Thursday, February 16, 2012


I apologize in advance for there not being any Mp3s involved here for you. This is more of a narrative post but I feel as though it's important enough of an issue to stand side-by-side with Hatebreed re-recordings from Under The Knife.

As some of you may know, there is a long-standing venue in Pittsburgh called The Mr Roboto Project. The project has touted itself as bring a "cooperatively run" venue that's been an integral part of the DIY scene here for over a decade now. I personally served as a board member for the final 4 years of its existence in its original location from roughly 2006-2010 before it took a temporary leave of absence to search for a newer, "better" location.

The venue was my go-to spot for any show I was booking at the time and I spent more hours at the original spot than I'd probably like to admit. I had two relatively major shows coming up in the near future that I was planning on bringing to the Project that had recently re-opened in hopes of diversifying, supporting and introducing a new generation to a new Roboto location. Unfortunately, however, the venue and myself had a bit of a personal disagreement that has led me from moving both of my shows to a more "neutral" location. Allow me to digress to explain the relevance of this story.

The reason, in my mind, that Roboto was always so great was that is was simply just a room. There weren't really any established rules other than the rhetoical "no racism, sexism or homophobia" that has become commonplace in punk rock. In turn, the room was truly whatever you wanted to make it for the night. Whether you wanted it to be the spot for an intimate Bastard Noise show or an arena for the cheap-shot-mosh spectacle you were guaranteed to witness at a Stout show, Roboto was your place to go. I liked that. Just a room. No established guidelines on how a show had to play out. Just a room ... whatever you wanted to make of it for a night.

Now, this is only how I, personally, chose to view the space. Unfortunately this perception was never fully embraced by the entire hardcore community. You see, the people involved with running things during the first few years of Roboto took it upon themselves to lay out a moderately stringent "code of ethics" that they expected of others who wanted to partake in their club. They'll halfway admit to it in their own book they recently released, but will never fully incriminate themselves for the exclusiveness they portrayed in the formative years of the space. While I definitely felt this same alienation that prevented others from allowing themselves to attend the spot, I had already fallen in love with the "charter" that the venue had written up and handed out as membership packets. Despite both acknowledging and disagreeing with the overall aura of the venue, I was determined to not allow "them" to deter the fun and involvement I was planning on having with the space. While their actions most certainly were not representative of the promises they made to everyone in their charter, I'm the type of person who goes by the handbook and always assumed this membership packet would protect my rights as a member regardless of the personalities currently involved with the day-to-day operations of the space. I guess you could consider me a Roboto Constitutionalist.

Over time and largely in part to the unreciprocated respect shown by those who choose to spinkick, hardcore became accepted by Roboto. Whether it was because we continually proved that our shows were an asset as opposed to a liability or simply because all of the "founding members" had abandoned the space in favor of the bars and art galleries which became more fitting for their personalities and fan bases, hardcore was there and hardcore was what was paying the bills.

During the course of my tenure on the board of directors, I gradually fell out of love with the space. Perhaps this is the case with anything in life that becomes a duty as opposed to a hobby. God knows it became a certified hassle during the final two years of the original location's existence whenever Brian Gruetze and I were the only two members on the board of directors who ran the place or gave the slightest shit about the spot. Regardless, it was the moving process from the original location that truly pointed out a lot of the flaws, in my mind, of a cooperatively ran venture of any sort; not just The Mr Roboto Project itself.

Without going into the fine details of my discrepancies with how the move was handled, I made the decision that volunteering a large percentage of my time to project that valued message board accounts' opinions the same, if not moreso, than active, paying members of the actual venue was no longer worthwhile to me. I also grew to realize that sometimes in this world, some peoples' opinions are simply worth more than others'. HOWEVER, being the Roboto Constitutionalist that I am, I realized that treating everyone as an equal and tending to everyone's precious feelings and uneducated opinions is part of the game I signed up for as dictated by the membership packet. These are the guidelines of the cooperative and, in turn, I shall abide by them as a member of this project. My evolving (Warrior) philosophies no longer meshed with the ideals of a co-op by this time and that is why I chose to end my service as a board member with the closing of the original location.

