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String Theory and Toasted Spices 

Taarka’s new acoustic alchemy, and bands in vans galore

Taarka mandolinist David Tiller was not quite sure where he was when I called him Monday — someplace in California where there was thick smoke from a forest fire, which, thanks to the Solstice lightning storm, could be any number of mountainous woodsy places. David and his violinist wife Enion Pelta-Tiller are the core of Taarka, a new-acoustic string band exploring the intersection of tradition and innovation.

Wondering what this word Taarka means? I doubt that I was the first to ask. “It’s almost a word in many languages,” says David. “With a single ‘a’ it’s a preparation of spice for curry, it’s actually an onomatopoeia, the sound of spices roasting. It also means ‘colorful’ in Hungarian. It’s a train station and the name of an otter and a rose in Ireland. It’s a wind instrument in Latin America. And it means ‘peace’ in Finno-Ugric. Then it also is a word connected to string theory. In broad strokes, the string theory says that the whole universe and all its material matter and waves are constructed from teeny strings vibrating in different densities together to create everything. Taarka is the vibration of those strings.” After a pause, he adds cryptically, “It’s like a wonderful outfit made of snow.”

David and Enion met in New York City years ago. “We were both employed by this very intense banjo player/singer/songwriter. After playing with him for a couple of months we realized we had a lot more in common with each other than with him. So we started writing songs together. We were in New York when the big airplanes ran into those big buildings. We watched them burn then decided we’d better leave. So, we trucked on out west and just kept on going.”

They settled for a while in Portland, then gravitated to Boulder, Colo., a center for new-acoustic music. With Taarka they pull together string styles of all sorts, from Hot Club-esque Gypsy jazz to newgrass and on to Balkan folk, jazz and plain ol’ jamming. For this tour they’re joined by groove cellist, Daniel Plane. Sometimes they have a drummer, but often as not it’s just David on “foot percussion.”

“And we do some looping, so it works pretty well as a trio,” says David, a thoroughly modern guy. “Whether we learn our music from the past or the future, we always try to be present, both stylistically and metaphorically. We’re not archivists by any means. Hopefully we take new acoustic music to many worlds.”

Assuming that they’ve evaded the fires, Taarka will be in town Thursday and Friday for a two-night run at Muddy’s Hot Cup. Stop by and become one with the vibrations of the Universe.

The straight outta Cleveland rappers Bone Thugs and Harmony hit big back in the ’90s, even won a couple of Grammys for their streetwise tales of ganja and gangsta life. For the last few years the former five-man crew was down to three — Krayzie, Layzie and Wish Bone — but recently Bizzy Bone has resurfaced, and reportedly Flesh-n-Bone may return to the fold when he goes on parole in July (he’s been doing time for weapons charges). Friday, June 27, Bone brings it to the Mateel for an all ages show with the Mendo Green Team, Shady Nate and RBL Posse, a crew from S.F.’s Hunter’s Point, who likewise rose in the ’90s. RBL (stands for Ruthless By Law) is also short a member, but he’s not coming back. In 1996, not long after the Posse had signed with Atlantic Records, founding Posse member Hubert Kyle “Mr. Cee” Church III was shot and killed not far from his home in Hunter’s Point. RIP.

Friday night at Humboldt Brews, local death metal maniacs Forcefed Trauma celebrate the release of a new CD, Bedlam!, with friends Awaiting the Apocalypse (from Sacto) and Disembodied (from Redding). Expect a little taste of bedlam.

It’s Stonewall weekend at Aunty Mo’s with several events commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a turning point in gay history that began with a June 28, 1969, police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. Riots followed and things haven’t been the same since. Friday Mo’s hosts Stonewall Live with rock by The Ravens, a Weezer tribute by Weepel and Arcata queer punk trio Sick Bitch. Saturday the Eureka Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence take over for Stonewall Prom, where they’ll also celebrate the recent California Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage. They’ll have some sort of “official” on hand between 7 and 9 p.m., in case you want to get married or renew your vows that night. (BYO wedding license.) DJ Blancatron spins later on. Local queer historian, Erin Stevenson has created a display in Mo’s lobby, “Stonewall ... Riots to Revolution,” and there’ll be another history lesson Sunday: Starting at 7 p.m., they’re showing three documentaries about Stonewall.

Benbow Inn’sJazz in Juneseries rolls on Thursday, June 26, with saxophonistFrancis Vanek leading a quartet that includes Chris Amberger on bass, Michael Curran on drums and series coordinator Jim Wilde on guitar. Frank Potenza Trioplays Friday, with Frank on guitar,Joe Baggon Hammond B3and Akira Tanaon drums. Saturday guitaristMimi Foxleads a trio with Bill Douglasson bass,*and*drummerAkira Tana(again). The June portion of the series concludes Sunday, June 29, with New Orleans-born vocalistKenny Washingtonbacked by pianistTerry Rodriguez.Watch for more jazz at Benbow coming in August. It’s beyond the Benbow series, but there’s more SoHum jazz coming July 4: The Michael Curran Quartet featuring Ylonda Nickell jams at Persimmon’s Garden Gallery across from KMUD in Redway.

