Koo's has been so silent lately that you might have forgotten it was there, at least as a venue for live music. Several strong gallery shows have come and gone but there hasn't been a note played inside the Long Beach art space since Dec. 2005, when Koo's voluntarily quit booking amplified music to preserve decent relations with upstairs neighbors in the Lafayette. Then, the plan was to arrange a once-and-for-all soundproofing to eliminate the risk of future noise complaints and return Koo's to its historic spot at the center of local independent music. But there's a historic hang-up: money.
The long-scheduled soundproofing and architectural renovations needed to make Koo's a music venue again are at least several months away, says Koo's coordinator Dennis Lluy. The necessary plans have been submitted to the city of Long Beach and structural engineers are ready, but they are short of between $120,000 and $150,000. Recently obtained city funding is designated for improvements made to the visual art space only, so while Koo's will enjoy various gallery renovations the responsibility for finding additional funding falls to the volunteers. And that is how it's been for a while, Lluy said, adding that he's hoping to recruit a sponsor or arrange a benefit concert. "If you'd asked me a year ago, I'd have said we would be ready within six months—but we're going to do everything we can."
Quieter shows like Thursday's Richard Bishop/Tara Jane ONeil performance are legitimate within the confines of Koo's informal agreement with neighbors: as long as no amplified vibrations get into the building's adjoining apartment complex they're fine. But completely converting Koo's to a softer sort of venue is also a few steps away. These events are more suited to special occasions, says longtime head booker Daniel Malin, although he wonders about the possibility of arranging acoustic matinee shows for larger acts who book at full volume elsewhere in the country—there was a Valentine's matinee by Mae, he remembers, which sold out. Until then, however, Malin says a rare show like this is a practical way for Koo's to make up its monthly rent—which comes due even when there aren't concerts to pay for it—and it's a sentimental opportunity to remind locals that Koo's isn't dead. It's just very, very quiet. "It's important for people to know that this show can keep Koo's alive for a possible future," says Malin. "Anyone who has supported Koo's in any way—if you went in Santa Ana or Garden Grove or Long Beach: if you've ever been there—should come out now. It's the only way that Koo's can survive."
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