{ Go Down Fighting, Come Up Smiling }
Jay Miller

album coverIt's always good to have an idea, but it's far greater to have others behind you to validate it. Not only does it make you feel like a big shot, but it's also terribly comforting to know you aren't alone. For example, I've been trying to convince others for a very long time that it must be damn cool to live in Canada. While I don't have much experience with the culture—other than the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Show (late nights on Sundays)—it seems that everybody's either drunk or getting drunk, and that life up there is one continuous party, like college without crippling student loan payments. You'd have to live under a rock to think that's not the sweet life, and, sure, even with Canada's freezing temperatures, it's more than worth it. There really must be a "Rainbow in Toronto", at least as far as I know.
   While my ideas may not help anybody but myself, the good lads and lasses at the Mr. Roboto Project have a clear understanding of the power of unity and group cohesion. Together since the late '90s, these fighters have managed to build a successful cooperative with a simple goal: to provide a venue for music, art, and literature that is most likely either too radical for mainstream consumption or too specialized to stand up on its own. Committed to indie ideals set up by their forefathers (check out Michael Azzerad's Our Band Could be Your Life), the Roboto folks let anyone join the Project for a small fee. Members can use the Wilkinsburg space to their liking as long as they're out by 10:30 p.m. This is both a testament to the functionality of the Do-It-Yourself ethic and a successful display of camaraderie that confronts a miserable citywide problem—in this case the lack of venues and alternative voices—and provides a sensible solution, regardless of the business aspects (i.e. profit margins) that often dilute lesser ventures.
   Despite Roboto's unchanging manifesto, this success has given it the opportunity to expand into the mighty world of alternative literature: the collective is trying to establish a physical home for "The Big Idea", a fascinating archive/infoshop that extends the Roboto treatment to the printed word and will carry a selection of independent books, zines, and the like. Since the costs for such an endeavor are enormous, Hard Travelin' records (an independent label of course) has just released the benefit compilation Go Down Fighting, Come up Smiling, a title that hits close to home considering the odds of any venue succeeding on a grassroots level (R.I.P., Millvale Industrial Theater).
   This compilation spans a gigantic but enjoyable twenty-nine tracks from twenty-seven indie stalwarts that are either involved directly with the collective or are dedicated supporters of its ideas. In the great Roboto fashion, everyone involved benefits; both the bands and the new bookstore will get valuable exposure, much more so than if each party worked on its own. Not only does this collaboration reap the fruits of Roboto's labor, but it also demonstrates the commitment these bands have towards the independent music scene and its many "Big Ideas."
   Most importantly, this li'l shiny disc serves as a quick guide to the cutting-edge bands of Pittsburgh's underground rock scene. While a large percentage of them play fast 'n' loud hardcore punk, the disc is fortunately peppered with (relatively) softer tracks that makes it a good mix for almost any occasion. The real gems in this collection range stylistically from hip hop (Grand Buffet, the Hip Criticals) and post rock (Creta Bourzia, Pikadori, [the] Control Group[pe], Microwaves) to ambient music (Arco Flute Foundation), power driven, balls-out rock (Io, Choke City, the Modey Lemon), and whatever it is the Blissful Idiots do.
   Not only is every track exclusive to this collection, but, most importantly, each demonstrates the dynamite talent and range of creativity that lurks inside Pittsburgh's garages. The fun doesn't end there, however. In addition to the disc proper, Go Down Fighting includes a resourceful forty-page book that neatly and effectively explains the Roboto/Big Idea concept, with lyrics, prose, and other information to stimulate your brain as much as your booty.
   It's obvious that the music venues of Pittsburgh's oft-limping indie scene are just as important as the bands—either would not exist without the other. This compilation provides a way for you to support both (and with twenty-nine monster tracks for five paltry bucks, there's little excuse for you not to buy it.) But all monetary value and scene-saving interests aside, Go Down Fighting is an important showcase of indie-dedicated bands doing the most daring music in Pittsburgh.

Go Down Fighting, Come Up Smiling is available at Paul's Compact Discs in Bloomfield.

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