It’s a thirteen year old’s worst nightmare. You’ve planned your evening to perfection: get there for doors, try and get yourself a drink (and get refused, obviously), check the stage times and, thankfully, the band will be finished in time for you to run off and catch the last bus home, back in time to kiss your mum and dad good night and possibly post a comment in the official forum. But, oh god, no – the band have been delayed, meaning that they won’t even be on stage until 10 minutes before they were meant to finish. But thankfully, the Deaf Institute is an over 18’s venue and there aren’t any ‘minors’ here. In fact, the crowd is one of the most diverse that you could imagine, with the only thing that’s seemingly linking this disparate group of people, from middle aged men in suits to threadbare student, is seemingly a love of beards. And, of course, an admiration for Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, who, despite the hold up, is greeted with warm applause, like the hour wait whilst he commuted from Anglesey didn’t happen at all.
That’s not to say that the crowd of people in the Music hall were left twiddling there thumbs for entertainment whilst the keyboarded one does his travelling. The first band on, whose name escapes me but sounded a bit like they were called ‘Table’ (if you’re reading this, Table, please feel free to correct me) had a perchance for two things – single worded titles for their songs and generally quite good music. Though it was hardly the kind of thing that would encourage you to get your dancing shoes on, the selection of instruments on show was simply amazing, with thumb pianos, melodikas and recorders all being used by the band. Though to focus on the instruments is to detract from the band’s skill – they made moody, meaningful music with some poignant lyrics. Even if I can’t remember the name of them.
Then came the fillers in, a rag-tag selection of local musicians who had been in the crowd and willing to cover up for Casiotone’s late coming. Jam on bread must have been upset to be overlooked, but the people who came on (and, once again, the names elude me as i forgot a notepad) did a wonderful job of entertaining the crowd. However, once the final band of the three ’super-subs’, word had got around: Owen ‘Casiotone’ Ashworth had arrived.
Let’s get this straight: Owen Ashworth is just as talented as Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. Much like Oberst, the songs he makes are bitter and lonely – just as the Casiotone for the Painfully Alone implies. To back this up, he makes songs that unlike Bright Eye’s work, is danceable and exciting. Scattered Pearls (a highlight of the gig) is a classic dance track, complete with popping beats. This isn’t exclusionist, loner music – Casiotone makes music that anyone could enjoy, which is more than could be said of bright eyes earlier works. However, like all of us, Owen Ashworth is getting older. He’s not in his mid twenties anymore. And when the 32 year old sings ‘This September I’ll be 26 years old’ it’s hard not to smirk, and he must feel the same.
It’s clear from the reactions (and requests) from the crowd which material the fans pwrefer – the earlier, bitter stuff. The lo-fi, angry music that characterises his work. His later works, much like Oberst’s solo work, has become much blander. Though it’s harder to find a typical ‘bad’ song on the latest album ‘Vs. Children’, it’s harder to find a work of genius. There is no ‘Yr boyfriend’ on this record, and the way in which Owen and his band plough through his most recent record seems to acknowledge this deficit, even thanking the audience for their patience as he soldiers on through, with the promise of more ‘classic’ Casiotone at the end of the set.
He is enigmatic, that is for sure, and his ethic certainly hasn’t changed – as soon as he comes ofvf stage, he rushes to the merchandise stall to man it him and talk to the fans. The performance was certainly worth the wait, and the crowd seem appreciative. Perhaps he’s mellowing out. However, it’s hard not to feel a pang of regret that the wonderful ‘Young Sheilds’ was left out in favour of newer works. Maybe he’s just mellowing out.