This weekend... Captured! By Robots at Bottom of the Hill
In shackles and chains, a bug-eyed bondage mask, and a white T-shirt with fake guts spilling out, Jason Vance, creator/frontman/captive of the metal group Captured! By Robots, ended the band’s ten-year-anniversary tour Saturday night with a finale at Bottom of the Hill.
The story of C!BR -- if you’ve never heard it -- goes like this: After getting fed up with playing in bands like Shakin’ Pickle and the Blue Meanies, Vance decided to build a band of robots to play his music. But the robots revolted, installing a “biocerebral chip” in his brain and re-christening him JBOT. Thus, Vance has spent the past decade as the robots’ prisoner, submitting as they force him to tour with them and play their songs.
The non-human members of C!BR include: GTRBOT666, DRMBOT0110, Automatom, The Ape Which Hath No Name, The Son of the Ape Which Hath No Name, and the Headless Hornsmen. Together with JBOT they create a loud metal-infused comedic spectacle, which, if it won’t make dance, will surely bring a smile to your face, and probably a giggle.
The band played a variety of songs from their previous theme tours, including the Ten Commandments, Star Trek, and Get Fit With. During “Abs of Steel” -- which evoked memories of Richard Simmons -- Vance asked for audience participation. I won’t lie -- I couldn’t resist the around-the-worlds, and when he came down to the floor to join the audience in the work-out, I had more fun than I’ve had since “Shape up With Mary Hart.”
But the highlight of the night was definitely a cover of Journey’s “Midnight Train.” The audience sang along sincerely before breaking into a mad mosh pit, which abated only after a tossed cup of beer took a wreckless few to the ground.
Though the music itself is not quite spectacular, you have to appreciate the amount of effort that goes into creating a C!BR show. The Herculean task of setting up had Vance in a sweat even before the band took the stage. But watching the robots move as they talk and sing and play their own instruments is mind-boggling, especially when you consider Vance constructed each robot from tractor machinery and bicycle parts.
The opening act was another of Vance’s creations, a duo of robo-bears called the Teddy Bear Orchestra. Singing little ditties like “Please Don’t Throw me Away,” and “I like Milk, I Like Whiskey,” they were almost un-bear-ably cute.
The breathing opening acts were better. San Francisco’s Kehoe Nation put on an impressive country-fringed rock performance. The crowd ate it up when Frontman Bryan Kehoe busted out some one-handed guitar. Then he followed it up by playing a solo with -- yes, ladies -- his tongue.
And who could forget the Gun and Doll Show, a seven-piece rock ensemble whose music is as seamless as its costume changes. Between-song switches (from cowgirls to cheerleaders to punk rockers, and more) were executed so smoothly you had to concentrate not to miss them. And they gave away free CDs in exchange for an email address. Can’t beat that.
Personal Bias: I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Anti-Robot Militia.
Random Detail: The Gun and Doll Show’s performance left an amp smoking onstage.
By the way: C!BR does weddings.