1997 Waterworld tragedy shapes blues singer’s music

1997 Waterworld tragedy shapes blues singer’s music

1997 Waterworld tragedy shapes blues singer’s music
Katie Knipp and her band relaunched Concord’s Tuesday Night Blues concert series after a pandemic shutdown. (Photo by Bob Hakins)

Dave Hughes The Beat of Diablo bannerCONCORD, CA (July 14, 2022) — The Tuesday Night Blues concert series has returned to Todos Santos Plaza after a three-year hiatus, kicking off July 5 with the home-grown talent of Katie Knipp.

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.

Career advice

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
Dave Hughes

Dave Hughes is a local music advocate with an extensive network of independent artists. He produces and hosts a local music program on KVHS called The Beat of Diablo, every Sunday at 7:00 PM on 90.5 FM. Dave also catalogs local music releases at ConcordRockCity.com.