Local Current Blog

With new MALLBORG project, Mark Mallman plays concert from six miles away

As a restless musician who is always on the hunt for the next way to subvert the live concert experience, Mark Mallman has played “Marathon” shows lasting upwards of three straight days, strapped keyboards to his arms and legs to create a character lovingly known as “The Keyborg,” and raced a motorized scooter across his piano just to see what it would sound like.

For his latest experiment, Mallman took things to a whole new level. When fans showed up to his gig at Icehouse on Sunday night, Mallman wasn’t even in the building—in fact, he was six miles away, watching the show from a warehouse in Northeast Minneapolis and preparing to pipe in his parts using a Skype-like streaming service called Qwikcast.tv.

He rounded up guitarist Jeremy Ylvisaker, bassist Scott McVeigh, and drummer Aaron Lemay for his live band, got a handful of videographers to man cameras on either end of the performance, and called on his friend Stuart DeVaan (of Savage Aural Hotbed fame) to get the technology in place for the transmission.

The result was a performance Mallman is calling MALLBORG: A 10-minute performance that united his band’s live in-the-room playing with his remote singing, all thanks to a little wheely robot with Mallman’s face projected on its screen.

Coming down off his MALLBORG performance today, Mallman had this to say about the experience:

“When you’re this type of robot, it’s hard to communicate with your body because you really are limited to facial expressions and limited movement of your wheels. I had cameras looking down so I didn’t roll of the stage, otherwise it would be a very expensive stage dive. With all of my performance art pieces there’s a different type of planning and prep than a rock show. We do a beta test and troubleshooting—that doesn’t happen at rock concerts, except for this one. But it sure was nice to only play a 10 minute show instead of a 100 hour show for once!”