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Vaulting Forward

Linda Kimball and Pete Coates celebrate four years of music, art and culture at the Cayuga Vault

We're sure there are many juicy stories of the Cayuga Vault's storied history, but this one stands out:

"The [actual] vault is sealed by a 20-inch wall of concrete, and it's now sealed on the top as well," says Linda Kimball, the venue's proprietor. "But there was a time that the vault was not sealed on the top, and some amateur robber came through the roof and tried to rob the vault, and he only found about a hundred dollars in cash in the vault, leaving behind--unbeknownst to him--a million dollars in transferable bonds. So I guess that's when they decided to seal the top."

Sealed it is, so thoroughly that musicians can warm up in it without the audience even hearing them. With the proper spy equipment, you might hear Roberto DeHaven, a saxophone player and minister for the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, wailing on the sax in the wee hours.

But if you come during regular business hours, you'll be rewarded with up-close-and-personal experiences with international talent and rich acoustics in an elegant, yet cozy atmosphere.

It's been said that small clubs are like small intestines--warm, cozy and absolutely vital to the overall health of the system. While we disagree with the unsavory secondary implications of the simile, we believe in the integrity of its primary message.

To praise a small club because of the intimacy it affords between performer and audience is to recognize only part of its value. Larger clubs are hamstrung by the practical necessity of booking bands that a lot of people like; bands with smaller followings are S.O.L., no matter how rabid their fans are. Small clubs play an important part in the overall health of a music scene, serving as incubators for lesser-known acts and exposing them to small audiences who, when they like what they hear, spread the word and grow the fan base. Next time around, the band graduates to a larger venue, while the small clubs keep sifting.

Linda Kimball and Pete Coates, longtime volunteers at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, both recognized the need for a little club that could support new international music. Back in 2000, they seized an opportunity to produce some shows in the old bank at the corner of Soquel Avenue and Cayuga Street, which was being used as an office during the day by friends of theirs. Each night, Kimball and Coates would move all the furniture into the back and set up chairs for the show. Late at night when the show was over, they'd convert it back into an office.

When their friends couldn't afford the rent anymore, Kimball and Coates did some quick fundraising and took over the space, renting it out for classes during the day and producing shows at night. But in early 2002, they were forced to shut down while slogging their way through the city's arcane permit process.

"I think, even through that shutting-down process," says Kimball, "what ended up happening is that we ended up garnering so much unsolicited community support and getting in the press that everybody knew about us, which wasn't intentional, but that was the blessing of it all. When we started up again, we started really rolling."

Two years and hundreds of concerts later, Kimball and Coates secured a matching grant from the Redevelopment Agency for facade improvement, to paint, sign and light the outside, making the venue more visible while highlighting the beautiful neoclassical architecture.

Kimball, who previously worked as an economic planner and consultant, says that the Vault is perfectly located.

"It's an ideal city plan for a little neighborhood like this," says Kimball, "having two attractive destination businesses like the Rio Theatre and the Cayuga Vault that aren't just retail stores--it supports all the businesses in between. Other cities pay consultants and offer incentives to locate something like this, and here it's just kinda happened naturally. So it's fun for me, a joke on my former career that I've let go to do this, that I'm now really doing it. I'm living it."

Mike Connor

The Cayuga Vault celebrates four years of Music, Art and Culture with Rumicello and Dis Moi on Dec. 3 at 7pm and 9pm, 1100 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $15, available at Streetlight Records; 831.421.9200.

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From the December 1-8, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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