casiotone for the painfully alone [2010]

Bar Three Fifty-Five
Oakland, CA
21 September 2010

Final. Such a dramatic word. I admire its resoluteness, but I fear it’s irrevocability.

And so it was that I faced the final Bay Area show of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone. Years of love for a band I was not ready to say goodbye to. Sure, Owen Ashworth, the man behind the band, had declared his intentions to continue making music under some other guise, but what will it sound like? Will it bring such joy and heartbreak to my life, the way that CFTPA has?

On this night, there were no answers, of course. But it wasn’t a time for questions. It was time to celebrate the music we’ve loved for these many years, and the man behind the keyboards.

I won’t spend too much time describing Ashworth, because I’ve done so at least once before (see 2006 and 2009 show reviews). Suffice it to say, he’s a big shy teddy bear with a voice that sounds, at times, like a muppet. In a good way.

And so it was, at the tiny Bar Three Fifty-Five, a beautiful, recently-renovated spot I pass many times every week, but have never noticed, that I saw Ashworth take the stage. A lot later than I expected. I suppose that’s what happens at venues that aren’t really venues, but I was under the impression the show was starting at 8:00. The opener didn’t start until around 9:30, and played a really long set (which seemed even longer due to significant sound/screeching problems).

When Ashworth’s set finally began, it was unfortunately beset by the same aforementioned sound problems. He eventually resolved them, for the most part, but it was never great. The screeching was gone, but the levels were off: vocal harmonies could not be heard, drums and backup keyboards were too loud, etc. (I’m told this was the very first show at Bar Three Fifty-Five, so I can certainly understand why all the problems.)

Maybe that was the reason his own set ended up being so short. Sure, there were a few gems among the technical difficulties: take two of “I Love Creedence” was wonderful (take one was barely audible due to the screeching and low main mic volume). “Cold White Christmas” and “Killers” were also great. And yet, they were only pieces. Nothing like his usual beautiful cohesive collections.

It wasn’t until late in his set that Ashworth dropped the bomb. This final show was not the final show. Saved by irrevocability.

And so there is one last chance for finality. One more opportunity to put on a performance worthy of his grand exit.

Perfectly, on December 5th, 13 years to the day after debuting at Bottom of the Hill, Casiotone For The Painfully Alone will play its final show on the very same stage.

For reals this time.