When it comes to Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival staples, perhaps there is no act that quite embodies the zest for life and enjoyment of their craft quite like the Tan & Sober Gentlemen. Now on their fourth performance with us, the band consistently promises a set that is designed for the audience to really get involved. Yet, they also never take themselves too seriously, as evident by the story of their namesake.
Ben Noblit, bass player for the band, explained, “One of the very first shows that we played was up at this Irish pub in Raleigh, it was called Tir na Nog. We weren’t really a band yet, it was just a bunch of people playing music, and she (pub owner Annie Britton-Nice) introduced us as that because we weren’t any of the three. It went over really well so they invited us back, and before we knew it we were stuck with the name.”
The name ‘Tan & Sober Gentlemen’ has become nearly as iconic of a name as the sound that the band creates. Plus, as Noblit said, “it comes up first on Google.”
The Tan & Sober Gentlemen are a 7-piece coalition that fuse together the folk influences of North Carolina and the old familiar sounds of the Scottish Highlands, with the energy and fire of a punk-rock band. This combination is lovingly deemed “Celtic-punk-grass,” a name which feels as unique and spunky as the band members themselves. Yet, all three elements come earnestly from a lifelong love of each form of music, and a dedication to the genres that formed who they are today.
Noblit continued, “We all grew up playing North Carolina traditional music. We’re all Scottish and Irish to one degree or another. And all of that music, bluegrass, old-time music, country music, that all comes from Scotland and Ireland originally, and some from Africa also. And we wanted to kind of explore the Celtic roots of our kind of music, bring it back home a bit. We also like to play fast and drink liquor and have a good time.”
Having a “good time” has become what the band is truly known for. With their fast-paced tunes and a general enthusiasm for the music that they create, The Tan & Sober Gentlemen have gained a reputation as a kind of party band. Their focus is on creating an atmosphere where a crowd feels comfortable letting loose, and can experience this kind of music as it was meant to be experienced – through dancing.
“This kind of music, like old time fiddle music, it used to be dance music. Those boys were cutting loose as hard as they knew how. It’s party music…I would rather play to a place where people are up-close-and-personal with you, and are willing to interact with you and give you back your energy, and not put you on a pedestal. I want everyone being involved,” said Noblit.
Currently, the Tan & Sober Gentlemen are bringing their unique sound to the homeland of Celtic music. They will be touring through Scotland and Ireland, with stops in Cork, Dublin, Wexford, and Waterford. In Waterford, they will be playing at the Summer in the City Festival, which is a fairly big deal for the North Carolina-based band.
As for Shakori Hills, Noblit said, “Expect absolutely nothing different. It’s gonna be exactly the same as everything else we do. It’s gonna be the drum playing the same beat, and lot’s of fiddles and banjos…I’m very happy and blessed to be where we’re at, and I hope people come out.”
Look out for the Tan & Sober Gentlemen this fall, and make sure to check out their website at tanandsober.com.