by Mary Vogel
On Friday, March 29, gypsy swing band Taarka performed at the Arcata Playhouse, a small community-based venue that has been in operation since 2006.
Taarka is a unique band with a musical sound that is hard to fit into any one category. There are three core members, and they alternate a fourth depending on where they are and what their musical hearts long for. Greg Ruby, of Seattle, Wa, performed with them.
“It’s cool because with each new person, the color of the band changes and we keep a fresh sound with things,” said Enion Pelta-Tiller, vocalist and violinist for the band.
Ruby, guitarist, has performed in France and across the U.S. He brings a swing and jazz sound to the group, which he has practiced mastering at Cornish College of the Arts and with gypsy jazz Pearl Django.
Pelta-Tiller is wife to David Tiller, vocalist and mandolin player. Born to a family of musicians, she has been playing the violin since she was three years old. “I have no idea if my parents just said, ‘here! Here’s a violin!” or if I just wanted to play it,” she said, “music was just comething that we did.”
The couple was warm with the crowd, sharing stories behind the writing of their songs, and of travels with the family dog Tabla. There was one song Petla-Tiller had even written about Arcata. “We come to Arcata one to two times per year, we just love it,” said Tiller.
Liz Hunchard, 30, had not heard Taarka’s music before going to see them at the Playhouse.
“I heard the words gypsy jazz,” said Hunchard, “and I was convinced to see them.”
Hunchard was one of the many people who came up to the band during intermission and after the show to say how much they enjoyed their sound. “I really enjoyed their performance, especially the violinist,” said Hunchard. “[Pelta-Tiller] is adorable! And her voice really drew me in,” she added.
Keep an eye on the Playhouse event calendar for the next chance to see Taarka perform. “We’ve played at a few different venues in Arcata,” said Petla-Tiller, “and we really enjoyed the Playhouse’s sound and feel. It just feels good to play here.”
Since the Playhouse opened six years ago, the non-profit, the community-based venue has prided itself on its well-crafted sound and atmosphere.
“We are small and intimate,” said David Ferney, Playhouse theater manager. “It’s a place where people can come to.”
The Playhouse has been a destination for many folk bands traveling through Humboldt County. Big-name acts come by often, like Frank Fairfield, renowned fiddle and banjo player. The Playhouse also welcomes local bands, like Arcata’s own bluegrass string band, the No Good Redwood Ramblers.
“We have a kind of acoustic bent here; stuff that’s unique and different,” said Ferney. “It’s a place for the community to come and experience things together.”
The players in Taarka seem to have traveling in their blood. Their latest album, Adventures in Vagabondia seems a fitting title for the band who played songs about Lyons, Col; Brooklyn, NY; and Arcata, Ca.
“I would enjoy seeing them again just to see what has influenced their sound over time,” said Hunchard.