CASIOTONE FOR THE PAINFULLY ALONE, FOOT FOOTSolar Culture Gallery, Sunday, May 25
Los Angeles' Foot Foot is one of those bands whose recordings are woefully unrepresentative. On recordings, singer and guitarist Robin Brown's voice sounds out of key, and her quiet guitar gets lost against her husband Josh Brown's louder guitar.
But live, Robin Brown's voice is perfectly smooth and in tune, and the quiet beauty of her guitar is front and center, as it should be. Foot Foot got increasingly louder and more interesting as their set progressed: Robin broke out her banjo for a song, and the last song featured Josh on pedal steel. But the songs that stuck to the Foot Foot formula--Robin on quiet guitar telling strange stories involving an invigorating amount of repetition, and Josh on slightly louder guitar--were by far the most captivating.
Chicago's Owen Ashworth, aka Casiotone for the Painfully Alone (CFTPA), doesn't have to worry about the recorded vs. live problem: Ashworth's songs are composed of samples, drum machines and keyboards, so when he performs them live, they sound exactly like the recordings, except louder. What makes CFTPA's live show lively is Ashworth himself: He asked the audience what we wanted to hear and acquiesced to almost every request. When one audience member loudly whispered his request for "New Year's Kiss" during a moment of quiet between songs, Ashworth laughed and said, "Real subtle, dude," and laughed again when the same audience member whispered "thank you" after the song was over.
Ashworth's songs have that perfect combination of earnestness and intensity that merits this sort of interaction: There are certain CFTPA songs that people want to hear, and must hear, because they're like your favorite sweater, or novel, or movie. Ashworth played several new songs that may end up as requests the next time CFTPA comes through town, like "Old Panda Days," a song Ashworth told the audience was inspired by a strange and elusive fashion trend in Sweden called Panda.
Ashworth ended with his cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia," which Ashworth manages to make even more sad and poignant, even though it did, as he pointed out, "win an Academy Award for being the saddest song about dying of AIDS ever." And even though the set ended with such a depressing song, something about those sprawling synthesized sounds CFTPA songs emit is always uplifting.