Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
February 16, 2007
The White Room
Better Than: Having Dostoevsky read to you by an ex-lover.
Hard to believe anyone would put their faith in heartbreak, let alone turn out en masse to listen to it. But that’s Miami – ever ready to flip the script which says we’ve all gotta be sunny day real estate vendors whose only concerns are bang and buck. Of course it helps if the script-flippers happen to be a swarm of Wynwood hipsters all gathered within the freeing confines of that increasingly cool nightspot called the White Room. It helps even more if the gathering happens to be on behalf of another Pop Life presentation of the heartbreakingly heroic act that is Casiotone for the Painfully Alone.
If you know Casiotone (or read my plugging preview), you know that what they put on is not an act, not in any conventional sense of the term. This is not Broadway; this is not vaudeville: This is the sound of life itself – as it drowns. And I doubt if even the most accomplished actor can fake a drowning as deep and as complete.
You’ll also know that Casiotone’s not a they, it’s a he; a he named Owen Ashworth. A he who shows up bearing nothing but a bared soul and a bank of rinky-dink keyboards, and then commences to make music so blotto with brooding it makes Leonard Cohen come off kinda like the Archies after a love-in.
Yes, the man’s music is that sad. But it’s also hopeful. And, in a strange way, it can even be considered happy. Oh, not put-on-a-happy-face-and-dance-a-jig happy, but happy nonetheless. Happy to have survived the fall, anyway.
And, yes, sometimes it’s even danceable. “Nashville Parthenon” with the beat of its rebuilt skyline; “Young Shields” and its tweaky invincibility; even the long, slow swing of “Jeanne If You’re Ever in Portland” and the retreating bleat of “Bobby Malone Moves Home” got the gaggle to add a touch of swagger to their two-step.
Which really is the most remarkable thing about what Ashworth does both to and for us. Drunk with melancholy, blind with despair, and resolute with a will only someone with living testament can muster, he takes some of life’s bleakest moments and beats them into something to skip to. And that, my friends, is the way we’re moved. – John Hood
Personal Bias: I’ve always been peculiarly swayed by the sound of the somber.
Random Detail: Ashworth’s version of Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia” would’ve made The Boss proud – and envious.
By the Way: Last Night’s show was the first in a seven-city Florida tour which ends on the 23rd at Respectable Street Café in West Palm Beach. If you missed it, catch him then. If you didn’t, catch him again.