By David Rolland
By David Rolland
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By Liz Tracy
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Three peninsular bands are making the trek to Austin next week, not to engage in psychological warfare against the newly installed dauphin of the Bush dynasty (you know, like Poppy did to Noriega) but to strut their respective stuffs at South by Southwest,the massive music-and-media conference that sends the whole town into a tizzy every March. The overcrowded but absolutely not to be missed event is usually defined by the unpredictable weather in Texas' hill country during that period: It could be toasty as a hot plate in Hades or cold and damp as a Patagonia powwow. Either way the big fiesta will seethe with cool music, long lines, and tons of yummy barbecue.
Congrats to the Groovenics, making their first visit to the conference. The rap-metal mold that has cast so many similar models over the last few years extruded this Palm Beach County combo. Good luck as well to the collegiate altpop achievers the Causey Way from Gainesville. But at this juncture Bandwidth is most enamored with the infinitely more interesting Baby Robots from Boca Raton. Led by the irrepressible Bobby Baker, Baby Robots fabricate a convoluted, often difficult, brand of postrock madness that's usually scathingly abrasive but occasionally preciously pretty. The group plants its flag on both of those poles on its latest effort, Lakitu: The Baby Robot, released on Baker's own Ant Lunch Musick label.
"It's My Bloody Valentine rip-off stuff," Baker is quick to admit. "But since they don't want to put out albums anymore, I gotta put out the fuckin' albums! Go figure."
Baker might just be Boca's busiest boy. The singer-guitarist has kept the Robots functioning in one incarnation or another since 1997 and holds membership in the crazy novelty act Mr. Entertainment and the Tiny Show as well as the twisted rowdiness of Game 4.Additionally he reports that he's fiddling with another SoFla supergroup side project called Cactus Eye Relief with Tiny Show drummer Dan Hosker and Ex-Cretins bassist Steve Johnson. In fact Baker must be constantly twiddling with something in his apartment-studio, where he keeps a suitcase full of tapes packed with his own musical experiments. "Every two or three months, I make a homemade tape and hand them out to people," he says. But as Baby Robots' visibility is on the rise, Baker is funneling most of his energy its way.
"This [version of the band] is the best one," he says, tooting his own horn so sweetly it only makes one appreciate him more. Baby Robots' new backing cast includes Johnson, Whirlaway guitarist Matt Cohen, and drummer Steve Bristol, but Baker leaves no doubt when it comes to deciding who's in charge.
"I'm the fuckin' boss," he announces. "I have the dictator thing going."
It's hard to question that philosophy when confronted with the results: In a place he readily concedes is almost hostile to a weird-music empire, Baker ekes out a nice niche for himself. Despite the fact that he has a full-time job, he crisscrosses the tricounty area almost daily rehearsing or playing shows with one band or another. This work ethic, he explains, has finally paid off with the invite to SXSW.
"I don't know what other bands down here do, but we work," he boasts. "And we don't always get the turnout I think we deserve. I go about 85 percent all the time, which is high. It's about time somebody threw this old dog a bone."
As long as Baker is capable of channeling his type A personality into something as enduring and captivatingly abrasive as Lakitu, this run of good luck he's experiencing may well continue. The Boca Pub, Baby Robots' regular digs, has always been a safe and steady place with a decent fan turnout, but the group has been performing a spate of shows around the area to prime the pump for SXSW, including shows at Miami's Tobacco Road last week and a Thursday, March 8, date at the Poor House with the Rocking Horse Winner. All this activity, Baker says, is honing the 'Bots into a noisy force to be reckoned with.
"Well, Rat Bastard would probably say, "They're not loud! They're pussies!'" laughs Baker. "But I'm into distortion and delay pedals. And we're writing songs. I think we sound great. By the end of the summer, we'll be kicking ass."
In the meantime Baker is excited about appearing at the Texas music conference. If you're out in Austin, don't miss Baby Robots, who scored an impressive slot on Wednesday, March 14, at the Buffalo Club. The band goes on at 11 p.m. "I can't get any better than a 9 p.m. slot here," Baker complains. "And I'm from here."