Upstairs, but behind the chiropractor’s office in Riverside, an underground movement has begun. Sound thumps from above in the unassuming home, but we’re sitting downstairs, exiled and left to our own devices.
We start talking to Dimitri, a Russian gentleman who seems to have appeared straight from 1954 New York. All of us audience participants are splayed out on a couple couches, nervously chatting and sipping Blue Light tallboys. The Comedian sits with us, putting us at ease and bringing us all together. We’re getting ready to be ushered upstairs any minute now, and we’re real, real excited to be a part of “The Attic.”
Director/producer Pat Williams got back home to Buffalo a scant five months ago and has wasted no time in building his empire. A fortuitous apartment showing this past summer cast the first light into this new-found kingdom; upon first look Williams knew something was going to happen here.
“The Attic came to fruition when we saw this space, this attic, before we moved in…Justin [Walker, current roommate, former band member] knew that when he saw the attic I was going to see something and do something with it,” Williams said over a recent pint.
After a mere two months back in town and after settling into a new apartment and neighborhood, the lights were rigged and the Attic became real.
Influenced by the British Later… with Jools Holland and with a tip of the hat to Wayne’s World and Def Poetry Jam, the Attic is an Internet-based half-hour-long program that spotlights local musicians, visual artists, poets, DJs, and comedians. A small studio audience is invited to participate during the monthly live taping.
“There are so many creative people in Buffalo. It always seemed to me when I was in a band that it was a competition rather than a collaboration. To me that was ass backwards. I wanted something where people come together,” Williams said of his current project.
Williams spent the last couple years in NYC, amassing a skill set in television production after working for two seasons on the USA dramedy Royal Pains. “I wanted to bring that back to Buffalo and put Buffalo in the spotlight with its talented, creative people,” he said of his recent move back home to Western New York.
After working sometimes 80 hour weeks in NYC, Williams was burnt out and not seeing much of a payoff for the work. “I’m spreading myself so thin, I’m working my ass off, spending so much money. My investment and my name isn’t going to mean shit in New York City. But I can come back to Buffalo and use what I learned here and invest my time and money into Buffalo and make Buffalo more known, a better scene, and bring a light to Buffalo,” he said.
“I saw what was happening here with all the new development downtown and the new investments coming here, the rise in property sales here, and I was like, ‘Alright. Now’s the time to go back.’”
Although he’s new back to town after being away for a few years, Pat has been able to deftly line up more than a dozen artists of myriad genres, in only a couple months’ time. He had previously forged connections in town through his band Colors in the Air, who were together for eight years, and through a general social skill at being able to find just the right guy for just the right thing, maintaining those relationships indefinitely.
“These are good mutual relationships where I respect them and it seems like they respect me back, and I’ve just built on that over the years. I pride myself on keeping those connections. I don’t lose them,” he said.
Using his prior experience in a band as anecdote, Pat extols the virtues of teamwork. “I don’t necessarily have the talent myself…I like working with groups of people in order to make a bigger dream come to fruition,” he said.
Williams also enthuses on the potential connections his project might help infuse, such as introducing an artist or a comedian to a band who then might need artwork for a new album or an emcee for a CD release party.
Williams’ and Walker’s attic is now a fully functional set, minus any soundproofing. “If there’s rain hitting the roof or there’s a dump truck hitting the pothole, it’s part of the show. It adds to the character of the show, of the grunginess. I’m not a very fancy person,” Williams said.
The first two episodes of the Attic have been released since November and it’s started to make the rounds, even to the point that Williams has been approached in public and thanked for his efforts.
“I’ve had a few people reach out to me and already say thank you, and that’s very humbling. It makes the investment of time and money worth doing. It doesn’t seem like a misguided dream,” he said.
A graduate of the State University of New York at Fredonia and a native of Lockport, New York, Williams’ WNY roots and his feelings about Buffalo and its creative class are evident in the pride and enthusiasm carried in his voice when he talks of the city.
“I think Buffalo is a city that can set an example for other cities…There are bad apples everywhere you go, but, in comparison, in this bushel, there are more good apples than bad apples. Buffalo has a lot of promise and room for growth,” he said.
“We’re near fresh water, we’re at high elevation, we’re at decent latitude in order to deal with certain environmental issues. We have Toronto to the north, we have Chicago to the west, and we have New York to the east…It can be an epicenter.”
Williams continued, reveling in the promise of the city. “I left to prove that I could do something else. But then I saw what it was like, that I was going to work up the ladder. You saw the hierarchy of things. Then I said to myself, ‘Wow, I can totally skip steps 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 to get to step 8, 9, and 10. I can go from step 1, which I’ve already done, move back to Buffalo, start with steps 8, 9, and 10 and get to 10 a lot quicker. That’s exactly what I wanted to do…I can have something of my own,” he said.
When looking towards the (probably very near) future, Williams said he’d like to see the show become weekly and possibly even go national.
“I hope this opens up other windows of creativity and collaboration, not just for myself but everybody else involved with the show, too,” he said.
Episode 3 of the Attic will be released in January 2015.