IMAGE: Darryl James
[UNDERGROUND] You probably haven’t heard of Pi-rem, and its owner, Gandharv Bhatara, doesn’t necessarily mind. Bhatara opened the Chinatown gallery/lounge/venue in April of 2006—not long after the 30-year-old research engineer (originally from India) obtained his Ph.D. from Stanford and moved here to work at Intel. But he eschewed traditional advertising, relying instead on word of mouth to get the message out about the (literally) underground club. Word did spread—so far, in fact, that when Bhatara announced earlier this month that he planned to leave Portland and close the club, the negative response was so “overwhelming” that he found a way to keep Pi-rem open.
WW: Why did you open Pi-rem?
Bhatara: The idea was to provide a really comfortable venue with a high-end sound system that would foster some edgy avant garde electronic music—downtempo, breakbeat, house, jazztronica—that you couldn’t hear on a consistent basis here [in Portland].
What does the name signify?
An unpredictable environment for creative expression. Having mathematical backgrounds, we [Bhatara and partner Nelson D’Amour] chose pi along with “rem,” for removal. Removing a fundamental constant would result in chaos, thus unpredictability.
Why didn’t you do traditional advertising?
We wanted to create something organic that evolved naturally, with word spreading through the people involved.
How successful was that strategy?
It’s been very well received, actually, considering the minimal effort we put into getting the word out.
How will Pi-rem go on when you’re gone?
I found a [few] people [Manoj Matthew, Ravi Krovzen and Seda Mills] to run the place. I’ll still be the primary owner. We will shut down on the weekend of the 15th to upgrade the space and reopen for New Year’s Eve or the first week in January.
SEE IT: Visit Pi-rem (433 NW 4th Ave. [basement level], 227-5494) Friday, Dec. 14, for Jazztronica’s CD-release party with Gypsy Caravan and DJ SomRas. 9 pm. $8. 21+.