Cup O' Joy
Imagine launching a music
venue in the downtown core of a major city sandwiched between a flop house
and a bar where people would regularly shoot one another over disputes
arising from pool games. Then allow yourself to become really excited about
the prospect of relocating and upgrading your facility to a building previously
inhabited by a gay bar and tarot card readers, decked out with pictures
of witches on the walls and where almost everything was pink. Such
were the humble beginnings of the now legendary Cup O' Joy in Green Bay,
Wisconsin which regularly plays host to some of the music industry's top
The venue draws artists
like Ginny Owens, Monk & Neagle, Downhere, Paul Colman, Building 429,
Carolyn Arends and a cast of promising regional musicians. The musical
genres are just as diverse as the patrons who attend including; folk, rock,
blues, Celtic and pop. Located in what Jan O. (as she is affectionately
known to patrons) has said the city's citizens formerly referred to as
the "armpit of Green Bay," the venue's parking lot is often the site of
tailgate parties complete with grills as fans wait for the doors to open.
During their sixteen years in the neighborhood, the Cup O' Joy has been
a partner in helping to revitalize the community.
The Cup's success is due
to the approximately eighty volunteers who regularly give up their weekends
to ensure that the Friday and Saturday night concerts are staged in a friendly,
fun and professional environment. Volunteers like Mark Stankiewicz, who
when he became the proud owner of a very large house, decided to put it
to use billeting bands that would play at The Cup. Stankiewicz now does
double duty as the sound engineer.
The efforts of the volunteer
staff have not been lost on the artists who perform there. Take for instance
Sara Groves' comments, "I thought I had a special bond with the Cup until
I spoke with other artists about it, and they all feel the same bond! The
people at the Cup are what make it work so well, and feel so welcome. I
always leave there hoping the community understands what a special gift
they have in that kind of venue, with its intimate setting, that kind of
music from independent artists to national names. There aren't many places
like it in the country."
From its humble beginnings
the Cup O' Joy has become a contrast of world class talent ministering
in the heart of the inner city. From an establishment whose current building
had to be seriously renovated for fear patrons would fall through the floor
to the basement, it has grown in legendary proportions with artists from
one end of North America to the other talking about their experiences to
Folk artist Bob Bennett
says, "Even way out here in somewhat sunny California, I had heard of the
place for years. I finally made the trip to Green Bay Wisconsin last fall
with a couple of dear musician friends Carolyn Arends and Bruce Carroll."
In the early days of The
Cup's existence, artists were drawn from an area within an hour of Green
Bay. "If we had someone drive from two hours away we thought, wow, this
is really tremendous." Jan O. says as time went on they just got more bold
in terms of who they approached about performing at the venue.
As musicians started telling
their friends about The Cup they would get in contact with Jan O. about
playing there as well, "That's when I started to realize there are a lot
of really wonderful people who just want to play music and if we worked
really hard for them and did a good job I think they could have a really
nice time here. It all worked out and it kind of grew from there."
One of those artists who
give The Cup a ringing endorsement is guitar virtuoso Paul Colman," The
Cup O' Joy is a wonderful venue for me. In a warm and intimate setting
I am allowed to share my music and my story. It excites me to perform in
a venue where the teachings of Jesus are honored with genuine warmth and
the environment is both professional and relaxed."
It's the ability of artists
like Colman, Owens and Groves that have the ability to be transparent,
open up their lives, and share their life stories with their audiences
that are able to connect with the crowd. Jan O. says it is this ability
to be vulnerable that allows the artist's music to immediately make sense
to the listener. The artists that are able to do that are seldom a one
time casual visitor but quite often will do return engagements.
Jan O. has been booking
artists for The Cup O' Joy since shortly after The Cup first opened its
doors. "People will say to me, 'How can you still be excited?' and I will
say, 'I am excited all of the time about the artists who come, even if
nobody knows who they are,' because by the time you start printing the
stuff (promotional material), I have listed to their music and talked to
them. You start connecting with them. You realize these are pretty talented
folks in whatever genre they are in."
"We have always had music
every Friday and Saturday night right from the very beginning," she says.
"It's always nice when you
walk away at the end of the night and you say that's why we do this. When
the artists really connected and you look into people's eyes and see that
they really got something."
"I'm the one who talks to
you but I want you to understand that there is this whole team of people
and there has been all through the years," she says. The volunteers do
everything from arrange the furniture, cut the lawn and clean. One of the
keys to the support they get from the church community has been the approach
the Cup O' Joy has taken. Jan says, "We go to them and say what can we
do for you? We are here to serve you. We aren't here to become a church."
For more on the Cup O' Joy
and future concerts, visit their website at http://www.cupojoy.com/>www.cupojoy.com.
Cup O' Joy does not charge an admission for their concerts, however, donations
are accepted at the concerts. If you are an artist and reading this, I
haven't heard of an artist yet who went away disappointed.
By Joe Montague, exclusive
Joe Montague is an internationally
published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory
of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18.
All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague.