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Captured! By Robots @ The Cactus Club

April 23, 2010

Apr. 28, 2010
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According to the complicated (and rather silly) mythology surrounding Captured! By Robots, Jay Vance, former bassist for ska groups Skankin’ Pickle and Blue Meanies, was merely looking for someone, or something, to jam with when he built his robot backing band. But as robots so often do (at least from what I understand from the movies), they quickly turned on their human master, forcing him to humiliate himself onstage, exposing humanity’s weak, pitiful nature for all to see.

Before the humiliation could get under way Friday night, however, there was a set by The Demix, a project that consists of one guy, a laptop and a couple of samplers. The sound is something like industrial-tinged trip-hop, with detours into noisy drill ’n’ bass and sci-fi atmospherics. Although he seemed to be taking his knob-twiddling very, very seriously, the man behind The Demix had difficulty connecting with the mostly disinterested audience, many of who used the time to patronize the bar.

The robots loomed at the back of the stage covered by blankets, and by the time they were unveiled people had crammed themselves into the club’s back room. The mechanical musicians looked more like something built out of parts scavenged from a dumpster behind Chuck E. Cheese than the sleek creations of postwar fantasies—but robots are robots, and until we reach that glorious day when shiny automatons attend to our every whim, seeing a bunch of them clanging away at instruments will remain something to marvel at.

Alas, watching them play is much more fun than listening to them play. Most of the set consisted of jokey thrash metal numbers—robots, unsurprisingly, excel at double bass—about such things as getting stoned, Star Trek and how Glenn Beck is an asshole. There were also a handful of goofy covers like “Melt With You,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Hot, Hot, Hot.” Captured! By Robots couldn’t sustain its high concept—or indeed the audience’s full attention—for very long, but the novelty factor, and the expertly timed comedic banter between Vance and the foul-mouthed robots, made it well worth the price of admission.


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