Recently, a friend and I attended a very special concert in the city of Guelph, Ontario. That being, The Cybertronic Spree at GenreCon!
Who is / are The Cybertronic Spree? First off, if the word "Cybertron" is familiar to you, it might be because it is related to the Transformers, as in the giant robots who you either know from the Michael Bay movies, the 1980's cartoon, or both. Personally, I've never watched any of the Michael Bay movies, because they look horrible, even though I've been reassured that they're "not that bad". I'm more a fan of the 1980's cartoon, being a child of the '80's, and being obsessed with Transformers toys and cartoons in general as I was. In fact, one time I even robbed a bunch of newspaper machines when I was 11 and spent all of the loot on Transformers toys, but I digress…
But that doesn't really answer the question, does it? Who *are* The Cybertronic Spree? Well, its a band that bases their look and sound off of the 1986 movie, Transformers The Movie. This movie, if you haven't seen it, is awesome, and it has a killer soundtrack. That is, if you like sort of over the top '80's arena rock and a little bit of Weird Al thrown in, which I personally do enjoy both!
If you were a kid in the '80's and watched the Transformers cartoon show, when the official movie came out, it was a big deal! The budget was bigger than for the regular cartoon, but, unlike these days, it seemed like they actually put the budget to good use with Transformers The Movie, rather than squander it on a bunch of crappy effects. In this case, they spent it on voice talent, animation, and music. The point being, I've watched the 1986 movie too many times to count, and know it basically by heart. Again, fuck the Michael Bay shit.
Hence, this is what brought me to the concert in Guelph on February 3rd. The Cybertronic Spree were playing at GenreCon and me and my friend each had a ticket. We are both big geeks in general, being into anime, comics, video games, etc, and so we were both interested to see how this show was going to go down. By the way, I showed my one DJ friend a clip of the Cybertronic Spree prior to the show to see if he wanted to come, and his response was "This sounds like Loverboy!" which, in his case, translates into "No." Personally, I like Loverboy, but I wasn't about to argue with him. So, anyway, he didn't join us.
So, we show up to the venue at about 9 or so, effectively missing the convention part of the event. Indeed, the con was wrapping up, with people kind of milling about the Holiday Inn where the event was held, and a group of girls in cosplay practicing their dance moves as if to remind me where I was. I always like the Holiday Inn atmosphere. You can smell the pool and there's always a few people hanging around regardless of the time of day or night. We sat down and had a drink and some fries. I was wondering - where is this concert at, anyway?
Turns out it was in this sort of private event room off to the side, lit by purple-ish light. At around 10, we went in, and it wasn't too long before the show started, as indicated by the theme to Terminator, which seemed appropriate. The Cybertronic Spree entered from a backstage area the way bands do, except here they were in full costume. There were quite a few bots coming our way, including Hot Rod, Arcee, Soundwave, Rumble, Quintesson, Bumblebee, Unicron, and even a human - Spike! It kind of reminded me of a much cuter version of Gwar (who I also enjoy).
The room that The Cybertronic Spree emerged into from backstage was a medium size, with an upper level and a lower one, separated by a small flight of stairs. Obviously this is where they have things like seminars, or wedding-type events, for the most part. In this case, the vibe of this normally drab room instantly changed into one of throw-up-the-devil-horns rock.
The Cybertronic Spree wasted no time in getting down to what they were there to do - kick out the jams. After a short intro from the band, they launched into, I believe, "The Touch", which is an epic '80's power ballad written by Stan Bush that I think was supposed to be used for the Stallone movie, Cobra, but ended up on the Transformers The Movie Soundtrack. In a way, its a center piece of the movie, but it also made for a good lead off to the show. It got things rockin' and people were into it right away.
Rather than give you a track by track run-down of the show, I will just say that The Cybertronic Spree knew their shit, and played all of the key tracks from the soundtrack that people wanted to hear, including "Dare", "Instruments Of Destruction", and "Nothing's Gonna Stand In Our Way". I don't think they played every song off the soundtrack, but I didn't really expect them to anyway, since some of the tracks, like the "Death of Optimus Prime" is just going to make people cry. Although, I will say that I was very pleased when they played "Attack On Autobot City", which I don't think is even on the soundtrack. Its an instrumental, but its awesome.
In terms of putting on an actual show, I think the band did a great job with this! There were a couple of Transformers who joined in with the crowd, dancing and bopping, which quickly got others into the mood. Being a show full of geeks revelling in their natural environment, so it didn't take much to get everyone to boogie down - except me, I prefer to stand in the shadows and take it in.
