casiotone for the painfully alone [2006]

Bottom of the Hill
San Francisco, CA
4 November 2006

It was my first time seeing Casiotone live and I didn’t really know what to expect. How would one man and his keyboard translate to the stage? Sure, DJs do it all the time, but an indie rock kid? Owen Ashworth steps into the light doing his best impression of your freshman literature T.A., worn sweater over collared shirt accompanied by a handsome pair of slacks.

Bearded and large, Ashworth looms almost artistically over his many and varied knobs and keyboards with nervous imbalance, swaying back and forth, nearly threatening to topple at every syncopated beat. The sound he pushes out into the crowd, though, is a perfect equilibrium, a rich and complex combination of melody and discord. A maestro of organized chaos, Ashworth somehow manages to coordinate all of his pre-arranged beats and tones and present to the audience one singular sound.

His uneasy voice wavers above it all, dropping in among the electronica with crushing softness. If you know Casiotone, you know the weight of the lyrics, the words falling into the music with heart-breaking severity. Ashworth delivers lines like “..and Elle’s the only one, besides my dad, who’s ever said ‘I love you, Creedence.'” with a disarming matter-of-factness. Yes, it’s dreary, but damn it, it’s fantastic.

The highlight was clearly “Roberta C.” with a member of Dead Science coming up to the stage to play the stand-up bass. The heavy bow, dragging across the strings, was the perfect accompaniment to Ashworth’s tale of solitude and Scrabble.

The name may sound silly. The lyrics might seem melodramatic, but trust me, Owen Ashworth, a.k.a. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, is an act worth seeing.