Less than serene
Taarka shines despite ‘less-than-perfect’ environment
I rushed over to Serenity Center (formerly The Palms) on Dayton Road after finishing my own gig with jazz trio NewmanAmiYumi at the Chico Women’s Club at 8:15 p.m., knowing I would be late for the published 8 o’clock start time of Portland “seismic gypsy hypno jazz” quartet, Taarka.
When I got to Serenity Center at 8:30, I found I hadn’t missed anything. The huge, old, drafty, furniture-free house that is the Center was pretty much devoid of people save the four band members, a few other milling folks, and some dogs running in and out of the open side door.
Someone started a fire in the fireplace; Taarka did a sound check.
Serenity Center director Robert Seals explained to me that the show was actually scheduled to start at 9, with his band Seckund Naychur opening and Taarka starting at 10:30, but most of Seckund Naychur was sick, so no opener. Taarka then kindly offered to start early, somewhere between 9:15 and 9:30.
Taarka consists of husband-and-wife songwriting team David Tiller and Enion Pelta-Tiller on guitar and mandolin, and violin, respectively; Jason Flores on upright bass and Dale L’argent on mostly hand-played percussion. The quartet is a fabulous bunch of both formally trained and festival-schooled musicians whose deep, amplified, often Eastern-European-flavored groove-driven compositions were like jewels lying in a dusty road. The group’s brilliance still shone in this less-than-perfect environment, but better that they should be showcased in a venue with more carefully delineated time and weather parameters.
After all, it was because of the alternating smoke-billowing heat of the fire and breezy cold from the wide-open door that Tiller’s mandolin needed constant re-tuning, and the cold and cough I had been nursing all week told me, before the end of Taarka’s performance, “Go home!”
This venue has possibilities, don’t get me wrong. The handful of twirling dancers seemed to be having fun. But I really would have preferred to enjoy Taarka—their entire show—under different circumstances.