Back in the 90s, the Knitting Factory was the place for experimental, jazz and avant-garde music. Sonic Youth played there, as did Cecil Taylor, Gil Scott-Heron and a bunch of other artists who did not fit neatly into a box. In fact, the club itself didn’t fit neatly into any predefined idea of what a music venue should be. It was a performance space, a gallery, a record label and everything in between. It had strange little spaces in which art would happen, and happen fiercely (Anyone remember the Knitactive Soundstage?), and those of us who were in the know flocked to it. Often.
The original Knitting Factory in New York City opened on Houston Street and moved to Leonard Street (in Tribeca) in 1994 until crazy Manhattan rent, among other issues, drove it to Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Avenue where it’s been for the last three years. The current space is smaller—maximum capacity is 300—and features killer sound plus a small bar area where the occasional lone organist will spell dark whiskey-stained melodies after the main act has finished. The bar area is particularly interesting at the new Knit. It features a huge wall-to-wall glass window through which barflies and passersby can spy the action on the stage. It’s a nice way to keep an open and inviting vibe, especially on lovely spring evenings when the beautiful and curious make their rounds.
And for everyone else (the discerning and the imaginative, perhaps?), Knitting Factory is still a great destination. If I were to go to a show this month, I might find myself at the MC Frontalot/Math the Band/Schäffer The Darklord/Jetblack Bullseye show on May 4, headlined by Long Island’s very own Wheatus. The NYC Popfest showcase on the 18th also sounds like it might be a good one and features five bands with eclectic names like Catnaps and Saturday Looks Good to Me. I’m always curious about a band whose name is an independent clause. The Knitting Factory still pushes the musical envelope, albeit a slightly smaller one. Maybe it’s more of a postcard; I don’t know. The truth is, the era of large and well-known eclectic spaces for experimental art is over. Sure, several little cafes and galleries and smaller spaces still welcome the fringe (God bless them), but it may be too expensive and too impossible to celebrate the weird at a large-scale music venue. Even in New York City. Maybe it’s a phase directly connected to the present economic mess. Maybe it’s something else. Who knows? But until the pendulum swings back, I’m glad the Knitting Factory (abridged) is alive and well, and not too far away. bk.knittingfactory.com