Captured! By Robots
The Annex; New York, NY

[11-03-2007]

What do you get when a super nerd builds his own band? Captured! By Robots.

I didn’t know it was possible to have a one-man band if there were up to nine other “people” playing instruments. Captured! By Robots is Jay Vance, or J-Bot, with the best backup band a person who built the band could have. J-Bot definitely has DIY ethics; the band was constructed when he realized he couldn't stand playing with other real people. Each machine has a specific purpose: there is GTRBOT666 that plays a double necked flying-V guitar/bass, DRMBOT 0110 that plays drums, and the headless horn section that... well this could get tedious.

The story as I understand it is that J-Bot was captured by robots and forced to wear chains and perform with them on a nightly basis. The whole system is wired together and uses air hoses to make the looming machines move. Controls were built into each robot to make it talk through a switchboard on Jay’s guitar. As each of them talk, the eyes glow and move their mouths, as a creepy, mechanical voice argues with J-Bot.

As the band was being set up on this night of its 2007 “Dubya” Fall Tour, the crowd was welcomed by Neil Diamond's "Coming to America" as well as "America, Fuck Yeah" from Team America: World Police. It was only halfway through the show before I realized it was a rock opera about the Bush administration. Every robot was equipped with a new identity: Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Wolf Blitzer, Nancy Pelosi, Saddam Hussein, the Presidential Hopeful Horn Section, and J-Bot as George W. Bush. Nothing gets me going like a good night of poorly done political satire created by kick-ass robots. Banter between J-Bot and the robots consisted of Cheney wanting to shoot someone in the face and Rice professing her love for Bush. These were cute jokes when they were topical, but it is a little tired now, and the hit-you-over-the-head satire was a little much.

Remarkably, however, the band members aren’t just for show; they play the instruments they were built with. Although they are all machines, each song breathes life into the objects, and they become just as animated as their only living member. Nothing stands still throughout the entire performance. Even when not actually playing a part, the horn section sways back and forth in an erratic fashion, leaning back with each horn blast.

The show featured a mix of everything from thrash-metal to dub reggae, and, admittedly, it is hard not to be enthralled by a guy in chains playing hard rock with a pneumatic band. Songs held together as J-Bot put down his guitar at times, jumped off the stage, and ran into the crowd while the band continued to pulsate. At the end of the show, the crowd pushed forward to try and shake hands with the mechanical instruments.

Despite the flaws of the 2007 “Dubya” tour, I would recommend people see CBR; it is a truly unique experience. This band could easily be written off as a novelty act, but they held my attention from the moment they became alive. The only novelty that should be written off is the annoying rock-against-Bush theme, as no matter what, we have to live with him until January 2009 -- or until he is Captured! By Robots.

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