Last night's show was originally scheduled to be held at the Firebird, but was moved to FUBAR due to a scheduling conflict. I believe that was fate in action, because FUBAR accurately describes the spectacle I witnessed last night.
Upon arriving at the venue I was met with barricades blocking the streets due to the Midtown Rally portion of this weekend's Tour de Grove event. The doors opened on time at 8:30 p.m., but in another stroke of bad luck, opening act NIL-8 had canceled and there would be no one to replace them. That left a rather long waiting period between the door time and 11:15 p.m. when Captured! by Robots took the stage.
Although it was a rather long time to wait, JBOT was mingling with the fans and running the merch table. At first I was wondering why Captured! by Robots didn't just start its set early, but the closer it got to 11 the more people were rolling in and it became obvious that JBOT was waiting until his actual set time to make sure the fans that were expecting him to hit the stage late wouldn't miss out.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Captured! by Robots, JBOT is a human who built several robots to be his backing band. The robots turned on him and made him their slave, driving them around to rock out and humiliate JBOT in front of the other humans to show them what life will be like when the Robot Revolution occurs. Unlike the robots you see at Chuck E. Cheese, these mechanized musicians are actually playing their instruments instead of lip-syncing like some kind of Milli Vanilli clone. Judging from the solos performed by DRMBOT0110 and GTRBOT666 during the set, they are highly skilled technical players. Pun definitely intended.
Captured! by Robots is known for its themed tours. 2003 saw the Ten Commandments tour, 2006 the Wedding Tour, 2007 the George "Dubya" Bush tour, and so on. Theme of Spring 2011 was "Bring Forth the Rock," a tribute to classic '70s era rock & roll. The usual cast of characters were present, with DRMBOT0110 handling the drum kit, GTRBOT666 on guitar and bass, the Ape Which Hath No Name playing his tambourine halo, Son of the Ape Which Hath No Name on monkey cymbals, the Headless Hornsmen (now with heads, oddly enough) filling in the brass section and JBOT himself on guitar.
The evening was filled with robotic replications of classic '70s era rock and roll, with the band covering everyone from Thin Lizzy and Mountain to Led Zeppelin and Grand Funk Railroad along with a few of the band's own tunes thrown in for good measure. The original songs were well matched to the theme of the evening, with "Bunny Love," an ode to JBOT's recently departed rabbit and "Robot Abortion," which I believe is the greatest grindcore song ever penned by man OR machine. The cover song selections were fantastic and performed well, most notably their renditions of Mountain's "Mississippi Queen" and Deep Purple's "Highway Star." I feel the need to mention here that until tonight I absolutely hated the Lynrd Skynrd tune "Free Bird" with a passion hotter than a thousand suns. I can honestly say that after hearing JBOT and crew play their version, I've changed my opinion of the song.
The real entertainment for the evening was the comedy laced throughout the set. I've never laughed as hard at a concert as I did on Friday, especially during the stupendous rendition of the Nazareth classic "Hair of the Dog," which found the robots performing backing vocals. I nearly fell out of my chair when DRMBOT performed the song's wah-wah laced guitar break with vocals, the same way I do when I hear that song in the car.
Aside from the traditional vulgarity laced insults and banter between JBOT and the other robots, there were some rather comedic guest appearances. DRMBOT0110 was performing as John Bonham while the Ape Which Hath No Name played the role of Mountain guitarist Leslie West. Son of the Ape Which Hath No Name put on a hilarious imitation of Robert Plant and shared a story of John Bonham having relations with a duck in a bizarre tribute to the stories about Led Zeppelin's infamous rock and roll lifestyle. JBOT himself played the role of the inferior human slave perfectly tonight, occasionally hitting an off note or singing out of tune while his robotic masters played with perfection. His imitation of the '70s-era rock lifestyle was on point, where he waded into the crowd and flipped over tables and stools like a true rocker while the band performed in his absence.
This upset the establishment, much like the antics of the rock pioneers he was emulating. His banter with the fans was also excellent, even if he drew more crowd participation by pointing out the creepy old guy in the audience or going toe to toe with hecklers. The best part of the evening for me was when I realized that while JBOT was dressed in American garb and spent most of the show talking about how nothing was more American than rock & roll, the majority of the songs covered were originally from British bands. Whether this was intentional or not, I found it highly amusing.
JBOT made a few comments about how some bloggers and concert reviewers talk a lot of trash and generally are assholes in their reviews. In all honesty, that was originally how I thought this review was going to turn out at the beginning of the show. After the first two songs I was thinking to myself, "I waited all this time to see a band play crappy cover tunes?" This was before I realized that I was sitting there with my notepad trying to be serious while watching robots on stage playing Thin Lizzy songs. Yes, it was as ridiculous as it sounds. I wasn't watching a band playing cover songs, I was witnessing one of the best goddamned rock & roll spectacles I'd ever seen. It was as if Wesley Willis and Spinal Tap mated on stage and gave birth to a baby made of metal and wires. It was fun, entertaining and created a lasting memory.
Those three things are what make a good concert experience, and all three were in abundance tonight.