Saturday, January 28, 2017

Live from Brooklyn

Dave was filling the smoke machine, Tony was tweaking the lights and the band was sipping beers in the green room. They were going live in less than an hour, so that was all routine. But when the studio is one you built with your own hands in an old garage behind your parents' house, stuffed with $100,000 worth of gear and run as a passion project with the help of family and friends, things don't always go smoothly. The master computer was hung up and Katie had to reboot it, and they were calling one of the cameramen who lived down the block to "come over already." But at least the audio guy was just a few minutes away according to his GPS. Just one problem: he was pulling up to 78th Street in Queens when the studio was in Brooklyn.

None of this seemed to faze Paul Liatsis, the not-yet-30-year-old driving force behind Bridgeside. Paul had started his production company as a wrapper for his freelance work, tried producing his own comedies and even got his pilot "Work In Progress" about 2 slackers working different jobs accepted at a couple of film festivals. But coming from a family of musicians, and even playing in a band with siblings and cousins, it was only a matter of time before the cleaned-out garage became more than just a rehearsal space.

He had seen his sister ("The kid with the real talent!" he laughs) struggle as an actress and not get roles, before giving up and turning full time to music, a profession where she called the shots. That led him to realize that whatever he did he wanted to make his own content and control it himself. And so while many dream of making a show or writing a song, Paul took the long view: he wanted to create a channel.

He had been living with his cousin, but with all the kids out of the house, his folks took the apartment on the second floor and Paul moved back in and claimed the first. And he started to upgrade the stage they had built in the garage to be more of a studio that could handle live shows. He added more lights and cameras, ran the wires underground to the house, turned the room behind the kitchen into a control room including a high-end audio system, and turned the mud room into a green room. "If I'm gonna live at home," he said, "I'm gonna have the best badass space I can have."

His sister's band was the guinea pig. Under the banner of Bridgeside Live, he recruited friends and family as crew, and went online with a live one-hour performance show. It was a disaster. The sound was bad, the sync was off. He felt horrible, but rather than be cowed he doubled down. He tweaked the equipment, added better gear where he could and started calling local bands with a free offer of airtime. In the beginning it was hard. But then word started to get around about the cool stage in Brooklyn, about the after-party screening in the tent with the fire pit, about the chance to be live on YouTube and Facebook where fans could watch.

Now after doing it weekly for a year, he's got a steady supply of talent filling up his regular Tuesday night 9PM slot. He's added a Q&A session with the band after a 50-minute performance, and edits the sets into individual songs he posts each day for the next week. The night I visited they smoothly showcased journeyman musician John Santiago and his current project of Johnny and the Bootlegs, jamming through nearly an hour of original material and registering over 500 views on Facebook Live. And anyone watching the 7-camera show could be forgiven for not knowing it was originating from a garage in a quiet residential part of Bay Ridge.

Paul and his gang have started to branch out into other genres. They produced a pre-Golden Globes show that focused on fashion, and have cooking and sports programs in the works. But what he's most excited about is the community he's building. "This isn't about me," he says, "it feels more like a movement." He laughs: "I don't want to go all Olive Garden on you, but when you're here, it feels like family."


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves to learn about people. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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