bands from across Canada.

Those high stakes: a shot at a $1-million recording deal -- a Holy Grail to any indie band with rock-star dreams.

To SweetFire, four musicians accustomed to frequent gigs with puny payoffs, the prospect of a million bucks practically made them drool.

The band had already won three preliminary rounds of competition, earning a coveted spot in Saturday's Canadian finals of the Bodog Battle.

The competition -- named after the online entertainment juggernaut Bodog, which is putting up the seven-figure purse -- promised to cull the best bands from Canada, the U.S. and Europe for a final televised showdown for the big bucks.

Saturday's Canadian finals were SweetFire's chance to be the sole Canadian band, out of hundreds whittled away through preliminary rounds, to be chosen for the world finals.

But from the moment SweetFire singer-guitarist Jesse Webber woke up Saturday morning, he felt as if the gods were conspiring against his band. His head was stuffy and his throat felt like he had gargled shards of glass.

Sing? He couldn't even speak.

SweetFire had come too far, though, to quit over a cold. Webber popped lozenges and gulped cough syrup.

Then, halfway to Toronto, his car broke down. Desperate at the roadside, he fiddled around under the hood until the engine begrudgingly started again.

When Webber finally reached Healey's Roadhouse, his nerves were shot. His bandmates, nearly marooned in snow themselves, weren't feeling so hot either.

To make things worse, a band called 40 Sons & Daughters was in the process of blowing the roof off Healey's when SweetFire rolled in at 9 p.m. The Hamilton band had a hard-edged sound, a large and loud cadre of fans, and even their own smoke machine.

"This is going to be a tough show," SweetFire bassist Danny Alac hollered over the din. "There are a lot of good bands here.''

SweetFire had honed their chops around Kitchener playing venues like the Boathouse and the Still, but now they'd be judged against the nation's best -- a daunting prospect.

"This is the most crucial show we've ever played,'' Alac said.

The contest's six judges were all music biz bigwigs, including Greig Nori, a record producer who works with top-selling acts like Sum 41, Broken Social Scene and last year's Bodog champs, Fall From Grace.

"Even if we don't win," Alac said, "we're going to be seen by some important people. It's a big opportunity.''

Moments before their turn in the battle, a SweetFire chant erupted in the crowd, shouted by dozens of loyal supporters who packed two schoolbuses from Kitchener.

By the time SweetFire hit the stage at 10:30 p.m., their nervous energy had converted into unfiltered adrenalin.

They jumped and spun and postured just like the rock stars they hoped to become. Alac leaned into the crowd, allowing girls in the front row to run their fingers through his immense mushroom cloud of hair during the opening number Got It Bad.

The band tore through three more songs before charging offstage, spent but grinning.

"We played as well as we ever have," Webber said. "Now we wait and see if it was good enough."

So they waited and waited through four more bands, then waited even more as the judges deliberated.

Finally, just before 2 a.m., the announcement came.

The winners . . . 40 Sons & Daughters. The members of SweetFire clapped politely but half-heartedly. Webber slouched and took a swig of beer.

Just then, during what appeared to be the band's lowest moment, something unexpected happened.

Greig Nori, the big-shot record producer, approached the members of SweetFire and said this: "I think you guys are amazing. You guys have a lot going for you and I want to work with you."

Much lively conversation ensued, during which Webber and Greig dashed out into the blizzard to fetch a SweetFire demo CD from Webber's car.

So there may indeed be a recording contract in SweetFire's future after all, which makes for a happy ending to this tale. And the moral of the story?

A few obvious ones spring to mind: It's not whether you win or lose . . . Don't count your chickens . . . Never say never.

But perhaps Alac put it the most succinctly: "You just have to go out there and kick ass, and good things will happen."

chunter@therecord.com - Colin Hunter

"SweetFire's Ryan Brohman flying solo"

(Jan 22, 2009)

Almost a year ago, Ryan Brohman's band SweetFire came tantalizingly close to winning a $1-million battle of the bands contest. It wasn't the sort of thing he ever expected would happen when he formed the group not long before with fellow singer-songwriter Jesse Webber, and having come up short, it's given him a new perspective on what being a musician is all about.

