Captured! by Robots

House of Blues--The Parish

May 07, 2005

After bassist Jason Vance noticed a pattern of unsuccessful working relationships with humans, he built robots for his own band instead. 33 year-old Vance played in Bay Area ska bands Skakin' Pickle and The Blue Meanies before he rummaged through bike chains and John Deer gearshifts for parts.

The first bot Vance built was GTRBOT, a 6-foot-tall creature with steel-scrap fingers, stubby legs, and bulbous eyes. GTRBOT keeps fingers stationed at each fret. He drags cable ties across the strings to make music. The second bot was DRMBOT, which has the body of a full drum kit and the mangy dreadlocked head of Medusa. She hits her kit with a kick drum pedal and three sticks attached to motors.

Then, the story goes, Vance woke up with a chip in his brain that allowed the robots to control him. He was now known as JBOT. The robots tour the country with JBOT in shackles. JBOT is still free to play his Rock and Metal music with a melded synthesizer and guitar.

The robots taunt Vance from the stage because they hate him. They hate all humans, and their main purpose touring the country is not the music but the message that the robots are coming to destroy the humans.

Accompanying the human and two robots Friday night at the HOB's Parish room was AUTOMATON, DRUMBOT's baby, which is constructed of three drum toms, a China cymbal, and a black trunk with big white teeth. Next up were three robotic hornsmen. One wore the face of Dick Cheney, one wore the face of George W. Bush, and one wore the face of Donald Rumsfeld. Also along the ride as friends of JBOT were The Ape Which Hath No Name and his son. They were friendly to JBOT and played clap cymbals. They belonged at Chuckee Cheese's.

The other robots needed their mouths washed out with soap. They called JBOT all the names in the book, but they most often wished he would die. They wished the same for the audience. This was funny. The jaws of the robots moved when they talked and their eyes lit up red.

So, how does all this happen live?

I'm glad you asked. The robots are powered by motors behind the stage. JBOT runs data cables from a computer to the robots, and when he presses the "magic button," the robots start playing.

Onto the music. At first, the music was great because I wanted it to be great. I was amazed at first, watching the robots make music. It's kinda cool someone was able to accomplish this. It could have easily been one of my favorite bands if the robots played good music. But, they and JBOT didn't. The novelty wore off after a while, and I was left with mediocre rock and metal.

The show was continually entertaining, though. JBOT sung through a black bondage mask that had gouged-out eyes taped to it. He ran into the crowd, got some of them to exercise, and he addressed specific audience members if they didn't comply with his demands. This was fun interplay.

One of the songs from CBR's "Get Fit With..." album was "Speed Food Pyramid." It was silly. Lyrics: "It's not a triangle. It's a full pyramid." The song basically addressed the possibility of subsiding off Speed only. The song had an '80's rock sound. Synthesizers had sex in the background. JBOT donned an effeminate lisp and asked, "Are you ready to work out to the Speed Food Pyramid?" Must have been some sort of homge to Richard Simmons, who I'd like to point out is a Brother Martin graduate.

CBR also played songs from "The Ten Commandments," the album which was based on the movie of the same name. CBR took resurrected black metal with "Ethiopia." It was fairly decent. "Passover," on the other hand, contained melodramatic swirls of metal that early Metallica wouldn't have even touched.

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