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Koi keeps afloat with community fundraiser

By Thomas Johnson, September 26 2018 —

On Sept. 3, the Keep Koi Afloat fundraiser was held at Inglewood’s Festival Hall to support Koi’s invaluable presence in Calgary’s musical community. Koi, formerly known as Café Koi, is an integral venue for amateur Calgary musicians to play in in open mics, spin wax network with other members of the community.

“The event was awesomely successful,” says Erin Penosky, owner and operator of Koi. “Between the GoFundMe, all the art, silent auction and ticket sales, we raised about $7,000, which was even more than we projected.”

“The reason for [Keep Koi Afloat] was to bring awareness to live-music culture in Calgary and the fact that some really iconic venues were closing,” Penosky says. “Because Koi is so unique and we have a very inclusive space for so many different communities, I figured, ‘Why suffer in silence? Why not reach out to the community that supports us, and let them know that, even though they’re coming out to support live music you need to support the venue at the same time?’ Or there’s not going to be many of us left. It’s not easy in this business.”

The proceeds will be used to improve Koi’s acoustics, purchase new equipment, general upkeep and to “better support the creative expression at Koi.”

“We want to keep running the way we have been, but it’s going to be a physical change. We’re going to be redoing the entire stage and a part of the fundraising effort was to create a legacy piece inside of Koi,” continues Penosky. “People were buying the more expensive tickets and donating $100 to have their name permanently embossed in Koi. That’s happening in a couple weeks, which will be a big show of where the money is going.”

With the closures of Distortion, Nite Owl and Mikey’s Juke Joint this past summer, Koi has never been more important to Calgary’s music scene. The venue’s beloved open mic nights, which include singer-songwriters on Tuesdays and jazz on Thursdays, have played an indispensable part in cultivating homegrown talent, as it’s one of few incubators for beginners to hone their craft before jumping to larger venues. Tellingly, all of the Keep Koi Afloat performances were from artists whose arcs can be traced back to Koi’s humble stage.

“Everyone that came to perform has donated their time and talents for the fundraiser. It was a testament to Koi to show all these bigger names that have roots in Koi. There’s been so many amazing artists that have gotten their footing there,” says Penosky. “People perform there for the first time and in a couple of years they’re recording music and playing at bigger venues. If the walls could talk.”

Koi is located at 1011 First St. SW. To contribute to Koi’s GoFundMe, visit gofundme.com/keep-koi-afloat.

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