"The biggest surprise about that whole experience was that the band had basically just been thrown together, and we ended up beating out 7,000 other bands to come in second in Canada," Brohman says. "We're in the process of making a record right now, but I still had this live recording that I'd done at the Registry Theatre that I wanted to put out to showcase the acoustic side of my writing."

The disc, which also includes a DVD of the performance, was somewhat of an impromptu affair as well, the Kitchener native adds. "I just got some friends together and we had a couple of rehearsals, and somehow it turned out really well," Brohman says. "There's only one or two songs that were on my first album, which I didn't really promote that much, and the rest are either new songs or songs that I've had kicking around for years that I never did anything with.

"As far as SweetFire goes, we all determine what the best material will be for the band, and that most often comes down to just being good, high-energy rock 'n' roll. Jesse writes a lot too and does his own recordings, so neither of us has a problem keeping songs to ourselves.

"A lot of these songs are really personal to me, which is mostly why I wanted to put them out under my own name."

One aspect of Brohman's work that sets it apart is his fondness for alternate guitar tunings, and he cites specialists in that field like Joni Mitchell and David Crosby as major influences.

"My friend Ben Rollo, who played drums on the live album, was joking before the show that I'd need four different guitars on stage because of the different tunings I use," Brohman says. "There's actually a song on the album called Teasing that was directly inspired by Joni Mitchell. I just like how she can make her guitar sound like a full band. She's a genius."

Although Brohman doesn't have any solid plans to play many more solo gigs after the release party for Live At The Registry, the idea is becoming increasingly more intriguing, especially as, he says, the other players on the album have told him how much they enjoy playing the songs.

"As we've been getting ready for the release show, everyone's been saying, imagine how good this would sound if we did this all the time. So I could see some more shows happening at some point, for sure. Right now, I'm planning on making the album available for download at www.aralie.com, which has really been doing great things for local artists. But after the release show I should have some in stores around town, too."

Live Ryan Brohman CD release w/Craig McNair Thursday, Jan. 22 Maxwell's Music House, Waterloo Admission $5 Show starts at 9 p.m. More info at 519-498-5705 - Jason Schneider

"For those about to rock..."

If you're in the mood for some fantastic live music tonight, I suggest you head to the Fox & Fiddle in Waterloo to check out K-W supergroup SweetFire. Why? 'Cause SweetFire rocks, that's why. The band is made up of four local musicians who are troubadours of the solo circuit -- Jesse Webber, Danny Alac, Christian Reichard and Ryan Brohman -- so when they join forces in SweetFire they're quadrupally good. Last winter they competed in the Canadian finals of the Bodog Battle of the Bands (and if you ask me, they shoulda won). So head to the Fox & Fiddle tonight, get yer drink on and rock out. K? K. - Colin Hunter

"In case you missed it (or drank so much you forgot it)..."

A huge crowd turned out for the SweetFire CD release party at the Boathouse last week.... relatively speaking. A "huge crowd" at the Boathouse would be an itty-bitty crowd at, say, the Acropolis. But for the Boathouse is was a barn-burner, and venerable videographer Phil "The Blast" Bast (I just made up that nickname) was there with camera in hand, capturing the highlights. Rock fans, plug in your headphones and feast your eyes and ears on the video. - Colin Hunter


Local rockers have already qualified for Ontario finals in a competition with a $1M payout
November 15, 2007
For NightLife

(Nov 15, 2007)

The members of SweetFire have taken a sudden, avid interest in the democratic process.

"People have to vote," stresses Jesse Webber, guitarist and vocalist for the Kitchener indie band.

"Yeah," agrees bassist Danny Alac. "Vote."

The reason these guys are so vehemently urging citizens to rock the vote is not because they feel particularly passionate about politics.

It is, rather, because there could be a million bucks in it for them.

