No Camera, No Problem / by Ben Matzke

Hey guys,

This weekend capped off what was a very busy week of robots. It was my 6th or 7th year helping out at the Pittsburgh FIRST robotics competition regional and was by far one of the smoothest I have run. After taking most of Sunday off from just about everything, I got to see Shpongle at Mr. Smalls opened by Dust Dwellers and it really made a nice end to the hectic week/weekend.

FIRST Pittsburgh Regional

For these competitions, I've sort of settled into the Field Supervisor role since I've been doing it for the last 5 or 6 years or so. Basically it's my job to keep the competition field running smoothly and efficiently and keep everything on time. Having had little time to research this year's game ahead of time, practice day was a little rough getting everything sorted out. Fortunately, we had some really awesome volunteers who were able to stick around all 3 days and be total rockstars making my job very very easy. I even got some time to sit down and nab some pictures.

This was also our first time at the California University of Pennsylvania venue about an hour south of Pittsburgh and it was a really big change from the Petersen event center on at U Pitt that it has normally been held at. Both are used as Basketball courts, but Cal U has a removable floor that when taken out just leaves a clean smooth concrete floor making it a very nice area for many pits and a nice flat field. The floor space was much larger overall giving us room for more teams, but it was a bit narrower which forced us to close off some pathways that we normally had and the field flow was a very different than we usually ran. All-in-all though, it was a great venue if a little isolated from the civilization that Pittsburgh gave us.

Shpongle at Mr. Smalls

Unfortunately, because of the regional, I had to miss out on Wilkinson at the Elks. I'm super bummed, but the 40 minute drive each way would really have eaten into my already sad amount of sleep... being a key person at an event like that can be rough, but oh so fun! To make up for it. I joined my friends at the Shpongle show at Mr. Smalls in Millvale. I'd only been to Mr. Smalls once or twice before for They Might Be Giants, so I was pretty excited to see a new group there. They had done a lot of construction to the place since I'd last been there and it's really becoming an awesome venue.

In a word, Shpongle himself was an experience and Desert Dwellers as an opener made for some really good synergy. The opening was very slow and set the mood for the night. Very atmospheric and very Chill. I wish these guys were at Equinox for the chill stage, would have been a great mix. Their very chill start slowly accelerated into a taste of what was to come. The whole set was nice and relaxing after my long week and got me ready for the Shpongletron stage. When Shpongle came on, the whole stage was lit up, I worked my way to the front to get the full effect. While the speakers weren't quite as all-consuming as I would have wanted, the energy of the room really worked well and made for a great experience all-around.

I tried to bring my camera into the show, but because of the show rules, I had to leave it in my car. I was a little disappointed at first, and thought about who I should talk to try and bring it in. I was pretty lazy though, so I totally dropped the ball after the opener started and I'm really glad I did. If I had my camera, I wouldn't have had nearly as much fun enjoying the music. Also, once Shpongle actually took the stage, it was so packed in there that I would have needed a separate level to get anything interesting. 


After a weekend like that I'm only more excited for the weekend to come, but more on that later.