Artist Look Behind the Board: Indigo Baloch of Mr. Roboto/City Grows/Venus Flytrap

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Indigo Baloch, who works with Roboto, City Grows and The Venus Flytrap and is also a business woman working with various business partners. We met at Espresso A Mano, where we both got to enjoy a mocha and a conversation about the local music scene.

What is your favorite show/band you’ve ran sound for?

I’ve actually only ran sound for two shows at Mr. Roboto! However, I can tell you about one of my favorite shows I’ve booked.

I am involved with City Grows/The Venus Flytrap and I actually do booking there. This past year we ran this 2-day event there called “Fest Fest Fest” which consisted of both locals and out of town bands. One of those bands was The Weak Days, who I love. They just played actually at Roboto. In the back garden we had people playing acoustic and there were full set bands in the basement. Matt Very was on the grill. We sold merch and such. We did pre-sale tickets and the show was a fundraiser. At the end of the day, we were able to donate $800 or so to the Animal Rescue League, and that was after we paid the touring bands! It was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work.

How’d you get involved with Roboto?

I was pretty involved with the music scene and going to shows and I knew that they were in a tight spot and I really wanted to keep them going. It is hard to run a venue like Roboto that really only does punk shows but without using promoters like Drusky. A lot of punk shows are happening in houses, garages, and elsewhere.

I was on the Board about two or three years ago, I was going to school full time, majoring in writing and communication and I wanted to help. So the first time I was on the board I made a newsletter and we did interviews with the bands and the community. I did end up leaving though, because with everything going on I couldn’t juggle both Roboto and college.

Since I first got involved, I’ve graduated from college and I’m still really passionate about the scene, so I rejoined the Board. It started out with Brett and Harrison reaching out to me to see if I was interested, because I had done PR previously and they needed the help. I ended up having someone running against me; there was an online poll for it and I won! So I’m back doing PR. It’s a small team, but we really balance one another out with our skill sets.

Overall, Roboto really demands time on your own as well as the time you spend at shows. I have so much respect for the volunteers on the Board. They make sure the bills get paid and that this remains a safe space, which is crucial in our music scene. I’m looking forward to getting the newsletter started again and to all of the wonderful things that we can do there.

We’re looking to maybe even set up some more PAAR workshops. Livy Ciotoli, who owns the Venus Flytrap, and worked with me to book “Fest Fest Fest”, helped get us in contact with PAAR originally to get a partnership going and having consent workshops. Sam is on our current board and had brought up bringing that back. Unfortunately, the music scene does have abusers and creating a safe space and standing up for victims and creating somewhere comfortable is really important. Discussing consent and assault and making things safer for those who are queer, femme, trans–that’s important. There are definitely some dangerous things, cultures, and habits within the scene that should be being spoken against and combatted.

How did you learn to do the soundboard? Do you teach yourself?

When I was previously on the Board I was given an overview of the soundboard, but I really focused more on the doors and such. This time around I was shown how to run the board a bit more, I’m learning as I go because different bands want different things overall. It’s a lot of fun, though! It feels really good to be helping at Mr. Roboto! Sometimes it can be stressful though, because I don’t want any of the bands to sound bad.

What’s some advice you wish you had had getting involved or that you’d give someone wanting to get involved more heavily?

I wish more people in the scene were booking, running venues, running sound. Really if you are someone who is looking at getting involved, know that it can be very tiring and stressful.

If I’m being honest, you’re not gonna make much, if any, money doing this and it can be discouraging sometimes. It really means something to push forward with what you’re doing and stick around. Even if you are just coming out and supporting bands, when it comes down to it you really just need to commit to the scene overall.

It’s tiring, but it’s worth it. Don’t get discouraged and give up, invite people into the scene and to shows, don’t be closed off or close minded, know where venues are.

This scene can really open doors and open friendships and the more people that we bring into the scene, we bring in more new art and imagination and minds and mindsets, which really opens us up to new possibilities.

When it comes down to it, every band has diehard fans no matter what they sound like.

Who are some of the individuals you work with in the scene?

I really admire Brett Shumaker and all of the hard work he puts into the scene. He is very aware of femme and queer folk in regards to when, to where, and how he books.

Livy, who is my business partner. We used to book together and we would create a lot of fundraisers and benefit shows. When I was starting, I hadn’t really thought about doing shows that way. Livy though, she did, and she would go to shows and have baked cupcakes and she would raise money that way.

They helped show me that it’s not all about music but the community, and that really opened the door for me.

What are some of the things that you are working on?

Recently I’ve gotten into doing readings and booking poetry shows. Through this I have also been able to read my work that I’ve created. It has really been a privilege to get to know the poets of Pittsburgh.

