Welcome to Night Vale is a cult classic in the podcast realm. It takes place in a world where every conspiracy theory is real, and nothing ever works the way it’s meant to, riding comedy and bordering horror from the perspective of the town of Night Vale’s community radio station. From five-headed dragons and vaguely menacing world governments to some of the most insightful and poetic lines in the medium, there’s something for everyone. But what about the folks who prefer visual elements to their fiction? Well, how convenient, Welcome to Night Vale also does live shows!
Welcome to Night Vale is on tour currently performing The Attic, which just passed through Lawrence. The Attic attracted a variety of show-goers to Liberty Hall, from middle schoolers all the way up to my film professor. During the show, I found myself sitting next to a married couple. I asked them if they were familiar with the podcast and the husband answered that he had listened to a good portion but never caught up, though this would be the fifth live show he’s attended. His wife, however, was going in completely blind. The beauty of these live shows is that you truly don’t need to know anything about Night Vale to enjoy it, sure there may be a few name drops that a seasoned listener may be able to associate with ‘That one character, that one time’ but nothing that will leave you in the dark. And clearly, it appeals to a huge audience.
The Attic features the main character of Night Vale, Cecil Palmer (voiced by Cecil Baldwin), finding slides from a family trip to the Grand Canyon in an attic that had just appeared in his home, though they are not as they seem as things quickly start to unravel in classic Night Vale fashion.
The stage is set very plainly, with two microphones, a stool, and a section off to the side for Disparition, Night Vales’ composer, to play the various backing tracks during the show. Despite this very plain set-up, the performances by Cecil Baldwin, Symphony Sanders (Tamika Flynn) and the lovely guest stars, create a very immersive environment that draws the audience in without relying on a showy set design. So what’s the difference between watching the show and listening? You’d be surprised how much an eyebrow raise or wary glance at the audience can change the entire meaning of a line or segment. It also adds a little more context to what might be happening while we listen to Night Vale normally, for lack of a better word, there’s a level of pizazz that comes with seeing Cecil Baldwin say the insane things he does live on stage.
The Attic features some fan-favorite recurring segments from Welcome to Night Vale, from the children’s fun fact science corner to the broadcasting sponsorship, all the way to the weather. The weather, if you aren’t familiar, is a bit that occurs in every WTNV episode where, instead of an actual forecast, a song begins to play. It’s a new musician each episode and is a wonderful way to promote independent artists while also adding to the weirdness of the show. The weather for this leg of the tour was Juliana Finch. Finch brings a warm presence to the stage, telling jokes and chatting with the audience. Finch played twice during the show, once at the beginning as an opener for the whole show and then again for the weather. Offering a smooth transition into the madness and a respite in the middle for audiences to take a breather from laughing and enjoy some smooth folk/rock before getting thrown back into the thick of it. Juliana Finch released an album this year that I really recommend checking out. I also recommend checking out her earlier album, Way Down, from 2018.
Overall, The Attic was a success. If you’re a Night Vale fan or just in the mood for some surreal comedy, I recommend checking out any live shows that may be playing in your area now or in the future and listening to the show wherever you get your podcasts. Featuring pumpkins, cucumbers, the joys and sorrows of aging, childhood, family, Wendys, and live music, what’s not to love?
You can also read a brief interview with Cecil Baldwin, the star of the show, and Joseph Fink, creator and writer, here!