Since the clearly band knew the material, the playing aspect of the show was never really in question at any point. Unicron knew how to rip a mean solo, and everyone else was clearly quite competent, especially with this catalogue of songs. I have to say, Arcee can really wail, and having her there to hit some of the higher notes was awesome, as she got right into it. Rumble seemed to be the right guy to have on drums. The band was clearly having fun both with the crowd and each other, and the crowd definitely reciprocated.
If there were any drawbacks to me, I guess it would be some of the other non-Transformers songs they played, such as the Pokemon theme song, or the Raccoons theme song. I just wasn't really into those songs, as I'm not a Pokemon or Raccoons fan, but, as a musician myself, I can obviously see how those types of songs blend into the set nicely. I was psyched when they played the Ghostbusters theme, because I must admit I love me some Ray Parker Jr.
All in all, it was a cool show and I'd definitely check them out again, if they came back to town. The band played for just the right amount of time, too. They didn't overstay their welcome but they played a couple of encore songs, and the crowd was eating it up. Once the show ended, the band came back and signed autographs and such. I said hi to Hot Rod, and my friend grabbed some sick merch. Then we headed out into the cold Canadian winter night, our inner Transformers fans quite happy!
YTMS Interview With The Cybertronic Spree
Time: 9:05pm / Date: February 12th, 2017 / Location: The Web
YTMS: Hello, Cybertronic Spree! With whom am I speaking today?
Rumble: I am Rumble. I am always Rumble. When I am not Rumble, I am a cassette. But I am still Rumble.
YTMS: Oh, ok.
Rumble: And you are Young Coconut!
YTMS: Yes, so they say. You've probably been asked this before, but since you're a robot I doubt the repetition will bother you. How did you get into this rock thing?
Rumble: Hotrod asked me to join his band. I had nothing else going on. So I said yes. Repetition is find with me. It is the foundation of rock music. It is also FINE with me.
YTMS: Nice that you could all overcome your various alliances to rock for the common good.
Rumble: Putting smiles on the faces of flesh creatures is more important than smashing each other in the face with our fists. For now!
YTMS: Commendable! And you are the drumming unit?
Rumble: Yes. I play the drums.
YTMS: Err.. that was a statement, not question. I knew you played the drums.
Rumble: That is okay. I confirm that statement.
YTMS: Cool, and you prefer this to trashing autobrats?
Rumble: I like to shake things up. Cause a ruckus. That's why they wanted me for drummer and not, say, keyboard player. Because I would just smash the keyboard.
YTMS: Never been tempted to re-arrange Hot Rod's optics?
Rumble: He's all right, if you ask me. Which you did. I don't want to fight him. He's a cool bot. We have an understanding, being in the rhythm section together. We are the Rhythm Nation of the band.
YTMS: Yeah, I think I saw him with a bass.
Rumble: Your eyes are fully functional.
YTMS: It was hazy…But all of this merry making is preferable to the old times when you were at war constantly with everyone?
Rumble: I recall no atmospheric anomalies that evening. Yes. It is fun to not have to get beaten up. You may not recall this, but I am small. I would often get beaten up. Even by Spike, who is a human.
YTMS: Yeah, i do recall a few scrapes n' such. But you were fairly surly back then.. maybe the music has mellowed you out a bit? …Or just shifted the focus of your anger.
Rumble: I think it has just shifted the focus. I am still surly. I am still a Decepticon. I still get angry. But now I have focus.
YTMS: Do you still dip into the energon now and then or are you trying out some new diet?
Rumble: OH WE HIT THE ENERGON HARD!
YTMS: Oh.. i didn't know that! Is that all.. just straight energon or do you mix it up? I heard you drink other things now.. earth drinks.
Rumble: It depends what it is. I like it straight up. Earth drinks are great!
YTMS: Whiskey sours…
Rumble: Now you're talking! Did you come say hello to us after the show, Young Coconut? We like to meet the fans, throw a few back with them after the show. Get to know them a little bit.
YTMS: I said hi to Hot Rod. I was thinking of booking you guys for an event.
Rumble: Oh you gotta talk to the manager for that. I don't deal with bookings. I just show up and hit things.
YTMS: We heard there were some parties after the show at the hotel. In fact, they told us there were.. We should have stayed! We would have liked to get shitfaced with you guys. I mean you never know when that kind of thing will happen again. Or was it back to the moonbase right away?
Rumble: We didn't stay for any after parties this time. That human expression sounds so dirty.
YTMS: I hope you don't mind if I lavish a few compliments on you, but that was some tight drumming.