Now, you see, I'm a firm believer of the "my house, my rules" concept. As stated above, I acknowledged that the guidelines set forth by the Mr Roboto Project membership packet were no longer coinciding with my own personal beliefs. Instead of trying to CHANGE THE RULES TO SUIT MY OWN BELIEFS, I simply allowed my seat on the board to become vacant to someone who could be more in-line with the concept of a cooperatively-ran venture. I happily demoted myself to the role of a "standard" member as opposed to member who was serving on the board of directors. I was happy with this role and chose to support in alternative ways considering the typical show being booked at the new location had zero interest to me. This history lesson brings us to current day.

I was recently asked to book two considerably notable bands amongst the hardcore scene; Terror and Shai Hulud respectively. While the new Roboto location was decidedly too small to allow me to even make my money back with a sold out crowd, I decided that I wanted to show a pledge of support to the new location which had been severely lacking in diversity up to this point in time, in my opinion.

It was sometime after I had already reserved my dates that it was decided that my personal conduct amongst "the community" was worthy of being brought up at the monthly Roboto Members Meeting. Without going into full detail, I have consciously made a handful of incendiary comments in recent past to several different groups of people who apparently care so much about the well-being of Roboto that they didn't even show up to the meeting in which they demanded to be held concerning my personal conduct and beliefs. Why I've chosen to battle with said groups is no one's business but my own. Regardless of what I said or why I said it, it was a situation that involved me as a person; nothing involving the shows I was promoting or the bands who were playing. Either way, my accessibility to the venue (which I nearly single-handedly ran for several years) was being called into question ... and the current board of directors had the audacity to actually hear these detractors out. I had already decided to move my shows the second I realized these people were being given the time of day.

I chose to attend the meeting with membership packet in hand. I asked for any board member to take the packet in an attempt to show me where it says within the Roboto charter that the promoter himself has to be in good-standing with other members (let alone non-members) in order to be eligible to book a show. After several unsuccessful attempts to manipulate and twist their own wording in their own pamphlet, it was agreed upon that an amendment would need to be made to their membership packet that would note that it is now the expectation of the venue that EVERY SINGLE MEMBER OF THE MR ROBOTO PROJECT BE A "PROPER" REPRESENTATIVE OF THE IDEALS AND GUIDELINES SET FORTH BY THE VENUE ITSELF.

Now, here is where I want you to pay close attention to my wording. While I firmly believe in the concept that if I'm living under "your" roof that I have to play by "your rules" ... I also find this to be entirely contradictory to the concept of a "collective". A collective, in my mind, is a culmination of the COLLECTIVE ideals of the members in which make up its core (and its bank account). If there was a screening process that dictated who and what was to be accepted amongst its prestigious members, then maybe they could better retain the image they want to project of themselves. Unfortunately, however, the only prerequisite for becoming a member to Roboto is a $15 (refundable, btw) investment into the club and a $10 yearly renewal fee. It says so right in the packet. Trust me, I read it.

Nowhere in the charter does it give the slightest mention to the personal character or integrity of the member him or herself. I'm not too sure when anyone decided (or voted) on what exactly the "code of ethics" for the new location should or shouldn't be ... but I know for sure there wasn't a meeting held on the subject like there was for me. Actually, I'm lying, I know EXACTLY who decided the new-found ethos of Roboto, when he did it and why he did it ... but I don't have the physical evidence to prove it so I'll keep it to myself. I only present subjects to you in this writing that I can back up with written documents. I digress.

My purpose in writing this is NOT to dissuade anyone from supporting this venue. This is my blog where I share my personal outlooks to those of you who think enough of me to take the time to read my thoughts and consider my opinion. If you see nothing contradictory with a collective having a prescribed code of conduct expected upon not only it's board of directors, but it's standard members as well ... then please, by all means, continue to support the club. If you're down with Roboto, then stay down with it. No sarcasm. Good for you and I wish you well in your future endeavors. I obviously think it's great that you can get a fully-inspected and legal venue with a working PA system for only $65. Roboto is great for what it is and I know that a large majority of those who are currently involved with the space will see nothing wrong with anything I've mentioned above. I'm sure most of you fall in line with the belief that everyone needs to feel "safe" at all times and in the rare event that you maybe DO find yourself in a slight disagreement with the practices or ethos of the venue that you are willing to just keep those thoughts to yourself for the convenience of having an awesome place to book your shows. If that's the case then I genuinely urge you to keep on keepin' on and supporting a place that I feel (obviously politics aside) to be the best venue in the city for small shows.

