Building a Better Robot: 10 Years of the Mr. Roboto Project: Created by Andy Mulkerin, Mike Q. Roth, and Missy Wright with Dan Bidwa, and Art By M.Avrg

More and more punk is getting documented and collected into books than ever before. I’ve pretty much stopped buying any new book on the early U.K./NYC punk scenes, as those stories have been told and told and told some more. To the point, I think we all know it now. What I’m more interested in these days is the books that stray off the usual. It doesn’t have to be old stuff, and, in the case of this book, it’s somewhat recent. I’ll let you know right now, time for me is mashed up and stirred around, so a decade seems like a year ago. Looking at this book, a lot of it seems like not that long ago, until I stop to consider what ever became of some of the bands featured within and the trends that cycled through.

The Mr. Roboto Project was a show space on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, PA. It was pretty much a storefront that held all-ages punk shows. A band I was in a few years back toured the East Coast with Total Fury. Mr. Roboto was the second stop on our tour. For some reason, the inside reminded me of a church more than a business, and I remember there was a basement underneath. The show went pretty well. My band was met with a tepid response, but the crowd went berserk for Total Fury. Caustic Christ were awesome and incredibly cool. All said and done, my experience there was positive. Seeing this book, I definitely get the sense of a community that formed around the space. Sprinkled among the photos are anecdotes on shows there and how the space came together. It does a great job of explaining what the DIY community was like at the time, and is still (somewhat) like.

The bulk of the book is photos of bands who played there, as well as individuals involved in some shape or form. The quality of photos vary from photographer to photographer, but you do get a lot of the crowd in most shots, which usually makes for an exciting shot. Check out the Warzone Womyn and The Endless Blockade photos for good examples. One I find interesting is of the singer from Gray Ghost—some of the crowd is behind him and none of them are looking in his direction at all.

A short list of bands featured in here are: Aphasia, Arab On Radar, Castle, Pink And Brown, The Locust, Engine Down, Brain Handle, Suburban Death Machine, Kim Phuc, Annihilation Time, Hatred Surge, and more, many I have never heard of, and that’s not a putdown. Furthermore, to illustrate the level of documentation that went on, at the back is a complete list of all the shows that have happened at the space. All of this comes with a DVD that has songs and video from Pittsburgh bands as well. More scenes need to document themselves! –M.Avrg (The Roboto Project, therobotoproject.org/book)