In twelve years of shows, The Spine has only snapped a guitar string three times. However, one of those times was Steam Powered Giraffe’s Friday night show here at Dragon Con in Hyatt Centennial II–III. Don’t let that worry you, though! For these automatons, concerts don’t only consist of music, but of comedy improv and audience interaction.
Steam Powered Giraffe consists of three singing steam-powered automatons: Rabbit (Isabella “Bunny” Bennett), The Spine (David Michael Bennett), and Zero (Bryan Barbarin) . They are assisted by Steve “the Sound Guy” Negrete, Michael “The One-Man Band” Reid, and the two Walter Workers, Camille and Chelsea Penyak. Performances are a combination of music and comedy. This particular occasion consisted of such entertainments as a stuffed chicken (courtesy of an audience member) and comments on Florida and the possibility of a Sharknado-style infestation of gators. All this is, of course, underscored by the guitar genius of Michael Reid, the bands’ sole human member. To simply call the performance “zany fun” is tempting, but would vastly underplay the years of effort that the band has poured into crafting characters, music, and relationships with their fans. It was amazing to hear hundreds of people singing along to the chorus of a song they know, love, and finally get to see live.
From the mechanical mannerisms (with whirs and creaks created by the actors themselves), to the entrance of Gigi, a robotic puppet giraffe who enjoys doing impressions of varying quality and terrorizing the band members, the concert kept the audience engaged and enchanted throughout the whole show. The variety of music, from soulful ballads to light romantic tunes, led the audience on a journey through the illusion of a world of Victorian singing automatons, complete with dancing maintenance workers dealing with breakdowns, to a helpful disembodied AI who implements “encore protocol.”