By Daniel Kohn
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Photo by James BunoanLong Beach art space Koo's has been doing pretty good this year, riding into the last months of a short-term entertainment license permitting amplified entertainment—all those loud bands the kids love—with a steadier reputation than ever, thanks to several well-reviewed art shows that demonstrated Koo's coordinator Dennis Lluy wasn't just running a nightclub under a gallery's tax status.
But as the do-or-die city council meeting to once-and-for-all legitimize live bands at Koo's approaches, Lluy decided to employ the same better-part-of-valor tactics that let him and his organization leave Santa Ana without any expensive legal hassle: voluntarily cancel all shows (except for two mostly guitar-amp-less performances) scheduled since last week to silence any citations before they happen. That's a foolproof plan to glide into a long-term entertainment license with no bad marks on the Koo's record—except for the part where no one gets to see any bands for a while. But it's not worth the risk right now, Lluy says.
"Legally, we could continue," he explains. "No one said we had to stop. But we're going in front of the city council, and we don't want to extend the possibility of getting a noise citation. We want the city to realize we're doing our best to be a good neighbor."
Koo's has already spent the past 13 months (since a show of support at City Hall got the short-term permit) smoothing relations with the adjacent Lafayette Apartments, finally situating their stage in a backroom where—as empirical experiments and a selfless acoustical engineer who vets the sound environment for free confirmed—any noise bleed from bands doesn't particularly affect residents. But noise bleed is a bitch of a thing—it's kind of voodoo, says Lluy—and it's threatening to affect residents in the adjacent-on-the-other-side Inn of Long Beach.
Lluy says a conversation with a Long Beach police officer and a motel resident confirmed anecdotally that Koo's sound levels weren't unacceptably egregious—but after a Koo's board meeting, art space volunteers decided to be polite and turn the sound off until that license comes through. And until they add even more soundproofing to keep neighbors on all sides happily quiet.
But this is still a solution that demands weeks, not a weekend or two. Lluy figures the city business-license department will be ready for him by April or May, which leaves Koo's without any shows and thus without any reliable means of income for an uncomfortably long stretch. And that leaves the painfully thrifty art space scrambling to fund the necessary thousands-of-dollars-worth of sound-proofing. The obvious and elegant solution? Divert scheduled Koo's shows to friendly venues like LA's Smell and then organize a benefit show with the loud bands the kids love—in a space that's already legally allowed to host them. Which they're working on right now, says Lluy: "We'll do whatever we need to resolve this problem."
BANDS OR VENUES INTERESTED IN HELPING FUND A KOO'S BENEFIT, PLEASE CONTACT DENNIS LLUY AT DENNIS@KOOS.ORG. AT PRESS TIME, ALL KOO'S SHOWS EXCEPT SOLE/PEDESTRIAN/DOSH AND DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 HAVE BEEN CANCELED. GO TO WWW.KOOS.ORG FOR CURRENT CALENDAR.