October 23, 2002




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Kimo's nemesis
A talk with the man whose complaints shut down the music.

By Kimberly Chun

'IT WASN'T MY intent to see them close. I don't want that. My intent was to have them ... turn it down."

With his expansive, unfurrowed brow and jet-black buzz cut, and clad in a blue dress shirt and khakis, "Jim" looks like any solid, nondescript city dweller you might pass on the street and not glance at twice. He agreed to talk with me about his campaign to quiet Kimo's on the condition I not use his real name.

To Bay Area punk, metal, and art-noise followers, Jim is a spoiler: his complaints have put an end to loud live music at one of their favorite venues.

The impact Jim is making on the live music scene in the Tenderloin – which he describes as "kind of underground" – isn't on his mind. He answers the door cautiously and moves quickly to crate his barking Chihuahua mix in his tiny kitchen. In the approximately four years Jim has lived in the flat neighboring Kimo's and the nine or so years his roommate has been here, they've obviously tried to create a home: doors are painted with black-and-white designs to match the checkerboard floors, framed photos decorate the small wedge of a living room, and paper Halloween decorations sit on the dining table.

The entire living room shudders when a band plays because Kimo's stage is next to the wall that adjoins his wall, Jim says.

Until recently, he says, the music would go on until 1 or 2 a.m., making it impossible to get more than four hours of sleep on weekdays, when he has to be up at 6:30. So he complained, called the police, and had a noise abatement representative come by on a Friday night a year and a half ago to measure the noise level – Kimo's was issued a citation. Soundproofing followed, but the noise continued, pouring from the ceiling and the floors, Jim says. In September he issued a citizen's arrest against Kimo's booker Matt Shapiro.

Jim says he and his roommate met with Shapiro, Kimo's manager Tyler Sauer, and their mutual landlord Oct. 6 to try to come to an agreement about the noise, and Sauer agreed to do an estimate on soundproofing Kimo's ceiling and floors and Jim's apartment.

But the next night, 15 minutes after the music began at Kimo's, Jim was on the phone complaining again, Shapiro says. During their meeting Shapiro even put on a CD upstairs at Kimo's and then went back to the apartment to find out how loud it was. After agreeing that it was noisy and imagining how loud it would be with a live band, Shapiro asked for a week and half of patience since he had already booked a series of touring bands, but he says, "They had no tolerance for loud music and no tolerance at all. It was a losing proposition." His last show was Oct. 11.

Shapiro says he tried to compromise, ending shows at 11:30 p.m. on weekdays and at 1 a.m. on weekends, "but they started calling at 9 instead of 11 in the last few weeks, almost every night."

The nearby Edinburgh Castle Pub, which has presented live music since 1994, has had similar problems. A series of noise complaints about two years ago led the club to begin a policy of booking quieter bands and turning the sound down when it got complaints. But lately griping seems to be stepping up, booker Eric Jonasson says. Neighbors in the back alley have groused about the level of chatter by bands loading their equipment, and now the Castle has to purchase a white zone.

Jonasson is familiar with the effect one irate neighbor can have on a venue: he was handling the sound at the CoCo Club when the landmark dyke bar was shut down in November 2000 by a single neighbor's complaints and a costly legal battle. "It was the same situation. One tenant was determined to extinguish the whole music scene at the CoCo Club," he recalls.

"Hell, the Tenderloin had a good music scene, but now that's gone," Jonasson says. "Every club that closes down definitely has an impact on the Bay Area music scene, but Kimo's would book bands that other clubs were afraid to book: eXtreme Elvis – where's he going to play now?"