The Mr. Roboto Project is an all ages, Do It Yourself (DIY), non-profit volunteer run cooperative venue and show space in Wilkinsburg, PA. Since November 1999 it has been located in a former store front on Wood Street, near the corner of South Avenue. The structure of The Mr. Roboto Project was modeled partially after the 924 Gilman St club in Berkeley, CA, combined with elements of the East End Food Co-op in Pittsburgh, PA.
The cooperative runs on a membership basis, with its members responsible for the direction of the venue. There is a 5 person board of directors who deal with the day-to-day operations, elected of any member who wishes to run for a position. Meetings are held once a month, with both members and non-members encouraged to attend.
Early History Edit
The beginnings of what would become the Mr. Roboto Project began in 1998. At that time there were few options for all-ages, DIY punk/hardcore/indie rock shows; most of the shows at that time were done in a handful of punk houses, most notably the Peach Pitt in South Oakland. The only consistent DIY venue was the Millvale Industrial Theater (MIT), which was outside the city limits. In 1998, as the residents of the Peach Pitt began to grow weary of being the hub for punk show activity and as the scene began to grow, the idea to create a collectively-run venue in the spirit of 924 Gilman or ABC-No-Rio was hatched.
In January 1999, the first organizational meeting was held at the Peach Pitt. About 15-20 people showed up. At this meeting some of the basic structure of Roboto was formed including choosing to be set up as a cooperative with a Board of Directors rather than a strict collective. The original membership structure was decided at this meeting as well.
The name "Mr. Roboto's" was chosen as a working title. Several other ideas were originally tossed out, most having some local significance, such as "The Keystone Collective." However, in the end, most of these were poorly received by the group. As a joke, project organizer Mike Q. Roth suggested "How about we call it Mr. Roboto's?" after the Styx song and surprisingly the group decided to use it.
Over the coming months the group began a search for a location but had very little luck until late summer. During the previous year there had been a string of shows held at the Move Studio, a dance studio located in the borough of Wilkinsburg, just outside the Pittsburgh's East End. Roboto checked out the two neighboring buildings to the Move Studio and was on the verge of signing a rent-to-own agreement for the building directly next door. At this time the owner of the Move Studio expressed concern that noise from Roboto's shows would interfere with her dance studio. She recommended that the group contact the Wilkinsburg Chamber of Commerce to learn about other properties available in the area.
This lead to the group meeting up with Mark Smith, the head of the local Chamber of Commerce, and checking out an empty storefront location at 722 Wood Street. The location wasn't perfect but seemed to represent the group's best possibility. With the rent starting at $300/month plus utilities, it seemed too good to pass up. The landlord was excited about the possibility of a music venue moving into the space, however he already had another group who had dibs on the property. The future of Roboto all depended on whether or not this other group decided to rent the storefront or not. Several weeks past and Roboto then received news that the other group was not going to rent the space.
Plans were made to begin renting the storefront in November 1999. At that time Local promoter John Fail was looking for a venue for the second incarnation of his ADD Fest (an event with approximately 10 bands all playing 10 minute sets) and it was decided to make this Roboto's opening show. The event was planned for November 12, 1999. Due to some delays, members of Roboto were unable to get access to the space until November 11th. ADD Fest 2 went off without major incident the following day.