In some ways, Knickerbockers’ final show felt like a memorial and a high school reunion.
I saw people there I hadn’t seen in five years Saturday night. Some I hadn’t seen in almost ten. I heard from current and former employees that it was the busiest they had ever seen Knickerbockers, and they had been to sold out shows there before.
People in the show room were losing it. Patrons in the bar room were reminiscing. There was moshing, crowd surfing and dancing. You could feel the familiar trampoline effect of the bar’s old wooden floors when a packed house jumps to the music.
You could see the beers in the mic stand drink holders foam up and slosh over because of the movement of the room. The crowd was littered with minors with ‘X’s on their hands, as well as people like me who were in their shoes years ago. I saw many of my first shows at Knickerbockers when I was 12 and 13, Several of which were The JV All-Stars, The Heat Machine and Straight Outta Jr. High.
“Mosh safely! Oh god you can tell I’m a mom now,” furthest stage left Heat Machine vocalist joked. “Mosh and have fun, just don’t hurt anyone!”
Fatty and the Twins’s Craig Reier adressed the fact that he was wearing an eyewear, commenting on his age and how he bought it for the show. Then guitarist Anthony Slattery showed the audience that he was wearing one too. The two had not planned it, they both just felt they needed them.
You saw grown adults screaming the lyrics to these decade old ska and pop-punk bands like they probably did when they were 17. It was the perfect sendoff for the venue that had grown with these bands and fans, and helped them grown in turn.
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See photos from Knickerbockers’ final show below:
Fatty & the Twins
The Heat Machine
Three Generations of Knickerbockers Tacos
The Last Slice
The JV Allstars
Read on for memories from some of the fans and bands that frequented and were shaped by the 9th and O venue:
Dan Jenkins, Halfwit
“So many Knickerbocker’s memories: Shows witnessed, shows played, practicing in the basement, hanging out with friends, etc. But one memory stands out above all others, for good or for ill. Original Drive-by Honky drummer Tom Cabela, Jr. was moving to Berlin and we wanted do something special for his last show. We booked a date at Knickerbocker’s and for some reason we thought it’d be a great idea to hire some strippers to share the stage with us. Tom was under 21 and unable to visit a “gentlemen’s club” but my friend Jim and I went to the Foxy Lady a week or so before the show to inquire about hiring some dancers. We managed to convince three ladies to dance at the show even though we weren’t sure if having topless dancers at Knickerbocker’s was even legal. A little research led us to believe it probably was, and now we just had to hope that they actually showed up. The night of the show I still hadn’t mentioned any of this to Shawn or Chris, but when two of the three ladies showed up, I had to ask permission. I know there was a little hesitation, but ultimately they gave the OK. They certainly didn’t have to allow it, but maybe they were curious to see how it was all going to turn out. Ultimately It was kind of creepy and awkward for just about everyone. Tom and I played a couple of songs and then I introduced “Lady” and “Mercedes” as our fiancées, and they came up and danced for 4 or 5 songs. Some people were laughing, other people were mortified, the ladies were professional, and Tom and I had a good, weird time. And it’s all on video. This is one Knickerbocker’s story of many. Shawn and Chris were always awesome to me and my bands, and I can’t thank them enough for all the good times. I’m glad they were able to end it on their own terms and wish them the best.” * * *
TJ Abele, A Summer Better Than Yours
“Knickerbockers was like a church to me. A place I could go to and feel safe. I know that’s weird, but it’s the truth. That place is my Madison Square Garden, my Triple Rock, my CBGB. I have had the pleasure of not only playing on that stage, but even teaching younger kids to play on that stage. I love Knickerbockers with all my heart. There are just so many memories that I can’t even put into words to accurately describe them. Also, I’ll really miss Recycled Sounds when that place closes. To be able to step outside a venue between bands setting up gear and walk into a record store, go straight to the front pile of recently recieved vinyl records, and find 2112 for like five bucks, then walk back to the venue and listen to the next band? That shit was awesome! Having conversations with the guy who ran Recycled Sounds was always an interesting experience, but one thing was sure, that dude loved music. I’m actually getting pretty choked up right now, so I’m going to end this post by saying this: I’m thankful for Knickerbockers. I’m thankful for those guys for putting up with all us drinking the night away, taking our sweet time setting up gear, pooping in a toilet that had no door (looking at you, Skeeter Peter Barnes), getting busted open (Connor Lord) Academy of Rock shows (Bob Okamoto Pat Austin Caleb Wiedel Daniel Neuman Mike Esmeier Michael Funk Meghan Munyon Nicholas DeVore Jonathon Herroon Zack Gearhart Dylan Gearhart Joey Havlat Austing J Wilson Kaitlyn Foley Emily Marie Foley Emily Anne Schiltz Ben Curran Nick Tarlowski Mikey Elfers), the list goes on. That final show is going to be amazing, and I can’t wait. Cheers *cries while drinking his Busch Light*” * * *
“My sister, who just happens to be my favorite person in the universe, joined The Heat Machine when I was just a junior in high school. I remember driving out, with my dad in tow to see her perform for the first time. It’s been something like 8 years since then and I remember crying as JVA said it was their final show, stuffing my face with cheap tacos, watching Nick and Karissa [Tarlowski] tie the knot there and enjoying one of my first legal beverages at Knickerbockers. It was a second home to me and I’ll always remember it fondly.” * * *
Ethan Koozer, Keller Hamilton
