Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
The bane of many Dublin gigs was in evidence in Whelans on Sunday 9 March – too many people who seemingly wandered into the gig by accident. With no interest in the music, they were there to talk loudly around the bar. One music-loving punter even took it upon himself to scream ‘Shut the f**k up! in their general direction, but to no avail. He escaped to the balcony, and the crowd eventually settled down enough to make support act Ugly Megan audible.
You could have blown me down with a small squeaky dinosaur when I discovered that Ugly Megan are from Waterford. I had them down as the blissed-out Californians that they look like. The blond haired boy-girl duo have a shy sibling vibe, but are a couple very much in love. They have known each other from a very young age, and even have songs from ‘when we were babies'. Or maybe they made all that up.
With Orlando on stripped down acoustic guitar and occasional keyboards, and Catherine on squeaky toys, those machines that make bomb and machine gun noises My Little Pony Dolls and keyboards, Ugly Megan make tiny pop songs about love, punctuated by the occasional malevolent hip-hop cover about ho's and guns and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. They also like techno. If the kids in Waterford are this hip now, I'm going back to Irish college in Ring.
The man of the night ambled on stage in trademark checked shirt and thick frame glasses. Behind a very small bank of instruments that must include a Casio keyboard and some very weird electronic devices, Owen Ashworth opened with Cold White Christmas, an archetypal example of his highly stylised yet disarmingly simple music. Better known as Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, or even cfpta, Ashworth is a one-man band, picking out sparse beats for rarely more than two minutes on the aforementioned Casio, using those tinny, repetitive backing tracks that you may remember from a Christmas morning some time ago.
He talks his lyrics over this foundation, frequently aided by a perfectly chosen tonal hook. His words are seemingly personal, almost always about his loves, or those of his friends, and the problems faced by this gallery of people we learn too much about. Toby is ‘the greatest Smiths fan ever', he is ‘a boy who never goes out'. Recurring subject Bobby Malone is a sad sack who has moved home, given sympathy in one song, and then lambasted in another. A ‘girl who wakes up with fingers crossed in a boys bed' in the Mission passes the Beauty Bar, giving the pathetic excitement of recognition to your reviewer, who has been to that really cool pub in San Francisco (had to get that in there).
Casiotone was joined halfway through by Jenny Herbinson. This gorgeous girl accompanied him for a few numbers as she does on record, for Scattered Pearls and some new creations that stand up with the best of his work so far.
Frequent requests from the audience for songs were rewarded, with Springsteen cover The Streets Of Philadelphia and Paul Simon classic Gracelands as it was meant to be heard, with floor-shaking bass and a vocoder. The crowd was left asking for more.