That's the prize that awaits them if SweetFire wins the Bodog Battle, a multinational rock 'n' roll talent search hosted by online gambling and entertainment site Bodog.

With hundreds of bands from Canada and the U.S. vying for that grand prize, it would seem the odds are heavily stacked against SweetFire, who only formed as a band several weeks ago.

But that's not necessarily so.

At a recent qualifying concert in London, SweetFire handily beat 11 other bands, taking first place and earning a spot in the Ontario finals next week in Toronto.

From what they've seen of the competition so far, the members of SweetFire believe they've got a fighting chance of being named one of the top Canadian bands in the competition. "I think the odds are very good for us," says Alac, whose enormous, untamed mop of brown hair is sure to help the band get noticed by fans and judges.

"I think we can win this thing."

If Sweetfire makes it as far as the Canadian finals in December, they could earn a spot on the Bodog Battle reality TV show, in which the top 10 indie bands on the continent will vie for $1 million recording contract.

Last year's competition launched the career of Fall From Grace, who outlasted and outrocked all other bands on the Bodog Battle reality show on Fuse TV.

If Sweetfire can impress the judges at the next rounds of competition (and amass plenty of online fan votes in their favour), they too could take the fast-track to rock stardom.

So, like any politician vying for office, SweetFire is on the campaign trail, hoping to win over voters.

That's the purpose of tonight's gig at The Still in downtown Kitchener -- to encourage concert-goers to log on to bodoglife.net and help swing the odds in SweetFire's favour. Though SweetFire as a band is new to the local music scene, its members are not. Despite being relatively young guys (the oldest being 26), they are already veterans of the music biz.

Webber and co-frontman Ryan Brohman have both just released solo CDs of material they play at regular gigs around Waterloo Region. Alac and drummer Christian Keichard are both regulars of weekly jam nights and concerts with other bands, like Honeywood Express.

"There's over 50 years of experience playing music between us," Alac says during a break from a rehearsal at The Boathouse, a favourite haunt of Sweetfire members.

It was Webber who submitted a demo MP3 in the Bodog Battle several months ago, and who got the phone call from a Bodog bigwig saying he loved it.

The demo was a song from Webber's solo CD called Wishful Thinkin' -- which in retrospect is a fitting title, since the song represents their first big step toward a million bucks.

The song exemplifies the SweetFire sound -- "all thriller, no filler, straight-ahead rock and roll," as Brohman puts it -- which the guys hope will impress crowds, and therefore the judges too.

"If you win over the audience, if you keep them out of their seats and keep them dancing, that makes a huge impression on judges."

The guys say they will continue to play together whether or not SweetFire advances further in the Bodog Battle. They're good friends and close comrades in the local music scene.

Still, they've got their eyes on the prize.

"A million bucks," Brohman marvels. "I'm allergic to a lot of things, but a million bucks isn't one of them."

To vote for SweetFire in the Bodog Battle, register online at music.bodoglife.net.



She's a Villain - 2010
Dynamite - COMING FEB 2011



Sweetfire was founded by Ryan Brohman and Jesse Webber in 2006. The duo honed their collective writing skills, and cut their teeth on many festival and rock club shows. In 2008 Sweetfire came in second place, out of thousands, in the Bodog million dollar Battle of the Bands.

2009 saw Sweetfire tour England, playing many club dates including world famous The Cavern in Liverpool.

Since the addition of Darius McKinley on bass and Dan Byrne on drums in 2010, Sweetfire has attracted the attention of producer Darryl Romphf (Hail the Villain, Hollowick, Art of Dying). The combination has proved to be more than just a good idea. After 6 months working with Darryl, Sweetfire released "She's a Villain" on July 30th 2010, and is gearing up to release "Dynamite" in Febuary 2011.

Sweetfire is currently playing all of the best rock clubs in Ontario. At the moment they are promoting an upcoming show at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto on Saturday Febuary 12, 2011. Sweetfire is also playing at the Mod Club on Febuary 24 2011.