It’s a pretty good weekend for the all ages punk crowd with two big rock shows:*Friday the Placebo hosts **An Evening of Punk Rock**in the*Ink People space (in the back of the Muni) with a psychobilly combo from Ukiah, The Sick Shooters, Arcata ska punks The Fortyhands, “Eur-tweaka” hardcore trio Vigilante Death Squad and a new band, The Revocateurs with Jared from The Parting Shot and lead singer Hedgehog, who describes himself as a “hardcore punk/anarchist/laborer/lyricist/singer/intellectual/crusty punk/roleplayer/activist/stoner/drunk/revolutionary/anti-capitalist/socialist/etc.”

Sunday the all ages action moves to the Eureka Vet’s Hall whereLeftöver Crackheadlines.L.C. is a New York punk/ska/hardcore outfit who declare: “We are anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic and anti-breeding, but pro-choice. We are not P.C., but share similar interests ... we are simply against ALL forms of Fascism and against the petty infighting that can result in an exclusive scene where the true, terrifying enemies can be put on the back-burner because of our petty differences.”Also on the bill:No Cigar,Eureka’s The Social Ills,Redding’sRitalin AddictionandVigilante Death Squad. Earplugs are advised.

The Li’l Red Lion experiment continues seemingly unabated, with six more shows in the coming week, some with two touring indie bands. The only way to sort them out is MySpace, and Amy’s pretty good about swapping her Friends list to facilitate exploration. Saturday, June 28, San Francisco-based rockers Calling all Monsters swing by on a spin around the state. What do they play? “It’s rock music for people who like rock music ... and regular style music for the regulars,” or so they say. I’d say it’s rock ’n’ roll that manages to be clean and rough at the same time. They’re touring with West by Swan, a like-minded quartet from Chico.

Sunday June 29, J Minus comes down from Seattle playing rock with a big hi-fi ready-for-radio sound (and that’s meant as a compliment). They randomly share a bill with Bird Names from Chicago, a self-described, “ideological and scientistic band,” who are as lo-fi as J Minus is hi-fi.

Geographer comes here from San Francisco Monday, June 30. They have a folky, post-rock electro sound with cello, keys, guitar and fine vocals, sort of like what KHUM’s Mike Dronkers likes to call blog-rock. No opener as of yet (Strix Vega would work well).

Couldn’t find a MySpace for Genesis Climber, who play July 1, but my googling indicates that this is probably a loud band. Olympian post-grunge psyche/punk trio Sisters is here Wednesday, July 2, on tour with Gun Outfit; Arcata’s velvety White Manna opens the show (and may steal it).

Expect loudness July 3, with Tarrakian who list “’70s rock, doom, metal and punk, weed and booze” as influences. They’re paired with locals, Fire Demons, with Robert Tripp from The Hard Ride and Jeff Langdon, ex-Hitch guitarist, currently drumming for Henpecker. They warn, “The demons are summoned and nothing can hold them back from wreaking total audio chaos!!!!”

And speaking of Henpecker, they play Thursday, June 26, at the Jambalaya with Nipplepotomous, offering “humorous trance-inducing anti-fascist protest-minded good time music.” Friday at the Jam, it’s Moon Mountain Ramblers, a bluegrass-ish combo from Bend, along with The Rubberneckers, who do not play bluegrass.

Saturday at the Jam it’s the return of Hillstomp with their bucket ’n’ slide blues. Rooster McClintock opens with some Humboldt honky tonk. Then on Sunday, The Pack A.D. from British Columbia stops off toward the beginning of a summer-long U.S. tour. The Park is just Becky Blackon electric guitar and vocals andMaya Milleron drums,playing raw, haunted blues tunes and sounding like a full band. Good shit. Same with Right On John, a one-man-blues-band from Portland (Hillstomp’s from Portland too, so our weekly quota is filled).

Organik Time Machine and DJ iOn are down from Ashland to lay down funky “livetronika” jams Friday at the Red Fox with locals Matty Dread and DJ Touch. Across town at the Pearl it’s jazzy funk by Disco Organica from Eugene, most likely with Easton Stuard on keys.

Saturday you have Phil Berkowitz and the Dirty Cats, up from Sonoma to blow harmonica blues at Blue Lake Casino, while Reed KD and the Armchair Aviators are here from Santa Cruz playing groovy alt. folk at Mosgo’s.

It’s mind-boggling how many bands are out on the road right now. When you consider the price of gas, you know they can’t be making any money doing it. All they need is someone to take a little time to listen. It could be you. Turn off that TV and get out on the town. And if you like what you hear, drop some money at the merch table. They need it.


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Bob Doran

Bob Doran

Freelance photographer and writer, Arts and Entertainment editor from 1997 to 2013.

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