Like many venues, the volunteer-run space The Mr. Roboto Project was hit hard by the pandemic. But, with an idea from a local booking agent, artists are coming together through a series of compilation albums to help save a venue where they were given the opportunity to play through the years.
Brett Shumaker, who runs local booking agency Don’t Let the Scene Go Down on Me!, which has worked closely with the Roboto Project, is the mastermind behind The Mr. Roboto Project Benefit Compilation
. The album is geared towards directly helping the Roboto Project with bills and rent. The latest compilation, The Mr. Roboto Project Benefit Compilation Vol. 3
, was released on Bandcamp
on Nov. 6, featuring singles from 19 different musicians.
The Roboto Project is a volunteer-run DIY venue with the goal of creating a safe space for the Pittsburgh art community. Normally, the venue pays their rent and other bills through the money earned from hosting shows, but they’ve been struggling as live shows have been canceled for most of the year.
Shumaker, who joined the Roboto Project board of directors in 2015, has seen what a damper the pandemic has put onto the venue. He knew he wanted to help them stay afloat during this time of need.
“Roboto means a lot to me,” says Shumaker. "I've booked more shows there than any other venue in the city. It's a completely volunteer-run venue that's been around for 21 years. With so many venues struggling and closing up recently, I wanted to do my part to help it stick around.”
Shumaker’s way of helping stems back to his youth. For him, it goes even further than just helping a good cause; it’s also about showcasing various musicians in an old school way.
“I've always loved compilations,” says Shumaker. “Going to the mall as a kid and buying as many cheap punk compilation CDs as I could was a big way of how I found new bands. These in particular are special to me especially because I've been able to include lots of friends. In addition to helping Roboto, I hope someone finds a new band they like.”
The previous two volumes were released in May and July, and the feedback has been consistent as listeners flock to help out the close-knit community venue.
“I wasn't sure what to expect, but people seem to be enjoying them and I think a lot of people share my sentiment of wanting Roboto to stick around,” says Shumaker.
Each compilation features a plethora of artists from different alternative music backgrounds, with the most recent compilation featuring the Homeless Gospel Choir, Drauve, Fuck Yeah, Dinosaurs!, and more. One thing all the artists do have in common is their experience with the Roboto Project.
“I made a list, that is still growing, of bands that have played at Roboto that I thought might be into the idea and just started emailing them,” says Shumaker. “I wanted artists that have played at Roboto whether local or on tour that in my mind capture the vibe of the space.”
This isn’t the end for the compilations, either. With the uncertainty of the future for local venues, Shumaker already has plans to continue helping the Roboto Project for as long as he can.
“Who knows when we'll be able to have live shows again,” says Shumaker. “I'm already planning the next one that will hopefully come out in December.”