If you're like me, however, and feel as though you have a right to have your expectations and guidelines known to you and placed in writing (or, you know, genuinely voted upon by the members) ... then I urge you to be wary of the binding contract you are currently unknowingly entering into by becoming a member of Roboto or, apparently, even attending shows there. I'm not a fan of hidden charges when I buy things nor am I hidden expectations or agendas with organizations I've unknowingly been a part of for almost a decade.

As promised to the board of directors, I will not blindly trash the Mr Roboto Project nor try to convince others out of their support for the new location. I DO, however, have very strong opinions on the matter which is why I took 30 minutes out of my evening to bring up my concerns with the current hypocrisies I see between what is promised and what is done. Throughout my time I spent at the monthly meeting (where are the Minutes, by the way?), the one resolution we ("we" meaning the two or three reasonable board members and I) came to from my attendance was that as long as an amendment is put into place in an updated membership packet that CLEARLY states the expectations of the moral code of conduct from its members, then we're all good and on the same page and I will drop my qualms with the way the venue is currently being ran (as a concerned member). Knowing how long these changes in method typically take amongst quarreling cooperatives, I took it upon myself to write up my own suggestion in an attempt to speed up the process and to quell my beef zone. My suggestion is as follows:

"Jay Hart's Law

It is expected of any and all members of The Mr Roboto Project to be in relative good standing with not only the other members of the collective but also with those who may or may not be directly or indirectly involved with the space regardless of current involvement or location as it relates to The Mr Roboto Project. Membership privileges, such as renting the space, may be revoked at any time due to current moods, feelings or opinions of those not necessarily involved with the space irregardless of past contributions to The Mr Roboto Project by said member.

Each case is subject to review at our monthly members meetings."

Or something like that.

My only point that I choose to make through this entire writing (and ordeal in general) is that I simply want everyone to be on the same page. If the collective membership of Roboto had ever chosen to put the Jay Hart Law (or something similarly worded) up for a vote and it happened to pass, I would've accepted the fact that I was in the minority of the collective on the matter and, in turn, would not have deemed the venue to be an option for me to book my upcoming shows. It's really as simple as that. I don't expect the world to see things my way and I DEFINITELY would never expect the rules to be changed to suit my own personal likings (take a note, dickhead). I simply ask that we be honest with ourselves about what the REAL intentions of some of the board members are ... or maybe the club as a whole. I don't know which terminology to use because there has never been anything put through a vote or into writing about what the full expectancy of the members are.

Maybe they don't want to admit what they're after. Who knows?

Overall, as promised in my meeting, all I want or suggest for The Mr Roboto Project is to be up front about what they want or expect from their members. Not just their board of directors or the bands who play at their space (which ARE clearly defined in the charter) ... but for the simple folk who maybe just want to have a place for a band to play for the night or just someone wanting to attend the space to see an act they enjoy. While I personally think overall membership, attendance and diversity in shows will drop moderately if this amendment was ever put into writing (aka "admitted to"), I think the people who DO stand in line with what Roboto is about (still not sure what that is, exactly) will be much more happier with their club. Maybe those of us on the outskirts of said club will sleep easier at night knowing that we should simply take the club for what it is and just attend on occasion without any hopes or expectations that we will be accepted for who we are regardless of conflicting political or personal ideals. When everyone is operating under truthful circumstances, the world is a happier place. The only reason I'm currently butthurt is because I was given a false impression of what the place was unfortunately. Had I known I had to play patty cake with everyone in order to do what I wanted, I never would've been interested in the first place and I wouldn't have wasted so much time convincing other people that "Roboto's not like that".

I want to be clear on the fact that I have no ill-will towards Roboto as an entity. Some of the weasels who are using the venue to fulfill some personal issues they should probably talk to someone about ... yes. Roboto itself as an entity ... no.

I WOULD like to point something out in closing, however, that I think should be seriously considered by those of you who think everything I just said was total bullshit:

Path To Misery has never had our ideals censored at ANY christian venue we've ever played or by ANY christian band we've ever played with. I thought the christians were the bad guys who always wanted to silence opposing view points in fear of them overriding their own contradictory stances? That's what Roboto always told me, at least.