Mandolinist David Tiller spent years playing with the band ThaMusement. Around the turn of the century, that band went on hiatus and David headed for New York City. While busking in the subway he met a New York banjo picker. Would he like to join in a weekly session at a Brooklyn club? Saying yes led him to meet a fiddler with a rich, beautiful voice, Enion Pelta, another busker invited by the banjo man. By mid-2001, David and Enion had clicked musically and fallen in love. Then the world changed.
"We were on a rooftop right across the river on 9/11," David recalled. "We sat and wrote music as the towers burned. We decided that day we'd move, but we couldn't get out for a while since they'd imposed martial law."
Next stop Portland, where David had some music family. That's where they founded Taarka with a succession of guitar and bass players. David and Enion are brilliant players; they weave notes into intricate patterns and write deep lyrics together. Taarka's vagabond sound draws on American folk and hints of bluegrass merged with Django gypsy jazz a la Hot Club of Paris. Although they're now settled in Lyons, Colo., "We've been a family of travelers," said David. Thus the title of the superb new record, Adventures In Vagabondia, although road trips are less frequent with their 5-year-old.
The Taarka family is on the road again this week with longtime bassist Troy Robie and guitarist Greg Ruby from Hot Club Sandwich. You should go hear them Friday night at the Arcata Playhouse.
Lotus is another of those post-rock jamband meets electro-dance outfits where guitars mesh with synthesizers, live and electro-drums, heavy basslines and cool samples. The band moved into the upper echelons through relentless touring and an association with String Cheese's Sci-Fidelity label, now playing mega shows like Bonnaroo, Rothbury and Outside Lands. World Famous brings Lotus to the relatively intimate Arcata Theatre Lounge Thursday night with Denver-based dubstep king, VibesquaD.
Striped Pig Stringband plays old time music Thursday at the Logger with some special support including Lyndsey Battle and Cory Goldman, and Erin Inglish, a Scruggs-style banjo picker from San Luis Obispo who is launching her EarthBikeBanjo 2013 tour in Blue Lake. The Kickstarter-funded journey presents "One new album. One banjo. One bicycle. One woman. One month. 1,000 miles," as she bikes from here to San Diego, visiting schools and playing music, spreading a message of sustainability with A Melody So Sweet.
The Logger Bar roars on Friday with the trio Crag Dweller and the duo Mammoth Salmon down from Portland, bringing intense sludge and doom with locals White Manna adding even more power and beauty.
Rooster McClintock is across town at Mad River Brewery earlier that night laying down downhome honky tonk.
My favorite local rapper (and coworker) The L|A Dodger makes one of her rare appearances Friday at The Siren's Song alongside her electro-rockin' friends Body Academics and Angel "Onhell" Rubio-Hale. Onhell is about to embark on an international journey of discovery, so catch him while you can. Jolly Jeff from Body Academics and his friend Big Sean are both celebrating birthdays, so expect a par-tee!
It's Easter weekend, which also makes March 29 Good Friday or, as the Beat Vixens put it, "So Bad It's Good, Friday" at Nocturnum. The burlesque troupe teases with a "sexy sassy dance performance" followed by sexy sassy dancing by you, with Deep Groovers Jsun and Touch providing the soundtrack. Proceeds benefit the Pink Ribbon Program offering free "post operative workout enhancing recovery" to HumCo cancer survivors.
Speaking of benefits, Gunsafe plays one Friday at Humboldt Brews for Trillium School (Stella's darling boy goes there). Side Shots open. Not sure who that is; I was guessing Gunsafe side project, but it's not.
Green & Lilac play Friday at Robert Goodman and Saturday at Blondie's. The group started out with Jesse Shrader on cello and Kim Kumada on guitar and added a fiddle until the fiddler left for Bhutan. Second guitar Max Tanti and uke player Jessica Malone came aboard to fill out the sound. "And all of us sing as well," said Jesse, noting, "Kim and I used to play in another little band -- Green & Lilac is quieter with more vocal harmonies, but she still adds a little bit of punk rock influence, so there's a little tension in there." G&L shares the bill at Blondie's with SoCal song slinger Marc B, who according to Jesse has a Jack Johnson-ish "island feel."
Tahoe-based alt. Americana quintet, Dead Winter Carpenters, plays Humboldt Brews Saturday night on a CD release tour for the band's latest, ain't it strange (another Kickstarter project). DWC has a rich, rough-hewn sound with electric and acoustic guitars, fiddle, stand-up bass and drums playing whatever-grass with shades of reggae and other sounds in the mix. Good stuff.
The Northcoast Environmental Center presents An Evening of Art and Song Saturday at the Arcata Playhouse featuring eco-groovy Seattle songwriter Jim Page, who describes himself as a "human organism with western hemispheric polar disorder, of middle class origin, using music as a tool for constructive cultural argument." The art part comes from Patricia "Perta" Sennott, who paints birds, flowers, butterflies and other beautiful things from nature. NEC stalwart Morgan Corviday and her musical partner Mo Hollis add to the eco-party.
Also very eco-groovy: the 15th annual Humboldt Seed and Plant Exchange earlier that day at the Arcata Community Center with local farmers and gardeners swapping seeds, starts and plants in general. There's also music all day including Lyndsey Battle, Jim Silva, Our Weight in Gold and The Bret Harte Breakers.
Local cyber-pioneer and energy activist "Redwood" Larry Goldberg celebrates his 60th birthday at the Bayside Grange Saturday night with a benefit for Transition Humboldt featuring two cool tribute bands, Silver Hammer (Beatles) and The Miracle Show (Dead).
Guitarist Greg Camphuis and friends play acid jazz Saturday at the Clam Beach Inn under the moniker Fire It Up!
The reggae vibe is ever-present in Humboldt: Feel it Saturday night at the Red Fox with a big show by semi-local Stevie Culture (originally from Jamaica) backed by The Demolition Squad. Then on Wednesday (April 3) the reggae party is at Six Rivers with Pato Banton bringing his upbeat positivity.
Soul on a Saturday night? Choose between True Gospel Singers playing soul and blues at Old Town Coffee, Soulful Sidekicks at Ramone's on Harrison (on the folk side) and Vintage Rock 'n' Soul, whose the name says it all, at Cher-Ae Heights. (Vintage also plays Cher-Ae Heights Friday.)
Lemon Lemon Cherry is a new experimental folk-jazz collaboration with Anwyn Halliday from Space Biscuit and Small Axe on trumpet, French horn, glockenspiel and "random odd instruments" plus Chris Parreira (guitar, piano, vocals). Sounds interesting. Check them out Saturday at Redwood Curtain Brewing or Monday at The Speakeasy.
The soul organ combo Alan Evans Trio features drummer Alan Evans from Soulive, Beau Sasser from Melvin Sparks' band on organ, and Danny Mayer from On The Spot Trio on guitar -- retro-groove jazz at its finest. Opening the show when the trio hits town Wednesday: PC4, a quartet with Pete Ciotti joined by friends from Moo-Got-2 and the Hip Hop Lounge.
Across town at the Arcata Theatre Lounge that same Wednesday, a Bonus/NHS show with Brooklyn-born rapper Talib Kweli backed by a live band. Talib has a long, storied history in hip hop: He was half of Black Star with Mos Def and worked with Kanye on his early projects. Talib is about to drop his own new collection, Prisoner of Conscious, so you'll hear fresh tracks along with old faves. Gobi is a special guest; DJ Northstar and JustOne spin. Hip indeed.