History
of the
Knitting Factory

Michael Dorf, founder of the Knitting Factory, was the Chairman and CEO from 1987-2002.

He no longer has any operational or ownership ties to the organization.

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Europe on Four Espressos a Day

In the summer of 1988, I tried to find a sponsor for a festival. It seemed to me that if we called something a festival, especially around the time of the ominous New York City festival-the JVC Festival-we would get more attention for the shows. It was also a way to try and get some money through a sponsor for posters and ads. A small record store in the West Village – Vinylmania – was willing to support our festival and help cover the expenses of advertising. We received a lot of press attention, a lot of artistic support, and the community seemed relieved to have an alternative to the perennial JVC Festival. Even though we didn’t make much money, the attention alone made it a success. In the Dutch equivalent to the New York Times Arts and Leisure section – de Volksgraant – a huge article appeared about the Knitting Factory after the festival. Soon after, I got a call from Nanette Ris, the programmer of a jazz festival at a government-sponsored art center in Gronnigan, Holland. She asked me to work with her in putting together her annual “Jazz Marathon.” I suggested calling it a “Knitting Factory Festival” where we would bring about 30 musicians and package the whole scene into one festival. She liked the idea. I remember being so suspicious of her and in such disbelief that I asked for a wirebank transfer to guarantee our deal. I needed enough money to cover our rent that month and to buy our first fax machine-so we could communicate with her.

Bob and I flew to Holland a few months later to see the place and make the final arrangements. After landing with a few hours’ sleep and slamming a few strong European espressos, we started to work. I was told to listen to lots of tapes of indigenous musicians and decide which of them would play with our 30 or so cats from New York. Then, after pissing off most of the local artists by not including them in the festival, we were subjected to four or five interviews by the Dutch press as to why we picked who we picked, what the scene was like in New York, and what our plans really were in Europe. After 36 hours of improvising, we flew back to New York and didn’t know what had hit us. Two months later, the festival turned into a great showcase for the New York music scene and illustrated to us the respect Europeans have for music. We were given great food, put up in nice hotels, and found ourselves treated like dignitaries. Music is an art form in Europe, whereas in America it is simply entertainment.