Koi on a mission to keep good live music alive in Calgary

Erin Penosky owner-operator of Koi, on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. Penosky sits on the Koi stage, which has been home to many promising local musicians. (Photo by Jordan Stricker/The Press)

As a worrying number of local music venues close down in Calgary, live music hot-spot Koi is doing everything it can to keep the music alive.

Over the last five years, venues such as Mikey’s Juke Joint, Wine-OH’s, Bespoke and Nite Owl have shut their doors, citing high taxes and the rising minimum wage as the reasons.

Koi has been a go-to in the downtown community for good food and live music for years, originally operating as a café. Not long after opening, it was taken over by local jazz musician Frederick Tamagi.

“There is something special about having a small intimate environment. I don’t think there is anywhere else in the city like us because it is difficult to manage,” said Erin Penosky, a former server who is now the owner at Koi, in a face to face interview.

“Small independent business is getting eaten up. It makes it difficult when you don’t have a corporation backing you up,” she said.

A fundraiser was held for Koi in early September, not only to support the incredible roster of talent that plays the club, but also to help pay for upgrades to the space.

“I didn’t have any expectations for the fundraiser. I just wanted to reach out to the community. I know there is something special about this place [Koi] which is why people keep coming back. Why would I suffer in silence?” added Penosky.

The talent that plays at Koi on any given Tuesday is unequalled. Talents like Wyatt C. Louis, Victor Wu and Daniel Jenkins have used the stage as a place to work on new material before its sent out to the masses.

“Koi has always been that welcoming and safe outlet for a lot of up and coming artists. The connections you build from a night spent there, sticks with you like family. Koi is family to me,” said Louis.

Jenkins, a long-time Koi performer and host for the Tuesday night open mics, sees the venue as a haven of sorts.

“Koi is a platform to step into a new identity or even polish an old one. It’s a place of great nurturing by staff and the community that continues to come back,” said Jenkins.

Why would I suffer is silence? – Erin Penosky

The fundraiser did what it was supposed to and Koi can breathe a little easier for the time being.

“We are just trying to figure out an algorithm where we can monetarily pay the artists more. It’s tough being a small business. We want to give them everything but it’s not always in the budget. The fundraiser really helped with that,” Penosky said.

“It did [the fundraiser] exactly what we wanted it to do. I couldn’t believe how many people wanted to get involved and help out.”

Another fundraiser is in the works for late 2018 or early 2019 to support the jazz community that has always been rich in the city.

About Jordan Stricker 3 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Jordan Stricker is working as a writer for The Press during the 2018-19 academic year.