You could maybe see the writing on the walls as far back as last year, when the Knitting Factory, located in the heart of Hollywood just down from the intersection of Hollywood and Highland, was dealing with occupancy issues. The neighborhood wanted them out, were unhappy with the direction the club had taken, and moved to shutter the doors. At that point the club knew it only had another year on its lease, and even then had a notion that when the lease was up they might get the boot.
The Knitting Factory, which opened in 2000 to great fanfare as the west coast version of the legendary NYC club, had become in its final years home to five- and six-band metal bills, hip hop shows from MCs past their prime, and electronic DJs not a big enough draw to fill Avalon. It also developed a reputation, however, as a tough place to get excited about, mostly because its bouncers were known for being assholes — more than once were we “searched” without cause, and a menacing glare would always accompany it. Not the best way to walk into a music club.
Heated competition among Goldenvoice, LiveNation and independent clubs like the Troubadour and the Echo/Echoplex (whose respective bookers got their start at the Knitting Factory-Hollywood) made it difficult to land choice bookings. The Troubadour has the tradition, the Echo/Echoplex the location close to the Siver Lake hipsters and the Goldenvoice/LiveNation money could challenge any desired smaller Knitting Factory bill.
Does the closing damage the LA music scene? Of course. The club had two stages, had a good PA, had two rooms (the main club and the AlterKnit) and had available slots to help many an LA band looking for a gig in the heart of Hollywood. There are worse things to say in the music world than, “We're playing the Knitting Factory.” But saying that a few weeks ago and saying it eight years ago are two different things. There was a time when a Knitting Factory booking meant something special, meant that you were one step higher on the road to respectability; to play the club was to feel good about the direction your band was headed in. The club had lost its luster, for sure.
Word is that the Knitting Factory is looking for a new room to occupy; with the space glut now consuming LA, finding a new location won't be the hard part. With the venues that remain on the scene desperately trying to fill seats in a recession that has seen ticket prices slashed and “no service charge Wednesdays” arrive as an incentive, though, re-entering this market, even in a new space, will be tricky. And as a business proposition (the club also has locations in New York, Boise, Idaho and Spokane, Washington), signing a new lease in this atmosphere might not be the best financial move. But that's all speculation. We'll keep you posted.