As Knipp and her band delighted the crowd with a nonstop, 90-minute set of mostly original music, the Concord High graduate was clearly enjoying swimming in the nostalgia of being back in the town that raised her.
“Time Out,” Knipp exclaimed, pointing from the stage toward Side Gate Brewing. “That was one of the first bars I ever played.
“And just a few blocks over there, I learned so much from Mr. Joe Barnett,” she said, pointing east and recalling her private piano and vocal instructor of eight years.
Strong local ties
The chart-topping recording artist’s recent releases have enjoyed international acclaim. Knipp is well-versed on a number of instruments, though she’s perhaps best known artistically for her signature voice – which caught the attention of Diablo Valley College music professor Steve Sage.
Sage, now deceased, helped guide the young siren to landing a contract for a weekly spot at the Walnut Creek nightclub Abernathy’s, launching her 20-year career in the music business. Knipp has opened for a number of noteworthy acts, from Robert Cray to the Doobie Brothers. Her journey has moved her residency all around the greater Bay Area before ultimately finding home in the foothills east of Sacramento.
Despite her infrequent performances in our area, Knipp is very much a part of the local music community. Concord-based FM radio station 90.5 KVHS routinely plays her music; she’s made several appearances on the virtual Concord Couch Concerts; and she headlined last October’s Singer-Songwriter Saturday in Todos Santos Plaza.
Recalling a dark day
With her radiant personality and warm smile, some might be surprised by just how dark this songwriter takes the blues. Even in some of her more whimsical, upbeat tunes, she regularly employs metaphors that conjure images pertaining to physical pain and death.
Far from an artistic shtick, Knipp explains that much of this comes from the permanent impression left on her from the infamous 1997 disaster at Waterworld, where she worked as a lifeguard.
“The fiberglass of the slide seemed to tear like a piece of paper. Bodies began to rain down, some hitting beams on the way, some falling on top of each other … This day at work was one of a few key moments in my life that really changed me,” she says. “I began to write poetry and started my songwriting journey.”
A detailed account of that painful day – along with other formative tragedies she endured throughout young adulthood – can be found in her self-written bio on her website, KatieKnipp.com.
Knipp offers this bit of advice to young musicians with aspirations of a career in music: “Start waving your freak flag a little bit and be 100% yourself. Some people like blue cheese, some people like cheddar cheese … it’s food, it’s taste. Not everybody has to like you. If you’re being genuine, your audience will find you. You have to be stubborn about not giving up on that notion.”
If you missed Knipp and her band on July 5, you can still experience the electricity of their live performance on her latest album, “Katie Knipp Live at the Green Room Social Club.” It was recorded last summer in Placerville, close to where she currently resides, and was widely released last month, debuting at No. 9 on the Billboard Blues Album Charts.
A collection of Knipp’s music can be found on the Spotify playlist at thebeatofdiablo.com.
Tuesday Night Blues continues through July. For details, visit cityofconcord.org/downtownevents.
Contact Dave Hughes at MrDaveHughes@gmail.com.
Dave Hughes is a lead advocate for the local music scene in and around Concord, California. Having volunteered for years at the grassroots level with advocates for social justice, Hughes developed effective community organizing skills, which he later applied to the regional independent music network to launch various platforms to showcase and celebrate local music during the pandemic. Along with the team of music-minded volunteers he assembled, Hughes worked with Visit Concord and the City of Concord in launching Concord Couch Concerts, which has since produced over 30 hours of content featuring over 100 local acts. The success of this effort paved the way for Hughes to launch the downtown concert series "Singer-Songwriter Saturday", an FM radio show on 90.5 KVHS called "The Beat of Diablo," and this freelance column of the same name. Understanding Concord as the "City of Dave Brubeck," Dave is driven by a sense of duty as a local musician and Concord resident to posit that this is not only a city rich with music history, but one that yields excellent music today in its robust, eclectic, and thriving music scene.