I really want to work on bridging the gap between the college poetry community and the punk poetry community, and also the gap with mature readers and college-age students. Getting to really work behind the worlds opens the chance to help bridge the two worlds. Getting more of the college community into the punk scene will really help in building those connections. I think those connections will push the scene forward and help it come out thriving.

You’ve brought up how the community is very male dominated–what are some ways you think we can involve more women in the scene or change how male dominated it is?

As far as getting more women into the scene or opening the scene up to be more female friendly, I think the punk community could really learn from the poetry scene. I’ve been getting more involved in poetry and I was really surprised at how female dominated the scene is. It gives femmes and other women a place in the community where they can share and grow together.

Something I’ve experienced as a woman is that sometimes you pick up an instrument and men aren’t really receptive to it and they tell you that you don’t know what you’re doing and that you should just give up. I think being open to female musicians and supporting them learning and their efforts is really an opportunity for growth. Personally I was in two bands and my bandmates weren’t supportive of the fact that I was trying to to learn an instrument. I had ideas for music and songs, and they would shut me down because I couldn’t play it for them. I’d offer to sing it, but they’d dismiss me and wrote it off because I couldn’t play it yet. I’m really tired of cis men telling me I need to give up. They told me to give up because there was no music in me so even though I was writing music since I was a kid, I did. I just didn’t have the opportunities to make it into what I wanted to make it into in the music community.

When I was younger, poetry felt hard and I didn’t really like it. As I got older I really found poetry to be uplifting. It lets you talk and share, it’s a community of love and support and kindness. The music scene really has an opportunity for growth.

Recently Elizabeth Harris at Titter’s Diner put together this femme and queer dominated lineup. Anna Rosati and Becca Epstein really help to make queer and femme folk have a space and make them feel welcome. These individuals are really pushing forward for change.

You know, it takes people talking to make a safe space. It takes people talking to create a dialogue for the community. It takes individuals.

There are individuals like Brett who build these seriously killer lineups. I guess for me personally it’s even just booking more seriously. For women in the scene, we need to take advantage of opportunities and for the scene to be genuinely better and being inclusive. Also, you have the opportunity to meet some really incredible people such as Brittney Chantele. She is a local poet who is starting to delve into music more.

There’s also some really amazing female lead music coming out of the Pittsburgh scene. There are bands like Old Game and Mani Pedi. Along with those, there is really the whole lineup from the recent Ladyfest. I absolutely loved that festival, and I hope to see it come back.

I recently began a magazine called The Honey Bee Review with some friends. It is a place for queer, femmes, and people of color to get out there and get their work out there to be published. The Honey Bee Review’s team consists of myself, Emma Vescio, Corrine Jasmin, Sarah Thornton, Madeline Barber and LaShawn Parks.

The Pittsburgh music and DIY scenes should look at the poetry scene as a model. There is a lot of hope and love and support. When it comes down to it, cis men need to just shut up and stop picking on women.

What would you say is your favorite pizza here in Pittsburgh?

As far as pizza–Spak. It’s so good, so totally Spak is my favorite. I also enjoy Pizza Bellino in Squirrel Hill. They have a sale on Saturdays where they give a discount for picking up your order. It is a family run place and they are very nice and the pizza is delicious.

What are some of your favorite businesses in the city?

As far as local businesses that I support and really love, I could literally just keep going on about them. I like Constellation Coffee–they’re really kind, Black Forge Coffee House–they’re heckin’ nice, City Grows, and the farmers market’s around the city. If you find them, Pigeon Bagels. Some of the former band members of Fun Hum are involved with it and they do pop up shops around the city as well as at the farmer’s markets. They are seriously some of the best bagels that you’ll have anywhere.

As far as restaurants, there is B52. I’m a pescitarian and there is this place in Oakland called Mount Everest where I get sushi donuts, and it’s absolutely fantastic. I also really like Mesa which used to be Conflict Kitchen. They really did a great job of taking a bad situation and turning it into something good, especially because they kept the former staff. If you ever had the chance to visit Conflict Kitchen previously, you know that the food that Mesa is making is amazing.

There are some other businesses, too. Three Pigs Vintage, they have an online store now and they have a really awesome selection pants and it’s three women who run it. They have an Instagram you should check out. The Vandal is another, they’ve been super supportive of me and my business partner Livy as we are looking to move The Black Cat Market Cat Café forward.

Also, Row House Cinema. I’m part of their film club and their birthday is the same as mine so I go there for my birthday to celebrate. At Row House there is Molly, who runs events and she’s amazing at it, and Brian who owns the cinema. They’re both super nice and they’re eager to work with other businesses for events. Also in the city is Apteka–they have Polish food and are located between Roboto and Main Street.

It is really awesome being able to see the community support each other and not just looking to support themselves.

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