Casiotone for the Painfully Alone / Datagun / The Western Front
The Mill; Iowa City, IA

I woke up. It was Sunday, I think, but I felt unfamiliar in my surroundings and wasn't sure of anything. I could’ve been alone but wasn’t, instead accompanied by the kind of hangover that makes you reconsider your place in the universe. What. The. Fuck. Today was going to be a long day. I grumbled myself out of bed and onto the street and somehow wound up stumbling and stammering through a brutal six-hour coffee shop shift. In a cruel twist of fate, the gods of lattes and double-skim-mochas-to-go punished my Saturday night indiscretions with a steady stream of Sunday afternoon traffic. Lulls in this siege were nothing more than fleeting opportunities to sit in the office and cradle my head in my hands. It was bad.

Six o’clock rolled around, and while on a typical day I would be experiencing what’s colloquially known as a second wind, this was no ordinary day. Thus, seven hours into my day I was only getting my first wind. And were this a typical Sunday, I would probably sleepwalk through my grocery shopping and then go home, make dinner, and pass out with Sportscenter on, but this was no ordinary Sunday: we had Casiotone For The Painfully Alone coming to town on this day.

And thus, going through the motions, I found myself once again at the local watering hole, in this case the Mill; and though I felt like death, I found myself feeling better because I wasn’t alone. I was amongst friends who were far less hungover than I -- and that plus a Bloody Mary helped ease the pain. The Bloody Mary segued to beer to conversation to music, as local trio The Western Front began their set. Until very recently, this band wasn’t even a blip on my radar. I don’t know where they came from, but they’ve quickly become my favorite local band. Their setup is daunting for a three-piece, revolving around a multi-instrumentalist who plays drums, synths, samples, and just about everything else all at once. I found myself watching and thinking, “How is this band not signed to Barsuk and touring the country with Menomena now?”

Up next, Datagun, a trio of three of my closest mates, but I would be down with this band regardless. I think it’s fair to say that they’re still working everything out, but this night was the tightest I’ve heard them. Datagun is a clusterfuck of vocals and keyboards and some other shit, meeting at the place where pop meets noise and delivered by three dudes running around, switching instruments and singing into different microphones and each doing a little bit of everything. A turntable and a drum machine provide the panorama on which the screeching guitar and haunted vocals occur. You haven’t seen them yet if you haven’t come to Iowa City lately, but maybe you should. Or maybe someday they’ll visit your town, and you’ll get it, too.

Then Casiotone For The Painfully Alone took the stage, just one man and his digital setup on a night that featured a veritable bevy of digital setups. I was now in the perfect place, where my lack of sleep and beer consumption were meeting up and sparks were flying. I didn’t need to talk to anyone, finding myself beyond content to just stand and sway as I watched this surprisingly tall bearded man twiddle knobs and soothe my tattered state. I pulled the brim of my cap low over my eyes and lit up one last cigarette and allowed the fullest waves of synthesizer sound to wash over me.

Owen Ashworth was witty and affable, moreso than I expected, considering he’s made a career out of being Painfully Alone, or at least associated as such. and being in a one-man digital band made me assume for some reason that he would be reclusive and standoffish. Instead, he filled spaces between songs with tales of Swedish ‘pandas’ and being caught in electrical storms in Arkansas and so on. Highlights included “Bobby Malone Moves Home,” a blistering take on “Young Shields,” and “New Year’s Kiss.”

More than anything, I was left with the impression that, for a dude who pretty much just stands there and nonchalantly messes with some keyboards, he’s way radder live than on record. I’ve enjoyed his records, particularly Etiquette, but have never found myself getting totally lost and immersed in them like I did this performance. After he was done, my friend Andre and I stayed at the Mill long past everyone was gone and enjoyed more beers, rapping about this and that and how good it was to be able to host a show like that on a Sunday night. Around 2:00, well past the time it made sense for me to crash, I made the brisk walk home, over the river and across the train tracks. I was happy, just being blissfully alone.

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