HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (12/21/12) – Upon my arrival to The Coup—an establishment founded in 2008—I didn’t quite know what to expect. This journey originated with the notion that the group of us, the Sugg Street Post, would make the one hour drive to Clarksville—in the pouring rain no less—to support two local bands from Hopkins County. As fellow musicians and artists, the importance of supporting others who are putting themselves out there is an integral part of our nature, as it should be. Those bands in question would be Laced and GypsyLifter.
The rain started to clear up as Sugg Street Post writer Luke Short, photographer Jeff Harp, and I pulled into the parking lot at The Coup. Colorful lights peaking from the windows glinted off the wet pavement, and I could feel music thumping through the door as we walked inside to meet our graphic designer/site programmer, and GypsyLifter drummer, Randy Stone.
As I glanced around inside, I was immediately stricken by the warm glow of quirky creativity. Brightly colored art covered the walls, and there was an electric vibe in the air. Above the bar, I noticed a menu full of intriguing selections and, below that, a long row of micro-brewed beer to choose from.
The stage area was brilliantly lit and had a comfortable ambiance that drew me in. But before I could fully take it in, I was already looking past the stage to a corridor-style part of the building. I could see what seemed to be a quaint art gallery of sorts, illuminated against the back wall. A unique series of art hung there, beckoning me to look closer. I couldn’t quite figure out where to adventure first. I wanted to see everything.
After perusing the venue and rocking out with Laced, I scored a moment between sets to sit down with Stacy Gazenski and Zach Lerman—two of the three owners and founders of The Coup—to find out a little bit more about what they were doing in Clarksville and how they had come to open such an imaginatively diverse rock arena and bar.
“We were just friends hanging out and stuff,” says Stacy. “There wasn’t a music venue—no real place to really do something like this. We decided to just do it ourselves.”
“We just felt that there was a need for something like this in Clarksville,” says Zach. “We had hosted a lot of shows at Stacy’s parents’ boathouse and talked about opening up our own place for years.”
“We booked shows at another old place called the Icehouse, too,” Stacy chimes in.
“Yeah,” says Zach. “It doesn’t exist anymore. We grew up within the local music scene and there was never anywhere that was proper for bands to play. We were just like, ‘Whatever, we’re just going to do it.’ So we just did it,” laughs Zach.
The Coup, which has recently moved into a new location at 1148 College Street, isn’t your average music venue. The Coup is considered by locals as “a center for social innovation.” The hope is that the venue can help to move free-thought forward in the community of Clarksville, and to help cultivate creativity within the area. The Coup is a warm home for artists, musicians, and free-thinkers.
“When we first started, we were just geared towards music,” says Zach. “But now we are a fully functioning vegan/vegetarian-friendly restaurant, and we have a huge selection of micro-brews. That is more along the lines of what we want to do with the place. Music is always going to be a huge part of what we do, but we want to be more of a community center. We serve interesting food and drinks that other places in the area just don’t offer. Now we have an art gallery as well, which is really cool. Each month, the art in the gallery gets changed for the Art Walk that the city has, so we are a part of that now. Artists that are featured in our gallery are also able to sell their pieces here.”
“Our featured artist this month is Andy Lee Fry,” explains Stacy. “Next month, we will be featuring local artists who are women. I’m putting that one together, and I’m already looking at about ten artists. The rest of the building is kind of open to everyone. If someone wants to bring some art for us, that’s awesome. We will hang it up on the wall, and then if they would like to put a price tag on it, they can.”
“We are also putting out a 32-page, full-color magazine called Empire of Honesty,” says Zach. “There’s all this news out here, but no one cares. Why isn’t anybody talking about the stuff that people will care about? We want to talk about stuff that is relevant to our culture.”
Recently, The Coup held its 800th show. Stacy and Zach have figured that if you multiply 800 shows by three or four bands, which usually perform at each show, The Coup has probably been host to over 2,500 bands.
“If they are local, and around the area, we just want them to come here and feel at home,” explains Stacy. “Basically, if a band wants to play, we welcome them.”
“We’ve had bands play from all over the world,” explains Zach. “We’ve had bands here from Japan, Norway, Austria, France—all different places. We constantly have touring bands from all across the United States performing here. It’s cool for them, and it’s cool for us. Before The Coup, that kind of thing just wasn’t really happening.”
Music aside, The Coup offers an eclectic mix of fascinating events.
“Besides music, as far as atmosphere, we just try to stay creative all the time,” says Zach. “We play movies, host bike and music festivals, offer yoga classes, Spanish classes - anything that we can think of that we like or that we think other people would like. We want people to have fun.”
“Mondays, we offer culinary arts,” explains Stacy. “Every Monday we feature one of our friends, or someone that wants to cook, to come in and just make something crazy. Then we put a movie up on the screen, so it’s like dinner and a movie, with a guest chef. We have regulars that come by every Monday night just for the food.”
“Tuesday is flow arts,” says Stacy. “Zach and I teach hooping and poi. Our other partner, Kory Kyle, teaches juggling as well, if anybody is interested.”
For those unfamiliar with flow arts, allow me to explain. Flow arts are spirited movement arts involving “skill toys” that are used to arouse the exploration of dynamic, flowing, and progressive movements. Hooping is artistic movement of the body while using hoops as props to combine technical moves and tricks with freestyle dancing to music. Poi is another style of performance art that involves swinging tethered weights through a variation of graceful and geometric patterns.
The Coup doesn’t stop at flow arts when it comes to their unique offerings either. I know you have heard of yoga, but have you heard of doom yoga?
“Wednesday is doom yoga and Kory teaches that,” explains Stacy. “So what they do is turn off all the lights, and then we project a clock, with an hour on it, on the back wall. Then they play this hour long doom song. I think the band is Dope Smoker. It’s an hour of this deep, droning music, and they hold poses for two to three minutes at a time. It’s super intense looking.”
“Tuesday and Thursday we have Spanish class in the evening. On Thursday, we also have open stage where anyone can do anything. I’ve seen all sorts of things,” laughs Stacy.
On Friday and Saturday night, it’s all about the music, and tonight is no exception. On Friday, December 21st, The Coup will be hosting a huge bash to celebrate the end of the world. There will be 30 bands playing on three separate stages from 7pm until 4am. There will be free beer tasting, a costume competition, fire spinning, and lasers.
“There are a lot of people here,” says Zach. “There’s like 140,000 people here in Clarksville. There is literally a liberal arts college two blocks from here. If there is not stuff going on, we’re just going to make it happen.”
Sugg Street Post
Written by Jessica Dockrey
Photos by Jeff Harp