Small Business by Day, Small Venue by Night

One of Plattsburgh's local coffeeshops has a slight change of pace on weekends


Story and photos by Nick Will

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Manager Bevan Bradey with daughter Elizabeth

During the day, the Coffee Camp looks like a poster child business for the North Country. Beautiful, rustic décor furnishes the small space on Margaret Street in downtown Plattsburgh, including several shelves fitted into the shapes of boats and comfortable, natural-looking wooden chairs that sit just outside its door. During the day, this is somewhere to go to enjoy a nice cup of herbal tea or coffee with friends: it’s hard to imagine what it would become at night.

Bevan Brady and his two young daughters, Madison and Elizabeth, were in the establishment that day around 5 p.m. Brady is a manager at the Coffee Camp and has been working there off and on for the last eight years. He stands at about 6’ 2” and greets customers with a smile and a friendly demeanor. “I just came back from Burlington, and this place was dead a few months ago,” says Brady. He went on to say that he has been trying to get shows into the Coffee Camp for most of the year, and has been somewhat successful in recent months.

The Coffee Camp has been a venue for the last six years but has just restarted booking recently. “About five or six years ago, my sister was booking a lot of punk shows and our front counter got destroyed; it was almost completely ripped off the ground,” Brady says.

“I don’t work here. I just support music.”

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Elizabeth draws signs for the Coffee Camp.

“This place has great acoustics for instruments,”giving it a potential for live music, he says. He believes that the Coffee Camp has been getting extremely loud recently, which is why he has been trying to book more folk acts.

Around 6 p.m., Brady’s friend and coworker, Ken, came in to start his shift. “You’re not a Fed, are ya?” Ken asks with a smile. He too greets customers well and quickly—unless he is out front smoking a cigarette, in which case it may take an extra minute or two. 

“I don’t work here. I just support music,” Ken says.

“He’s been ‘supporting music’ here for about a year,” Brady adds jokingly. Ken is one of the fundamental pieces of the Coffee Camp’s puzzle. Without him, there might not even be shows. Ken networks and contacts bands. “I usually let the bands come up with their own line-ups for the shows,” Ken says. “We usually get more creative line-ups that way.”

Ken also says that he’s seen people from the ages of 3 to 85 on the nights that they hold events. The Coffee Camp has hosted jazz groups, high school bands, folk groups, hip-hop artists, and hardcore groups. “It’s a nice place where people of all ages can go, without having to go the bars and night clubs,” Ken says. “It’s a good way for local artists to get themselves out there without having to play bars, too.”

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Gary McShane of Sink or Swim sets up equipment.

“For being a podunk cow-town, Plattsburgh really does have a good music scene.”

“Our goal is to get a show going on every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night in here,” Brady says.

Ken adds, “With winter weather, it’s hard to get people in here for shows, but for April, we currently only have four nights that haven’t been booked.”

“For being a podunk cow-town, Plattsburgh really does have a good music scene,” Brady says.

Around 7 p.m., the bands start to set up, amidst a friendly atmosphere. The guys from Crown of Lions, a local Plattsburgh hardcore band, were chatting with Ken and Brady, and the boys from Sink or Swim started to set up their gear. Everyone was just standing around drinking tea and talking about their week. Crown of Lions has played at the Coffee Camp twice, and they say that the venue has a lot to offer. “It’s a very intimate setting, and the crowds are great, with little or no negativity,” says Crown of Lions’ guitarist Ian Countryman. Jordan Paolini, the band's vocalist, added that the sound in the Coffee Camp was one of the best in the area.

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Rick Whispers at the mic.

The show started at 8 p.m., an hour after it was scheduled to begin. Justin Joseph, a southern folk musician from Albany, opened the night. Joseph is a skinny guy with a big voice, and he plays his guitar so hard the strings seem like they are going to snap. He sings about convictions, regrets, and hope.

Next up was Rick Whispers, a straight-edge rapper whose lyrics portray a man with a brash outlook on the world. Whispers stands for a cause that excludes the use of drugs and alcohol, but doesn’t preach about it in his work. Using humor in between his tracks, Rick Whispers breaks up the harsh realities he is sharing with the world. “Without places like the Coffee Camp, music would be controlled by Taco Bell and McDonald's,” Whispers shouts out during his set. Afterwards, he was talking to everyone.

“I like places like this. The people are diverse, receptive, and open-minded,” he says. “Without places like the Coffee Camp, indie music wouldn’t exist as it does. We’d all probably sound like Soulja Boy.”

Crown of Lions played after Whispers and was heavily anticipated. The crowd was buzzing when they played, singing along to Paolini’s lyrics, and some even singing into the mic at points.

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Crown of Lions, playing their second show at the Coffee Camp

The night closed out a little later than planned with Sink or Swim, who say that they haven’t really played many sets since the band's formation. The band’s bass player, Gary McShane, yelled out, “Jesse, we’ve been together for about five months, right?” Jesse Hutchins, the bands vocalist replied, “Not even that long, dude.”

The bands packed up their gear after all the sets were through, and the few patrons left all joked and talked about the night. The eclectic show was on their minds, and nothing at that point could deter them from it. The Coffee Camp went back to its original state after some tables were moved and everything was set back in its perfect place. At midnight, it was almost as if there had just been songs played about war, love, betrayal—almost as if the crowd of young kids thrashing and yelling had never been there.

 


Have you ever been to a show at the Coffee Camp?

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