Tempest, performing at Yellow Cab Tavern in Dayton on Saturday, May 13, has been defying the odds since it was formed in 1988.
The San Francisco-based Celtic rock band is the brainchild of two unlikely musicians, frontman Lief Sorbye, a native of Oslo, Norway, and Cuban-born drummer Adolfo Lazo. Since the beginning, Tempest has infused its Celtic base with world music sensibilities that stretches the sound beyond Ireland. Thirty-five years later the union forged by those two men with very different backgrounds, the group’s only remaining original members, continues to endure.
“It’s wild, I mean, 35 years is actually somewhat of a milestone,” Sorbye said. “Everything still feels new and fresh. We have a lot more to say musically and there are more places to go and there is more music to play. We also have new energy now that, luckily, we have COVID in the rearview mirror. We’ve been through these last few years where there were casualties on both sides. Bands split up and venues disappeared but we’re still here and enjoying it tremendously.”
Trust your vision
The latest version of Tempest is rounded out by Lee Corbie-Wells (fiddle), Nikolay Georgiev (guitar) and Hugh Caley (bass). Sorbye, who sings and plays electric mandolin, says the key to the group’s longevity is continuing to focus on his original vision.
“The bottom line is do what you want to do and what is close to your heart,” he said. “If you try to change with trends and the times, you’re on a losing battle. If you stay true to yourself and play the music you want to play and develop that, in the end, it’s always going to be rewarding. Success is not necessarily that pie in the sky – it’s being able to make a living doing what you do. I feel totally privileged I can do that, and that Tempest has survived over all these years with various lineup changes and changes in the music industry.”
Sorbye also had a strong reaction to the current state of the music industry.
“It’s ridiculous what has happened to this industry during our 35 years on the road,” he said. “The digital revolution in music might have done a lot of good things to young people creatively speaking but it has killed people that want to make a living as recording artists. What we’re left with is the relationship with performers and audience. That magic will never go away as long as you stick to your guns. If you do what is true to you and yourself, your audience will always recognize that and be with you.”
Watch Tempest in an intimate performance of “Hal-an-Tow”:
Gem City connection
Tempest has maintained a relationship with its dedicated fanbase through a regular stream of independent releases like 2022′s “Going Home.” Other recent releases include “Thirty Little Turns” (2018) and “Live From SoundTek Studios (2020). Another hallmark of Tempest is relentless touring. Dayton has been a regular stop for the self-proclaimed road warriors since the band first performed at Canal Street Tavern in 1990. Sorbye credits the now defunct venue and its late owner Mick Montgomery with taking a chance on the fledgling act.
“The band was in its infancy, and we’d just bought our first touring van,” he said. “We got a city festival gig in Lima, Ohio, and added a Saturday night show at Canal Street as part of our stay. We went down and played for Mick Montgomery. There was hardly anybody there, but Mick said, ‘Look, you guys are terrific. I can build you in town if you’re willing to keep coming back.’ So that’s what we did every year, and he was right. After a few years we were able to sell the venue out and keep growing in Dayton. Mick became a good friend, and I had a chance to visit him in the hospital toward the end. It’s largely due to him that Dayton has such a special place in our hearts because through him we met all of these wonderful people in town.”
Tempest is one of the rare Canal Street regulars that found ways to continue making the Miami Valley a regular stop. Local fans certainly appreciate the group’s dedication to maintaining that long running relationship.
“Dayton has grown to be a special place for us over the years,” Sorbye said. “I always make an effort to fit it into at least our spring tours every year and I have been able to succeed because there are good places in town. This is largely due to our relationship with Mick Montgomery, which was very special to us. When Canal Street Tavern sadly closed about 10 years ago and that relationship ended, we were very happy to have Yellow Cab picking up on that same vibe. We see some of our old Canal Street fans coming back so it’s like we’ve set roots and grown our little family. We have our little places in the world and Dayton is a part of that.”
Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
On the road again
Dayton marks the end of this spring leg of Tempest’s 35th anniversary tour but the group has many more shows to play in 2023.
“We started this East Coast and the Midwest tour in late April,” Sorbye said. “This is the last part of that leg of our 35th anniversary tour but we’re coming back to the East Coast and the Midwest two more times this year. We’re one of the featured acts at the Dublin Irish Festival in Dublin, Ohio the first weekend of August. When we come to Yellow Cab, we sort of preach to the converted. It’s like playing a large living room with all your best friends, which is lovely. But at some point you need to make some new friends. The festivals are really good to us because we reach new people.”
Above all, Sorbye has enjoyed connecting with audiences throughout the decades.
“It’s rewarding to be able to go out there every night and play for people, lift their spirits and have them come away feeling better,” he said. “Sometimes it can be an escape for the audience. There are hard times, but they can create their own little earthly paradise there for a couple of hours. It’s a communal thing that is super valuable. As these times progress it becomes even more valuable.”
Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOW TO GO
Where: Yellow Cab Tavern, 700 E. Fourth St., Dayton
When: Saturday, May 13 at 7 p.m.
Cost: $18 in advance, $23 day of show
More info: 937-424-3870 or yellowcabtavern.com
Artist info: www.tempestmusic.com
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