by Lorie Lewis Ham
This weekend Kuppajoe in Fresno celebrates 15 years in business, so it seemed a perfect time to sit down and chat with Clayton Miears, who handles all of their bookings, to see what they have planned to celebrate and learn a little more about them.
Lorie: What exactly is Kuppajoe?
Clayton: Kuppajoe was started in 1997 as a small Christian coffee shop. We currently run as a fully operational all ages music venue with a heart for ministry and a heart for our local music scene. Located in Fresno, CA, Kuppajoe is a central location for artists making their way down the west coast. With a clean campus and professional staff, Kuppajoe is inviting for music fans of all ages. Kuppajoe showcases performers and artists who share a positive message and keep their performances clean, sober, and safe for audiences. Kuppajoe has been open and putting on concerts for over a decade now and accommodating artists of all genres. Kuppajoe puts time and care into making each event fun and worthwhile for artists and audiences alike. Kuppajoe offers top-notch audio quality and a long stage so people can see and hear the entertainers, no matter where they are standing in the room.
Lorie: Tell us about your concerts–the when and what types of bands you have come in, do they cost, etc.
Clayton: We normally have about 4-5 bands every week varying from Pop, Rock, Alternative, Indie, Hardcore, Metal, etc. For every show we like to include two out of town bands and two locals. We have been getting some really great talented bands lately at Kuppajoe like Heartist who just signed to Roadrunner Records. They played our Halloween show. We had I the Mighty over the summer which is a really great band from San Francisco, CA they’re on Equal Vision Records. We just had The Vespers a folk pop band from Nashville, TN. Plus we have some really cool new up and coming local bands that have a ton of potential like Sea of Sound, Dependence, and The Imperial. We have cover charges that go towards our costs and paying the bands for them supporting us with their performances.
Lorie: How do you decide whom to book?
Clayton: I stay up-to-date with different music press outlets for example Alternative Press is a website I’ll check out and see what’s going on with the latest artists and bands. I’m a big fan of music so I’m always checking out new artists and bands. I’d say a lot of how I find a band to book is someone telling I need to check this or that band out or a booking agent I know and work with contacting me telling me about his or her new client or seeing if I have a date available for their client. When I find an artist or band I want to book I’ll check out their upcoming schedule then I either contact the band themselves if they don’t have representation or I contact their booking agent. What’s cool is most of the agents and agencies I know and work with represent and book for most of the up and coming and established bands which makes things easier after that I see if I can work something out for them to play a show at Kuppajoe.
Lorie: What do you offer besides concerts?
Clayton: We have bible study every Monday night at 6:30 p.m. We always provide food usually pizza for people who come and attend. Our bible study is very low key and even held in the venue to keep kids comfortable but the point being to get them reading the word of God.
Lorie: Are you strictly a Christian club?
Clayton: Kuppajoe is rooted in Christ’s principles and showcases performers and artists who share a positive message and keep their performances clean, sober, and safe for audiences. We accommodate artists of all genres. We put time and care into making each event fun and worthwhile for artists and audiences alike.
Lorie: I understand you are celebrating 15 years in business what special things are you doing to celebrate?
Clayton: We’re having a Kuppajoe favorite Phinehas, who’s on Red Cord Records, play along with up and coming bands Your Hero Is A Villain, Me The Mountain, The Vera Project, and Farooq. The show will include testimonies for those impacted by the venue and an update on future plans and events at the venue. It’ll be a fun event that brings generations of show goers and Kuppajoe supporters. The show is all about recognizing the long-lasting impact Kuppajoe has had in the community and to foster continued support for local music and all ages venues.
Lorie: Why do you think Kuppajoe has stuck around while other clubs have come and gone?
Clayton: I think the reason why it has been around while other clubs have come and gone is Kuppajoe is a very family oriented place. The Kuppajoe staff members and newcomers hang out with each other on a regular basis. We all go to bible study on Monday night’s. After shows all the staff members, bands, and show goers go to Denny’s and just hang out. That’s what I love the most about Kuppajoe that it is a family oriented place.
Lorie: What else makes you different from the rest?
Clayton: We provide warm cooked meals for all the bands before the show. We also have a washing and drying machine and showers and both those things come in handy for bands who are out on the road touring. I think we’ve been launching a lot of new stuff lately at Kuppajoe too that makes us different from the rest. For instance we started doing tickets online through Ticketfly, we launched a stream team for the venue with incentives to those who promote up and coming shows, we started selling our own Kuppajoe branded merch, and we are now having local bands sell pre-sale tickets but structuring it to where the local bands are being rewarded for their hard work. When I first started booking and promoting shows at Kuppajoe I wanted to the develop bands that come and played meaning I wanted to help develop their Fresno, CA fan-base meaning bringing them back on a regular basis and help build up their show resume and I don’t think a lot of venue and promoters really focus on that. Another thing is we are pretty structured at Kuppajoe. We have a set load in time, we have a meeting with all the bands and staff before doors open, etc. and I think providing that really helps bands because it makes things go smoother and probably most bands haven’t played at venue like that and we’re teaching them how to do things professionally.
Lorie: How has Kuppajoe changed since the early years? And what has remained the same?
Clayton:I think for the most part Kuppajoe hasn’t changed that much. I mean shows use to have way better turns and the cover charge was cheaper back in the venue’s early years but the music industry has changed a lot over the years since it has been open. Kuppajoe still has a Bible study every Monday night. For the most part there’s a show every Friday. The venue is still based out of The Goorabian Family Life Center located at 3673 North 1st Street Fresno, CA 93726.
Lorie: What is your role, how long have you been involved and how did you become involved?
Clayton:I handle all the booking at Kuppajoe and I serve on the venue’s leadership team. I’ve been doing the booking since April 2012 but before that I would go to the venue here and there for shows plus Kuppajoe’s General Manager Jesse K. Kennedy would book a local pop/rock band for shows here and there that I managed called Vegas Is North.
Lorie: What goals do you have for the future?
Clayton:I’d like to see Kuppajoe continue to stay open for years to come and be a place for show goers, musicians, and anyone can come connect with other people and have a good time in a safe and comfortable environment. I’d like to possibly see Kuppajoe expand and open other locations but who knows what’ll happen.
Lorie: Hours and location?
Clayton:Mon: 6:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. (Bible Study)
Fri: 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. (Showtime)
Lorie: Anything else you would like to add?
Clayton:I’d want to thank Dave Brown, Jesse K. Kennedy, and Nick Kennedy for all their hard work and everything they’ve done for Kuppajoe. I want to thank all the Kuppajoe staff members for their hard work as well and to the bands that come and continue to play and support the venue. Make sure to check out Kuppajoe on Facebook and Twitter also sign up for our email list at www.kuppajoe.com and get updates on shows, prizes you can win, etc.