“Knickerbockers helped shape who I am not only as a musician but as a person. I grew up attending and booking shows at Knickerbockers all through Junior High and High School. I’d spend many nights going there simply to hang out with Chris and Shawn until they’d kick me out come 9pm before the late show. I met a lot of my closest friends under that roof and saw many shows that changed how I view a bands’ live performance on that stage. I started gaining all of the skills I use today as a touring musician in that building at an extremely young age. Monitor mixes, EQ’s of a room, settling and guarantees, merch sales, change overs and how to respectfully load off stage, day sheets, etc. It was almost like my years hanging out at Knickerbockers acted as an internship underneath the coolest bosses ever. Seriously, I could never thank Chris and Shawn enough for helping me find myself during those angsty teen years. It’s fair to say that I wouldn’t be where I am today without Knickerbockers. I’ll forever have the greatest memories at 901 O Street and I’m stoked I will be home for the holidays to give it a proper send off.” * * *
Will Conner, No Tide
“For me personally (Will Conner), Knickerbockers was always a place where I felt like I could really “do music”. I started a band, and Chris and Sean were wild enough to take a chance and give me my first show. The first show I ever attended was also at Knickerbockers and everything just clicked, it was everything I wanted to do. On Wednesday, December 23rd my band No Tide will take the Knickerbockers stage for the last time alongside our long time friends in A Summer Better Than Yours, Down In Circles, and Fallen 77. There are lots of clubs where there is no sense of community, bands don’t go to each other’s shows, and the venue won’t give you a chance if you can’t sell the place out. What Chris and Sean did for Nebraska music was create a platform for locals musicians to be treated as equals, even to the countless touring bands who went on to be huge that came through that stage, if you had a band and were willing to work hard to put on show, Chris and Sean were into it. Putting on Rock shows for the sake of doing it. Places like this that meant so much to so many are getting fewer and far between. I’m extremely grateful for the place that gave me and a ton of other kids with crazy dreams their start.” * * *
Thomas Morehouse, Black Lighthouse
“For me it started around around 2005. I went to Knickerbockers for the first time to see the band Visual Aura. It was one of the few places I could go see bands play a live all-ages show since I was barely a teenager at the time. I had listened to a lot of music growing up, but this show was my first introduction to local music. I started playing in my own bands there at the end of 2012 and it was the first place we got our foot in the door of the local music scene and where we learned how to be a live band. The shows we played there could be lined up with any type of band from hip-hop to metal so it was a good opportunity to meet lincoln musicians of all genres. The scene there was based more on the venue everybody was playing shows at then the genre itself. Knickerbockers was a great place for younger bands to get experience performing, and since it also holds around 400 people, I had the chance to see some national acts as well as bigger local bands like JVA and the Killigans pack the place a few nights. I’ve got the opportunity to play one last show there on Dec 17th with Faded Black, and I’ll be one of the first in line to buy tickets for JVA’s show on the final night, so it hasn’t really sunk in that Knickerbockers is closing it’s doors yet. I’ll definitely enjoy all the music, and taco thursday’s that I can while i still have the chance!” * * *
Patrick O’Donnell, Whiskey Drinkers Union
“When I started playing in bands in the late 90s, I was part of a hard rock group called [vagruntz]. We lived in the Hastings area where our various members went to high school and college. After playing around the Hastings/Kearney/Grand Island area for a while, our band wanted to branch out to gigs in Lincoln and Omaha. We walked all over downtown Lincoln and distributed our homemade demo tapes to every bar that had an unlocked door and a stage. The first (and maybe only?) venue to offer us a gig based on that exercise was Knickerbockers. This was a thoroughly and honestly thrilling moment for us. We played there many more times over the years, but I will always be grateful for Knickerbockers’ generosity in offering us that first show. In my mind, they always stood out for their willingness to help fledgling bands from all across Nebraska in trying to get a toehold in Lincoln. ” * * *
Mikey Elfers, Thirst Things First/JV Allstars
“I had to cancel my first show at Knickerbockers in 2002. The bass player in my high school band drove separately from Wayne and rolled his car due to some icy roads. I remember — quite selfishly — being almost angry at him for not making it to Lincoln because I thought that playing at Kbs was such a huge deal. (Sorry Frank.) Over a decade later Frank would wed Nick and Karissa Tarlowski, who would have the raddest ever wedding reception at Kbs. He also married my wife Tien and I who shared our first kiss outside of the club over eight years ago. We celebrated marriage, growing older, band reunions and reuniting with our loved ones after wonderful (and horrible) tours on 9th and O Street. We watched bands play their last notes ever and fucking grieved the deaths of our good friends on that stage. I had the privilege of sharing a stage with Home Grown, Less Than Jake, Peelander-Z, Big D and the Kids Table, countless others I am forgetting, and of course helping one of the Aquabats’ daughters crowd surf on an inflatable raft across a sold out (but very gentile) audience as they played “Pool Party.” I am humbled and a bit taken back that I will be one of three people to set their guitars down as the house lights turn on for the last time ever on Saturday night. Over the years I’ve had friends that have been forced to pay money to play decent venues across the country, or haggle their friends and family to buy presale tickets like some pyramid scheme. I can’t help but smile to myself that even in ’02, my drummer and I (reluctantly) accepted our share of the door, (Knickerbockers policy was to split 100% of the door evenly between the locals after the sound guy got his cut,) for a show that, I may remind you, we didn’t even get to play. Seventeen year old me and thirty two year old me say thank you Chris and Shawn. Your venue was a staple to our music community in Lincoln, and it will be missed. #GoodbyeKnickerbockers.”