Above: Mike Koh (right) is doing his best to give area bands new places to play. Photo by Matt Urban.

By Matt Morrissette

Any area resident with a smart phone and a social media account has been privy to the whirlwind of rumor and conjecture that has swirled around the fate of the Jackson Inn, the legendary Wilmington bar and music venue that has been home to many great rock shows and epic nights with friends.

Now that it’s clear the fabled run of the beloved bar has drawn to a close, it leaves many unanswered questions for the slew of original bands that have called it home base for live shows.

Mike Koh, the Swiss Army knife of Wilmington’s original music scene through his roles as guitarist and/or bassist in the bands MEGA, DIRT BAG:el fist, and Mothman Properties, has been the de facto impresario of the scene since the pandemic with his tireless efforts at promoting local original music through his booking company, Koh Show. He has even worked sound and tended bar at the Inn as needed.

Though discouraged by the loss of his go-to spot for shows and the general lack of appropriate venues for the “three or four original bands for 10 bucks” model, Koh sprang into action quickly to help the scene stay alive and vibrant in yet another time of transition.

With help from Melissa Forsythe (owner of Rainbow Records, musician, and promoter of the Hot and Cold Jam music festivals), many of the upcoming shows scheduled at the Jackson Inn were able to be moved to the Newark record store, particularly those involving an out-of-town band counting on the show as part of their tour plans.

Under his Koh Show imprint, Koh has also been presenting a weekly livestream from his basement rehearsal space/recording studio. Currently occurring each Monday night (and also archived for streaming anytime), the livestreams have featured Koh’s own bands as well as garage rockers Pinwheel, Team Lift and local punks Pennydeath. The shows are a charming mix of informal interviews and live performance.

“I thought I’d use the closure of the Jackson Inn as an opportunity to slow things down a bit and take a break, but here I am right back at it,” Koh says. “The livestreams are a way to keep the sense of momentum and community we’d cultivated at the [Jackson Inn] going until we can figure out what the next thing is for the local, original music scene. The livestreams will happen weekly as long as that remains possible. It takes a village to put them on.”

The question remains: What is next for these type shows in the area with such a focus on cover bands and acoustic duos and limited venues with the proper environment and financial conditions to host a proper, loud, rock and roll show featuring original music?

Koh has been exploring options since the closure of Jackson Inn, and some local venues have stepped up to make their venues available for him to book in the near future.

Ron Ozer and Rob Matera of the Arden Concert Guild have offered Koh occasional use of the lovely Arden Gild Hall, and the opportunity to book some days at its outdoor stage. These shows are still in the planning stages and can be expected in the spring and summer.

For a more permanent home for his shows, Koh has talked to pretty much every venue in the area with a stage and live sound system.

“I’ve talked to Logan House and The Queen about using The Crown Room,” he said. “There are some issues with financial viability at both of those places, unfortunately. I’ve also had preliminary discussions with Gallucio’s and Rockford Tavern, but the right fit is needed for a more permanent landing spot for these sorts of shows.”

Anybody with an interest in the local music scene who’s been around a while has witnessed the cyclical nature of this scene — a critical venue closes followed by period of metaphorically wandering in the desert before a new one comes along. It’s good to know we have someone like Mike Koh working on a solution.

In the meantime, if you’re requiring one last hurrah at the legendary Jackson Inn, mark Saturday, March 25 on your calendar for a full day of Koh-curated local bands and bittersweet memories. The music starts at 2pm and tickets are $15 (door sales only).

Out & About Staff
Since 1988, Out & About has informed our audience of entertainment options in Greater Wilmington through a monthly variety magazine. Today, that connection has expanded to include social networking, a weekly newsletter, and a comprehensive website. We also create, manage, and sponsor local events.