The Vera Project, January 7 2010
“Things have gotten a bit weird here…I’m going to have to reign things in a bit.” Owen Ashworth, better known as Casiotone for the Painfully Alone stares somewhat apprehensively at his keyboard during the low-key performance, then emulates a drum pedal.
After opening with ‘Optimist Vs. The Silent Alarm (When The Saints Go Marching In)’, Ashworth relayed stories of how he tours the Pacific Northwest each year as an excuse to visit his brother Gordon on his birthday, previously resulting in car accidents and being trapped in an elevator in Victoria for hours. “Cross your fingers for me”, he joked.
Most also crossed their legs to sit on the floor – initially nodding along in transfixed silence, punctuated by the occasional “Yes!” or “Alright!”, the audience soon became emboldened – shouting out both song requests and propositions – “I love you! It’s real!”. Despite some obvious discomfort, Ashworth held his own both in regards to the setlist “No, actually, I think Bobby Malone sounds really good at about the 45 minute mark” and repeated requests for a date, brandishing his wedding ring and saying “No thanks, I’m married”, wryly adding “…to a woman.”
An eclectic set, comprised mostly of requests shouted out by the all-ages audience, included Etiquette hits ‘New Year’s Kiss’, ‘Young Shields’, ‘I Love Creedence’, ‘Cold White Christmas’ and ‘Bobby Malone Moves Home’, Vs. Children‘s ‘Harsh the Herald Angels Sing’, and Answering Machine Music‘s ‘Rice Dream Girl’.
While technically sparse, Ashworth’s music resonated with emotional depth, which was particularly impressive given his own lack of a dynamic stage presence. Where some musicians love to rev up a crowd, basking in adoration, Ashworth seems content to let the music speak for itself. I have attended few shows with moments as purely affecting as Ashworth’s rendition of ‘Killers’ – the song retains a tension that isn’t out of place in the dark character studies that populate his music. The looping drum machine, synths and bare keyboard chords created an atmosphere so (dare I say it) painfully isolated that to applaud at the end surely seems sacrilegious in a roomful of strangers.
Similarly, the usually upbeat ‘Holly Hobby’ got a stripping down for the ‘Bobby version’, originally penned for a friend’s 60s-style girl-group that never eventuated. Ashworth uses his voice to his full advantage here, with the drawn-out vox so thin and whispery the vocalist could well be close to tears; proving that sometimes, less is more.
The Girl With Violent Arms:
Kids and Animals:
By Nicky Andrews