Music

NYC, L.A. ... Boise?

Why Knitting Factory put down roots in the City of Trees

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During the last several months, when a press release would come through stating that a band had a show at The Big Easy, a reply from BW was accompanied by a correction: "Your band is actually playing at the Knitting Factory Concert House." The response was invariably along the same lines: "What? Since when does Boise have a Knitting Factory? More importantly, why?" And though the purchase of Bravo Entertainment and both the Boise and Spokane, Wash., Big Easy locations had taken place several months before, by the time the Knitting Factory in Boise held its grand opening this summer, even Boiseans were saying, "Knitting Factory? In Boise? Why?" The answer is a simple one: Because they could.

Knitting Factory had its genesis in Manhattan in the late '80s as a place where music and performance that were a bit off the beaten path could be staged. With the opening of its Hollywood location, Knitting Factory became a place where both fans and musicians could brag about having been. The clubs became known for hosting the newest, freshest and most diverse acts around. But ask visiting musicians and show-goers about Boise's music scene, and chances are they'll say that Boise is a few years—or a few musical trends—behind the rest of the country. According to Mark Dinerstein, talent buyer for both the Boise and Spokane, Wash., Knitting Factory Concert Houses, his company wants to change that.

The Knitting Factory knew it wanted to expand. With locations on both coasts, coming inland seems an obvious choice, but opening up a club in, say, Houston, Minneapolis or even Portland seems even more apt. Dinerstein, who relocated to Boise from Los Angeles about a year ago, said taking Knitting Factory to larger cities wouldn't offer the opportunities it does in Boise.

"Idaho is one of the fastest growing states. It's going to keep growing, and it's going to keep growing exponentially. We want to establish our own history. As the town grows, we expect to grow with the community," Dinerstein said, excitedly. "That's important for us. So getting in early, and establishing that trust [with the community] is the way to do it."

Knitting Factory is going to have to establish trust with other downtown venues as well. If the big fish grows too big for its new little pond, is there a chance it will swallow up—even inadvertently—any of those smaller clubs? Allen Ireland, owner of Neurolux, doesn't think so. 

"Although I haven't been keeping track, the number of shows they have booked seems to have stayed relatively the same as the Big Easy's," Ireland said. "I don't foresee them devouring the market.  

"We are all in this together, with one common goal to get people to come downtown. The music fans frequent [other] bars before and after the concerts at the Knitting Factory. I think very highly of the Knitting Factory and welcome them."

Boise may not be known as a musical mecca, but our tastes are more diverse—and more difficult to predict—than people may think. Some bookings seem obvious, like home-grown Josh Ritter. Others like Flobots and Matisyahu are less so, but all three were sold-out shows. But then Ted Nugent performed recently to a less-than-packed house, and the New York Dolls show earlier this year saw less than 300 people in the 1,000-capacity venue.

Dinerstein realizes that deciding on the best shows to book is sometimes a gamble, and he relies on a number of factors to help him make those decisions. He has his own experiences living in Houston, New Orleans, New York and Los Angeles; he has a network of friends and colleagues across the country who keep him informed; he looks at who's hot on radio and making a buzz; and he also relies on fan messages from Knitting Factory's social network pages, especially Myspace. What the venue wants to do, Dinerstein said, is to bring in music that covers the best in every genre.

Dinerstein's goals are echoed by Knitting Factory's vice president of operations, Morgan Margolis. Margolis, who started working for the company as a bartender in the California club, said for all its acclaim, Knitting Factory is still really just a mom-and-pop operation. He said the answer to "Why Boise?" is obvious.

"In major cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle there's so much competition. There are so many venues," he said.

When the opportunity arose to buy Bravo Entertainment, they saw it as a smart way to bring emerging artists into this relatively untapped Northwestern market.

"We decided to start by expanding into smaller, tertiary markets. Why step into places like Las Vegas or Chicago when everybody is doing that?" Margolis said.

Looking down the calendar of upcoming shows, it looks as though they've been keeping their ears to the ground to see who's humming and then booking those acts: The Avett Bros. (who scored famed producer Rick Rubin for their latest album), TV On The Radio, Atmosphere, Flogging Molly and Floater—shows that have as much potential to lose money as they do to make it. Margolis doesn't seem too concerned.

"The music venue business is not a major profit-margin business," he said. "We're all about the music and I'm not just putting that out there as some cliche."

Knitting Factory Concert House, 416 S. 9th St., 208-367-1212, bo.knittingfactory.com.

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