Tempest is coming to take Carson City around the world with its fusion of high-energy folk at the Levitt AMP shows this weekend. The Celtic Rock band is known for blending Irish reels, Scottish ballads, Norwegian influences and other world music.
“We have one foot in folk music and one foot in rock music,” said founding member Lief Sorbye. “We play high-spirited, high-energy music that gets people up on their feet. The music itself is timeless.”
The timeless music has proved to help the longevity of the San Francisco-based band, who is celebrating 35 years this year. They’ve released more than 18 CDs and played more than 2,500 gigs.
Since they’ve been a band for so long, Tempest has gone through some lineup changes, but Sorbye and drummer Adolfo Lazo have been there since the beginning. Sorbye said having many different members has added to the band’s diverse tastes.
“It’s a fluid lineup, and as a result we’ve had a lot of musical influences because it’s always been really great players,” he said.
Sorbye, who is from Oslo, Norway, is the lead singer and plays double neck electric mandolin among other instruments. Lazo was born in Cuba and brings some of his culture to the band.
The newest lineup for the band came together after the pandemic includes fiddler Lee Corbie-Wells, who grew up in San Francisco. Nikolay Georgiev, from Bulgaria, plays guitar. Hugh Caley, from Michigan, plays bass.
35 YEARS OF CELTIC ROCK
To celebrate the 35th anniversary, Sorbye is digging into their back catalog and bringing out tunes from their first album, “Celtic Rock.” They’ve been mixing songs of old and new, and he said it’s been fun for him and Lazo to re-learn and modernize the older material.
Sorbye said when they first started there weren’t any Celtic rock bands that he knew of and the closest band to what they were doing was The Pogues. The first album was titled “Celtic Rock” simply because the genre did not exist at the time.
“I figure people know what rock and roll is and they know what Celtic is, so they could put two and two together,” he said.
Now 35 years later, there are many more Celtic bands. To keep Tempest going, they expanded on their roots and added folk music that fit into their style, including those Sorbye’s Scandinavian background. That’s been one of the strengths of the band and helps fit them into different markets he said.
“There’s a real crossover between Scandinavian, Norse and Celtic music,” he said.
The band’s base is the folk music they play. They take music of the past, sometimes more than 100 years ago, and give it a modern arrangement and play it with electric instruments. Or when they write their own music, it’s often a song that has flavor of traditional lyrics and melodies, but it’s their original ideas, Sorbye said.
“That’s our idiom, that’s our base,” he said. “Our roots are in folk music, and the players can take it where they want to go.”
Folk music lasts, while contemporary music is here today and gone tomorrow, he said.
“The thing with folk music is it’s always changing, and the only thing wrong you can do is not play it,” he said.
Sometimes the fun in folk music is finding old songs that no one knew existed. Their last studio album, “Going Home,” which has a lot of Scandinavian roots, has a song that Sorbye recently discovered that was dated to the 1870s. He said he had recently discovered it in his files that he had accidentally nicked from the National Library in Oslo in the 1970s.
“I was looking for uncharted folk material and apparently never gave it back,” he said.
The band learned the tune and gave it a more modern arrangement and put it on the album.
“That’s where it came from,” he said. “Those stolen manuscripts from 40 years ago.”
‘ENJOY ON A SUMMER EVENING’
Tempest has played in Carson City over the years, but it’s been several since they’ve returned, and this will be their first as part of the Levitt AMP Concert Series. Sorbye said they have a good fanbase in the area and they’re happy they landed the gig.
“We’re very excited to be back in the area,” he said. “It’s a good area for us to play and there’s a lot of good music lovers in town.”
The band is just getting back from an east coast tour where they played several festivals. Sorbye said nowadays they fit into different markets and that helps them play all over. Besides Irish festivals, they’ll also play Scottish Highland Games, Renaissance fairs, pirate festivals, biker festivals and more. He said the band is perfect for the outdoor shows in the summer.
“We’re a great festival band for audience participation that people like to come out and enjoy on a summer evening,” he said. “We get ’em going, and we’re looking forward to it.”
He said one of the band’s fortes is that they appeal to the older folks right down to the grandkids.
“I love to see three generations showing up to our gigs,” he said. “Which I think is a lot of fun.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Tempest with opening act The Deadly Gallows at Brewery Art Center’s Levitt AMP Concert Series
WHERE: 449 W. King St. at the Brewery Arts Center
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12
MORE INFO: breweryarts.org; www.tempestmusic.com