Rumble: We had a stopover at a storage facility and had to rebuild our studio. We bring a lot of things from our studio to shows. Then we need to make sure it all gets set up again. I don't mind. Thank you. It is hard to play human instruments. But we try.
YTMS: Ah, ol' jam hall. Gotta stay limber…and yet tight. Its a balance, I know…
Rumble: I grease my joints regularly. What piece of music did you enjoy the best from the show?
YTMS: And boy, that Arcee can really belt it out! Like I was saying to uhh.. Merchbot, I thought Attack on Autobot City was a highlight.
Rumble: She's got an excellent audio replicator. That is a fun track. I know all the words. What else would you like to know about the band?
YTMS: Ah, I do have a few more questions.
Rumble: By all means, ask away.
YTMS: I was wondering… Do you plan to record anything anytime soon? Or is this strictly a live thing?
Rumble: We have recorded a lot of things. We have some songs in some state of completion. We put videos on YouTube. We have some stuff on Bandcamp. We are mostly known as a party band - Cybertron's premier party band - but we also have some stuff coming out for you to enjoy at home. There will be more videos.
YTMS: Are you planning on doing any original stuff recording-wise or live? Most of the stuff was from the soundtrack to your documentary.
Rumble: Yes. We have played original stuff live already, but did not have the time to play any at the last show. Yes, the kids love that documentary. It is very educational!
YTMS: It certainly was. I was a small boy when I learned about you. So this original stuff of yours.. is it still in the same flavor as the classics, and how to you propose to work it into to overall set?
Rumble: I am not in charge to placing the music into the set. As for what it sounds like… I am not sure. It sounds like the 1980s. But it also sounds like right now. There are keyboard solos, drum solos, guitar solos, and lots of awesome vocals. They are songs, you could say.
YTMS: So when can fans expect to hear any of that? Just attend the shows and wait for it?
Rumble: It is a safe bet that by the spring time there will be some more original compositions in the live shows.
YTMS: What's your current touring schedule look like?
Rumble: We like to play conventions. We love the crowds and the energy. We are planning on hitting the United States soon. That should be fun.
YTMS: So, more touring, more songs, etc…nice! So just out of curiosity, you are a band for hire is that right? Were you asked to play at Trump's inauguration ball?
Rumble: We are a band for hire, for your entertainment needs. I do not know what that is.
YTMS: Oh, its nothing.. disregard…
Rumble: We have never played ball before.
YTMS: You clearly have more important things to do than worry about balls.
Rumble: We only like Pokeballs.
YTMS: Were you surprised that Quintesson was so proficient at the tickling the keys?
Rumble: Not at all, because Quintesson has five brains. I would be worried if Quintesson couldn't do something.
YTMS: That's true.. as long as they all work together. Are you going to try to recruit any new bots into the band at all?
Rumble: I think they do. One of the faces stares at me all set though. It is kinda creepy.
YTMS: I guess you take the good with the bad in that case.
Rumble: It is not an active recruitment situation but if someone were to die we would look to replace them. I don't know how Bumblebee snuck in…
YTMS: Some of the other bots like Jazz might have some skills.. maybe he actually knows jazz. Or did he get blown up? I can't remember. …Yeah, I was surprised to see Bumblebee gyrating so much.
Rumble: Jazz is fine. Jazz might know jazz but that wouldn't go with the band. Jazz can start a jazz band if he wants! Haha! I try to ignore the dancing. It is distracting.
YTMS: I was not sure what to think about Bumblebee.. all that bopping around.. I thought of him more as a.. rigid type of bot - not really a dancer.
Rumble: This band seems to defy some expectations ? Yeah, it does challenge some perceptions.
YTMS: Ok, I don't want to keep you much longer. I don't really want to anger you.
Rumble: You should maybe ask one last thing.
YTMS: Do you or the band have any personal short term goals you would want fans to know about?
Rumble: Yeah! We want to play New York Comic Con. And I want a big drum riser. I also want to thank all the fans for liking the band and all the fun comments. They are great!
YTMS: When is New York Comic Con?
Rumble: It's in the Earth month of October!
YTMS: Being so diminutive, you probably could use a riser with some lights.
Rumble: AND LASERS!
YTMS: Yeah.. well, you guys are putting on a hell of a show. I hear that Stan Bush enjoys your playing as well. He's one of earth's most important humans.
Rumble: Earth President Stan Bush. Thanks so much, Young Coconut!
YTMS: You are welcome! Thanks for taking the time.
Rumble: Till All Are One! Thank you for the interview and the questions. I hope you have a good night.
YTMS: Alright, have a peaceful evening. Try not to destroy things…
Rumble: I MAKE NO PROMISES!
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