Writing in the Pittsburgh City Paper, Bill O’Driscoll recounts the origins of The Mr. Roboto Project and its lasting influence in Pittsburgh’s homegrown music community:
Active between 1999 and 2010, the cooperatively run, volunteer-operated music venue occupied a Wilkinsburg storefront, where it mostly featured shows by local and touring underground punk bands. It hosted audiences of only about 100, and the place ran on a shoestring: Because the shows were all-ages, there were no alcohol sales. Yet Roboto was culturally significant out of all proportion to its size and resources.
This history is told in Building a Better Robot, a new book offering a retrospective on Roboto’s first ten years in words and pictures, analyzing the successes and failures, and providing inspiration and insight to a new generation of activists and artists looking to create their own spaces. The book was supported in part by a Seed Award.
Building a Better Robot
is a self-published, large-format paperback, created by Roboto stalwarts Roth, Andy Mulkerin and Missy Wright, with funding from The Sprout Fund. Mulkerin, who is City Paper’s
music editor, wrote the even-handed prose documenting Roboto’s history. Five Roboto regulars contribute short essays, and there’s a brief roundtable by four female Roboto members about gender issues in the male-dominated scene.
Meanwhile, some 130 of the book’s 192 pages are devoted to photos, mostly of concerts. These churning arrays of circle-pitters, fist-pumpers and flying-leapers were captured by photographers including Wright, Shawn Brackbill and Tanner Douglass. Accompanying the photos are oral-history testimonies recalling everything from great and terrible shows to Roboto’s legendary iced-tea-chugging contests. Also included: a DVD featuring songs (and some video) by 37 local bands that played Roboto.
Read O’Driscoll’s full review at the Pittsburgh City Paper.