By Janelle Bitker
Sacramento News & Review
Year after year, Katie Knipp dreamed of playing the Lilith Fair, Sarah McLachlan’s ’90s-era traveling music festival. It featured female musicians and proceeds benefited women’s charities.
And it was met with a slew of pejorative nicknames, like “Girlapalooza.”
Now, the Sacramento-based Knipp is organizing her own version: Chickapalooza. Knipp’s will also feature female musicians and benefit charities, with a few concerts every year throughout Northern California. It stops at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub on Saturday, with Knipp’s bluesy Americana at the helm, and all ticket sales going to Cystic Fibrosis Research Inc.
She’ll unveil a new band—her first since moving from the Bay Area to Sacramento five years ago. And she’ll finally address a part of her life that she’s been wrestling with for years—the death of her best friend, who died of cystic fibrosis when he was 26 years old. That alone will make Saturday a huge night for Knipp—bigger than opening up for the Doobie Brothers or Tim Reynolds, or singing backup for Barry Manilow in front of thousands of people.
“This benefit is so much more important to me,” she says. “I’ve put it off for a decade because I was too emotional about it.”
Her friend Josh Dadami was born with the degenerative lung and digestive system disease and spent much of his life in hospitals. He and Knipp bonded over music—they met in high-school choir, and he played guitar, bass and drums.
“He was 10 times the musician I’ll ever be,” she says.
Now, Knipp feels ready to celebrate Dadami’s life. And while the event is a fundraiser, she wants the night to be first and foremost a rock show—fun, joyous, lively.
And it should be. Bay Area singer Amber Snider opens the show, followed by Sandra Dolores, the local singer-songwriter who hosts the Torch Club’s open-mic and just dropped her new EPAnima last month.
Knipp will close the show with her new band, the Heart Miners, which features Ed Stoner on guitar, Casey Lipka on upright bass and Rose Cangelosi on drums. Stoner has been playing with Knipp for four years—he’s also known as Kentucky Slim, a Sacramento Area Music Award winner for best blues artist, and former owner of the Blue Lamp. Meanwhile, Lipka also plays in local, all-female band Cave Women, and Cangelosi drums for Sacramento’s second-line style Element Brass Band.
“It’s going to be fun to have a female rhythm section—I’ve never had that before,” Knipp says.
Even solo, Knipp’s rich, soulful voice easily fills a room. She switches between piano, guitar, harmonica and dobro to create a sound best described as torch piano rock mixed with blues and Americana.
Knipp is originally from Concord, where she grew up listening to the likes of blues legends Bonnie Raitt, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. She had always sung, and at 15 started teaching herself piano during lunch breaks in the high-school choir room. At California State University, East Bay, she taught herself guitar while earning a music degree—her emphasis in classical voice makes her a “closet opera singer.”
Then she moved to Marin County and established herself as a fixture in its music scene until five years ago, when she got married and moved up north. She bought a house in Natomas, opened a music studio, started teaching and released her fourth album Nice to Meet You.
Yet, Knipp says it’s been tough navigating the Sacramento live-music scene beyond cafes, wineries and private events. With the Heart Miners, she’s optimistic she’ll be adding more nightclubs and festivals to the rotation, along with a West Coast tour and fifth studio album.
Consider this Knipp’s coming-out party.