Smoke billows out of the Knitting Factory in Downtown Boise
If you’re hoping to rush the stage at the fire-ravaged Knitting Factory anytime soon, start making other plans.
“It looks like a shell of a venue,” admits Mark Dinerstein, president of Knitting Factory Presents. “I don’t even know how to describe it.”
But if you’re hoping to catch some quality concerts in the coming weeks?
Boise is still gonna rock.
About 60 percent of the Knit’s interior was damaged after flames engulfed floorboards and walls Sept. 11 at 416 S. 9th St. Boise Fire Department officials say the incident was sparked by a contractor working on the HVAC system.
But the setback won’t snuff out the city’s live music scene — even temporarily.
Although there are a handful of cancellations, the vast majority of Knitting Factory concerts are being moved to other venues.
Two days after the fire, singer Lizzo performed for about 1,000 fans at a gig relocated from the Knit to the Revolution Center in Garden City.
“We’re just helping our brother,” Revolution Center owner Creston Thornton says. “They’re a competitor, but they’re also in the music world with us, and we’re doing everything we can to get all these shows to happen. It’s better for the market than just these bands canceling and driving through town.”
Granted, things might feel a bit strange to live-music junkies. The Knit is Downtown Boise’s most popular concert club. The 999-capacity room has been around since 2001. Originally, it was called The Big Easy before changing ownership and name. Last week’s blaze leaves a void, especially for touring bands.
Fortunately, the Knitting Factory is expected to open again before the holiday season.
“All I can really say is late fall,” Dinerstein says. “Which is not September and probably not October.”
Just remember — nothing is firm. “It’s so complex,” Dinerstein says. “There’s building owners. There’s Knitting Factory. There’s insurance companies. There’s just so many players involved that we’re just starting to get a handle on exactly the extent of the damage: Wiring, electrical, plumbing, structural.”
“When we rehabilitate a venue, we go get three, four opinions. It’s not just cosmetics. It’s everything. Plus, we’re going to take the opportunity to improve the venue.”
Before the blaze, Knitting Factory was exploring the possibility of structural improvements that might raise the club’s legal capacity to nearly 1,200 fans. Could that be a possibility during rebuilding?
“Yes, there’s an opportunity to make improvements and rehabilitate simultaneously,” Dinerstein acknowledges, before chuckling. “But I don’t know what they are! Yet.”
In the meantime, management and employees are trying to make the best of the situation.
“We are overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from our fellow venue owners and the Boise community,” Dinerstein says. “It’s almost, really, kind of overwhelming to us how many people have come out of the woodwork to offer help.”
Construction workers have volunteered free labor. Local bands are organizing an 11-hour benefit concert Sept. 23 at the Mardi Gras to raise money for Knitting Factory staffers.
“They treat us like rock stars,” explained Justin Arthur, vocalist for metal group Black Tooth Grin. “... I can’t say enough nice things about the Knitting Factory.”
The Revolution Center is trying to help Knit employees make ends meet. Concertgoers in the VIP room at last week’s Lizzo concert might have recognized two cocktail waitresses who normally work at the Knit. Bartenders and security staff also will be involved at relocated shows, Thornton says.
When the Knitting Factory does return, it will be stronger than ever, Dinerstein promises.
More information about the club’s rehabilitation and future concerts should be available in a week or two. Until then, visit knittingfactory.com for updates about events affected by the closure.
“I think everybody will be pleasantly surprised when they come back into the venue when we reopen,” Dinerstein adds. “It’ll look brand new. Because it will be! What I mean to say is people will recognize it, but it will just be very updated and fresh. It was time for a paint job.”