Rockin’ robots control the show at Whiskey Dick’s | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Rockin’ robots control the show at Whiskey Dick’s

Tim Parsons

Ibot's wound will not be apparent at Friday's Whiskey Dick's Saloon performance by Captured! By Robots. "For the rock tour I had to expose my midriff so luckily it's healed," Ibot said. "Would Robert Plant wear a full shirt? Hell no."

He carried a trombone to school when he was a fourth-grader. The instrument was heavy and awkward to hold. When his hands ached with pain, he’d set it down and rest.

He’s nearly 40 years old now, “and nothing’s changed. I’m still carrying this giant weight around. It’s the Sisyphusian experience.”

The man behind Captured! By Robots who calls himself Ibot travels the country in a van loaded with a ton of machinery. His band – one human and five robots – plays classic rock ‘n’ roll. A recently completed nationwide tour “Bring Forth the Rock” uses a metaphor from Greek mythology. Sisyphus was sentenced by gods to forever roll a giant rock up a mountain, a task not unlike the two to three hours it takes every night to set up a show.

“It’s computers that are powered by compressed air,” Ibot said. “There’s quite a bit of power behind that. It’s a huge job. I feel like I’m constantly like Sisyphus pushing a bolder up a hill for eternity and rolling one down after every show, and then I’ve got to do it again.”

Captured! By Robots plays its first show at Whiskey Dick’s Saloon in about four years on Friday, June 10. Ibot had trouble locating a place to plug in the compressor the last time.

“Every time I go to a club I have to diagram their power,” he said. “They will have a breaker box with all the power in it but nothing has diagrams on it. Nothing says where circuits are. I never trust anybody to tell me where they have a dedicated circuit. I just need a 20 amp circuit with nothing else on it. In the past I used to trust people when they would say that. But people don’t know. They have no idea.”

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Ibot lives in the East Bay town El Cerrito, where he has a garage in which he experiments with small motors and other devises.

The nationwide tour was successful but, with gas costing more than $4 a gallon, hardly lucrative.

“It’s a great way to tour and it’s a horrible way to tour,” he said. “The crazy drives. From promoters being fools to idiots in the crowd to soundmen who are angry at me for some reason because we’re in some hippie bar and we’re playing metal to the drunk people in the front of the crowd who throw drinks on me. So it feels like I’m constantly in a battle. But it could be worse. I could be in a band of humans.”

Before becoming Ibot, the musician played in conventional human-filled bands.

“It just got so old, so fast,” he said. “The egos and the drug use and drummers starting songs in the wrong tempo so we all have to follow this guy who is on speed. Showing up wasted. Imagine writing an article with six people giving you advice how to write the article. It’s brutal.”

But Ibot also has a strained relationship with his robots, who heckle him and the audience during shows. But they can find common ground.

“Robots don’t like emo bands and I don’t like them either,” he said. “So that’s one thing that we can agree on.”

A Captured! By Robots show includes comedy, and Ibot has even thought about performing as a standup comic. But definitely not a prop comic. Enough with the Sisyphus stuff.

“I can’t bitch too much because I made my own destiny,” he said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. When people watch these robots play, their mouths just open. They just can’t believe it because they’ve just gotten so good. They play so fast and precise.”

And the robots look to be running things.

“Every time I fill up the gas tank, every time I have to fix the ape’s mouth again, every time one of the robots falls on me and causes me to hemorrhage, that is being captured,” he said.