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Sylvan Esso at the Commodore Ballroom

At their sold out show Aug 15 2017. Kirk Chantraine photos.

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Casiotone for the Painfully Alone at the Biltmore Cabaret

Owen Ashworth with Casiotone for the Painfully Alone photo

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone at the Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, Jan 8 2010. Jessica Bardosh photo

Owen Ashworth’s Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Jan 8 2010

– review by Kyle Harcott/photos by Jessica Bardosh

Someone mentioned this was the third time (lucky) that Owen Ashworth’s Casiotone for the Painfully Alone attempted to play Vancouver in as many years. With no border hassles or car accidents to bunk the show this time around, there was a high level of anticipation among the crowd at the Biltmore—well, those of use there to see the show, anyway.

Indie-rock shows—more than other types—always seem to bring out that contingent of people just sort of “out to be seen”—like, hey, somebody may be there to take pictures for Last Night’s Party, so everybody make sure you look like you stepped right out of the Adbusters hipster issue and make sure you act as if you don’t give a toss who’s onstage.

It’s a disappointing attitude for those of there to hear the music, because Casiotone’s sincere minimalist heartbreak-pop deserved more attention than it seemed to me to get. At times, offstage conversation came close to drowning out the subtle nuances of the music onstage.

More frustrating—for those of us who had to work early Saturday morning, and especially after enduring the teeth-grindingly grueling sets of two pointless opening acts—was that Casiotone didn’t get onstage until quarter to twelve. But, begrudgingly, I have to admit what I saw was worth the wait.

Endearingly awkward and unflinchingly humble onstage, Ashworth ingratiated himself with the Vancouver crowd quickly with his constant interaction and polite thank-yous. I believe he even started taking requests about the time I had to schlep home to try and at least salvage a few z’s.

After a few electronic hiccups, a few AA cells replaced (I can’t imagine how many that card-table battery of electronic devices of his must require to run), Casiotone was off to the races with a varied set comprised of songs from Ashworth’s entire back catalogue. Having not played Vancouver in several years, and having missed last July’s show due to an on-the-way car accident, he must have been making up lost time.

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone photo

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone at the Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, Jan 8 2010. Jessica Bardosh photo

Most interesting was the dichotomy of watching Ashworth—well into his 30s, balding, roly-poly, looking rumpled and pretty much “over it”—singing heartfelt songs about real-life things: facing parenthood, getting older, mortality, reminiscence, leaving your youth behind—you know, grown-up stuff—to a crowd consisting primarily of early-20s hipsters concerned mostly about being seen drinking the right brand of beer.

I had to wonder if a crowd like that can relate to such open-hearted songs of adulthood? Then I thought, well, as a crotchety old man myself, what the hell do I know (kids these days!)? Well, I do know vapidity—trust me, I overheard the conversations:  Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait.

The highlights: “Man O’War”, “Young Shields”, the sighingly-wonderful “New Year’s Kiss”, “Tom Justice”, “Holly Hobby” (which he started off ‘Dear Bobby’, in reference to the song everybody wanted to hear).

The lowlight: having to bail at 1 a.m., so I could get a few minutes’ shut-eye before skulking off to my stinkin’ old-man job at 6AM, and thereby having to miss the songs I was really looking forward to, “Bobby Malone Moves Home” and “Killers”.

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