By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
But the new businesses on the block will encounter many obstacles. In 1986 Catalina Popescu opened her own jazz club, Catalina Bar & Grill on Cahuenga Boulevard, a short walk from Hollywood and Highland. Also a daytime resident of the area, she says the traffic‘s already bad enough: “When I’m driving, I take any street but those two.” She‘s earned her club’s reputation as a top stopover for major artists, established her clientele and locked into a favorable long-term lease. So she‘ll just sit back and see if the Knitting Factory offers competition, raises the area’s profile to her benefit, or swirls down the porcelain portal like other ambitious regional establishments such as Billboard Live, Planet Hollywood, the Cocoanut Grove and the Hollywood Athletic Club (from the last of which Dorf has hired general manager Elizabeth Peterson and “fusion chef” Mike Borassi).
Guitarist G.E. Stinson, who took over booking New Music Mondays at various locations for a couple of years after series originator Nels Cline stepped down, has a notion of what Dorf will face: “He‘ll be up against the same entrenched complacency that’s here a lot. Outside of that, it‘s not a city that goes out at night -- it’s not like San Francisco or New York. People go home and watch television or they go to films, they don‘t go to clubs. I think his idea is fairly good, having it in Hollywood and trying to tap into that tourist thing -- especially the Japanese tourists. How do you get Angelenos interested in really weird music? I’m still working on that koan. But he‘s actually opening a club in L.A. built around improvised music. You have to give him his due.”
Drummer Alex Cline has been curating the Open Gate Theater series of new-music concerts, first in Pasadena and now in Eagle Rock, for several years, and has scoped out the turf: “I think the location definitely detracts. I’m not a fan of Hollywood. There‘s the traffic, and such dense, intense, diverse energy there that I feel I’m descending into a lower astral plane. But if Dorf is looking to have name people finance the local alternative talent and get them paid decently, he‘ll get support.”
Violinist Jeff Gauthier, president of Cryptogramophone Records and instigator of the Inner Ear concert series, is pragmatic: “I live in hope that the Knitting Factory will support the new-music scene. But because I live in hope a lot, I started a music series just in case.”
Not everyone looks upon Dorf as the savior of improvised music. When the Knitting Factory sponsored the Texaco Jazz Festival a couple of years ago, a large number of musicians demanded sharp increases in their fees after finding out how much the Knitguy was pearling in. Some a have even suggested that he’s built his prestige out of musicians‘ integrity, while leaving lumps of coal in their Xmas stockings. But one thing seems pretty clear: However little cash these former pariahs of popular culture are making now, they were making less before the Age of Knit.
Exposure means a lot. And if the postponed first two months of the Knitting Factory’s calendar are any indication, the club intends to be a permanent Edge Festival. The main room (which can hold up to 500 customers plus a 30-piece onstage symphony) was set to host Bill Frisell, ROVA Saxophone Quartet, Roy Haynes, Diamanda Galas, Frank Black, Nels Cline and Van Dyke Parks, while the AlterKnit Lounge (max capacity 75) would have had local veterans Vinny Golia, Alex Cline, Dr. Art Davis and Bobby “Lee” Bradford. (“My middle name actually is Lee,” chuckled Bradford at a recent Rocco engagement, “but nobody ever calls me that.”)
The national-visibility acts will be brought in by Glenn Max out of the New York office, while Keith Buckingham, newly arrived here from Vancouver, B.C., where he booked the Starfish Room, will be handling the rest. What does Buckingham know about L.A. talent? “I have a lot of homework to do,” he says quietly.
The way the parking situation shakes down will be crucial. With the Knitting Factory‘s various rooms and restaurant capable of holding some 1,000 customers and staff, and the movie multiplex, the Hollywood Entertainment Museum and other Galaxy attractions accountable for several hundred more during peak weekend hours, the built-in parking structure could find its 670 spaces severely taxed, though there are more lots in the neighborhood. In New York, people take cabs, subways, buses. Here, guys and gals date in separate cars. And among strollers, the legend of nighttime Hollywood danger will die hard.
If anyone can make the Tinseltown Knitting Factory succeed, though, it’s Dorf and his longtime team of enablers. On one hand, he holds uncommonly mystical notions of a Knit community whose members, drawn together through love of artistic challenge, will be thrilled to videotoast distant lodge brothers even if they don‘t know the names of their next-door neighbors. On the other, Dorf owns a hardcore business sense.