Prodigal machines 

The return of Captured! By Robots

A guy beams with avuncular pride. A guy does.

When Captured! By Robots first came to Missoula in 2001, five years after human hostage JBOT first started building the automata that would eventually enslave him, the press release that preceded his arrival was made up almost entirely of articles clipped from local newsweeklies like this one. Plus a bunch of random mentions seemingly cut out of regional equivalents of Tidbits and The Thrifty Nickel. Altruists that we are, we pasted a very nice interview with JBOT onto this promotional chain letter and sent him back on his way, though his heart was still filled with despair at the punishment visited upon him for meddling with robots.

Now it’s two years later, and how the times have changed. JBOT (aka Jay Vance) and his ever-expanding cohort of robotic masters have apparently arrived at an uneasy peace with one another. Resistance proved futile after all, and what began as a Planet of the Apes-style struggle for human liberation (only with robots for apes) has mellowed into a cantankerous but mostly stable marriage. They still threaten to kill him between songs, but perhaps more affectionately than in the past.

JBOT’s adopted robot family also seems to grow between each visit to Missoula (the upcoming show will be either the fourth or fifth at Jay’s), with the robots now having babies of their own, and JBOT himself tinkering away with renewed Promethean zeal at new additions. Like a horn section: the Headless Hornsmen. The tiny Jay’s stage is getting pretty crowded these days. It’s like—sniff—it’s like we’ve watched Captured! By Robots grow up!

And so while we at the Independent can truthfully make no extravagant claims about having helped Captured! By Robots “make it” in the music business, we can at least beam with shared satisfaction when we see some of the articles by other writers at much bigger publications (like Spin) that make up the C!BR press kit these days. The most impressive item isn’t even an article at all—it’s one of those neat-o spot illustrations that you see on the club listings page in the New Yorker, an arresting collage of caricatures of JBOT and his bandmates DRMBOT and GTRBOT and Ape Which Hath No Name. Yes, Captured! By Robots have their very own New Yorker illustration. Now that’s prestige, second only to having one of those faux-woodcut portrait thingies in the Wall Street Journal.

It doesn’t have anything to do with us, really, but it still makes us kind of proud. The best part is that Captured! By Robots don’t just get bigger with every visit to Missoula, they also get better. The music hasn’t exactly evolved as rapidly as some might have hoped, but it is improving steadily, and anyway give the guy a break—you try building your own robot band, and see if you can make it play like Return to Forever. At any rate, the music of Captured! By Robots is strictly secondary to the spectacle. Seeing the incredible amount of work that has gone into the robot-building—and trying to grasp how Jay Vance makes it all work—is an experience you won’t soon forget.

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