Paul Williams – The Bokey’s Rock Music Ambassador

Paul Williams is the gregarious owner of West End Trading and the unofficial Ambassador of Sanford. He has operated the comfortable, friendly West End music venue for nearly a decade, during that time watching the place triple in size as their critical role as the primary rock venue in Seminole county continues to spread its wings. He coined the #sanfording hashtag and has recently added the Celery City Craft taproom to his Sanford portfolio.

We sat down with him in his chaotic office and had a quick chat about his passion for rock music, Sanfording, buying Local and a few other things.

Paul Williams The Bokey.
Paul Williams – the unofficial mayor of The Bokey.

Cretin: So how long have you been bringing reggae and rock to Sanford?
Paul Williams: We opened the venue in 2011. And, before that, we were booking some bigger shows at the front stage. We just celebrated our 9th anniversary in that room.

Cretin: West End Trading is one of the few venues in Seminole County bringing in National Touring acts, and now I’m seeing you add more hard rock, tell me a little bit about the musical direction at West End Trading?
Paul Williams: We’ve had a promoter come on board in the last year or so that does some metal and rock shows. I’d never made connections like that. So, he’s filling that void for us and in house we book the ska and reggae bands.

Cretin: How’s the response been to the metal bookings over the past year?
Paul Williams: Great. They bring in a different crowd that we’re not used to getting, which is nice. Because you can only book a certain number of reggae shows each month before you water down your customer base. Between the two, we’re keeping the room full most Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and some Wednesdays and Sundays.

Cretin: Any big shows coming up that you’re excited about?
Paul Williams: New Year’s Eve with The Supervillains. They are always a great time and love playing here and the line-up is really good with some strong locals. This is the second time they’ve done New Years Eve and last year was sold out. We’ve also got Thomas Wynn and The Believers on December 19th. Jeff Ritchie from Control This is really plugged into the ska scene, and he puts on a free ska show every month. This month, that’s on the 18th.

Cretin: I like the fact that you are so focused on touring bands who originate from Central Florida.
Paul Williams: The Supervillains and Thomas Wynn do really well for us. They’re both from around here and love the place. We also have here every second Saturday. They set up a second stage next to ours, and have nonstop music in the venue.

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Cretin: You are a huge advocate of supporting local; do you see any local bands who are clearly on the rise?
Paul Williams: Some of the strongest stuff I’ve seen are some of the ska bands, like a band from Deland called Yugoskavia. I’m not huge into the metal scene, but there are a couple of metal bands who have emerged including Hurricane Charley from right here in Sanford. Not really my cup of tea, but I come watch their shows because they’re fun.

Cretin: Tell me a little about your passion for Sanford.
Paul Williams: I’ve been here 13 years now and this will be our 10th Anniversary at the bar. I’m a homeowner and I live here downtown. I’m plugged into the community and I like what’s going on here. It’s emerging and we’re at a crossroads right now. Like a lot of small towns in America, there are a lot of people who don’t want to see it grow, versus a lot of others who are pro growth. We’re at that crossroads where it’s either shit or get off the pot.

Cretin: This city has so much potential, sitting on Lake Monroe with all of these Victorian houses and old buildings dripping with character.
Paul Williams: Trains, airport, waterways, I-4 corridor, you can get here many ways. It’s a beautiful town and it’s cleaning up. That’s part of the growth. This downtown area is really on the rise. I think I’ve stumbled backwards into something that’s really cool.

Cretin: For someone who hasn’t visited recently, what would you recommend they build a future trip to Sanford around?
Paul Williams: We have some world-renowned restaurants. Willow Tree Café. If you haven’t been there, it’s an experience. Definitely try that place for some awesome authentic German food. And if you like to bar hop, there are plenty of bars, they’re all friendly and we all work together. And we have tons of events and street parties; things like Alive After Five (2nd Thursday of each month), and a monthly food truck rally (3rd Saturdays of each month) which we sponsor with Celery City.

Cretin: Celery City is a taproom – another one of my passions. Do you feature any Florida brews there?
Paul Williams: Yeah we have 51 taps and usually between 35 and 40 are Florida brewed beers. And, that’s exciting, too, because Florida-brewed beers are on the rise. There are breweries popping up everywhere around us, especially here in Sanford.

Cretin: Sanford? Or The Bokey? I think I saw you recently in a Bokey t-shirt?
Paul Williams: Yeah, Dan Ping has a magazine called The Bokey. He describes how Bokey is a nickname for Sanford and how there are about eight different stories on how that came to be. I don’t know if one’s better than the other, but I think it’s a cool nickname. That shirt that has Bokey with the roots coming out of it was designed by Erica Daniel for our craft beer Pints and Paws fundraiser. We sell a ton of those shirts and donate all of the proceeds to pet rescue charities.

Cretin: Ok, let’s finish up with a few quick music questions. Who is the favorite act you’ve had come through West End?
Paul Williams: My favorite guys to watch are hands down The Supervillains. They come through about three times a year and we almost always sell out. The crowds are full of energy and people go crazy when they are here. I’ve probably seen them twenty times and they’re fun every time. I was also pretty excited to see Afroman when he came through, but my favorite act to come through here was Fishbone; an iconic eighties punk band, they were great.

Cretin: Let’s end with a fun one. If you could have any band in the world play here on Friday, who would you pick.
Paul Williams: Tough question, but my knee jerk reaction is Pearl Jam. In a room like this where you can reach out and touch the band, that would be special. You can get spoiled in a room like this.

You can indeed, and if you haven’t been to Sanford or to the West End recently, you need to stop by and see what Paul and his team are up to.

Rock On!

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