When I saw a man wearing skin tight gold lamé leggings, a sports jersey, and a jean jacket mingling in the crowd at Monster Island Basement Sunday night, I didn't think too much of it. But as it turns out, the wildly dressed mystery man was John O'Regan, the man behind Diamond Rings, the evening's first opener.
After taking copious notes on John's appearance, I was pleased to hear that the Toronto-based glam pop artist seems to take his music fairly seriously. Sure, he's working with prefab beats and samples, but he also juggles guitar and keyboard duty, which makes his songs more relevant in a live setting. Then there's John's voice, which is surprisingly sonorous. His appearance may be over-the-top and flamboyant, but his smooth, deep vocals level out his music nicely.
Next up in Todd P's bag of tricks was the Sierra-Leonean musician Janka Nabay and his spirited group of musicians and back-up singers. Janka's set triggered an instant dance party both on stage and in the audience. The two women on stage left the bulk of the vocal responsibilities with Janka, but their energetic dancing complimented the tribal beats and celebratory music well.
Following Janka Nabay's lively set, Owen Ashworth, the man behind the moniker Casiotone For the Painfully Alone, walked on stage and began to methodically unpack a series of keyboards, samplers, and mixers. After he had finished assembling his one-man-band, he leaned into the mic. "I'd be happy to start if we want to do the changeover," he said over the din of the house music.
"Thanks so much for coming folks. I really appreciate it," he said as he warmed up. "I really like playing in Brooklyn. I'm not just saying that. Do not tell Albany that. [...] I just basically booked this short tour as an excuse to come visit friends and hang out in New York for a few days." And with that, he launched into a couple of newer song from last year's Vs. Children.
Unlike a number of artists who rely on laptops to generate significant portions of their songs, Owen builds most of the layers on stage, by navigating through a mass of wires, knobs, and keys - his arms often crossing to get the job done. There are definitely perks to seeing an artist who has been creating music for the better part of thirteen years. Owen has an impressive body of songs to pull from, and constantly finds ways to rework them in a live setting. Casiotone songs often fall between the 2 and 3-minute mark, but Owen manages to pack a story into each song thanks to his creative, humorous, and candid lyrics. Owen makes music akin to the heartfelt and often painfully (but endearingly) awkward mumblecore films Mark Duplass and Andrew Bujalski make.
Then, about midway through his set, Owen dropped the bomb. "Thanks to Todd for making the show happen. This is my first time here [at Monster Island] and I'm going to be playing here again in October and that's actually going to be the last Casiotone show in New York. I'm going to stop this in December... and I'll do something else after that."
After this big announcement, Owen began to take requests, and he was immediately met by an avalanche of song titles. "Cold White Christmas!" "Grandmother's Pearls!" "We Have Mice!" "Parthenon!" "When You Were Mine, please!" After just a few seconds, Owen jumped back in. "Alright, alright. Those are good suggestions, thanks." The crowd may have been relatively small, but there's something to be said of fans who actually care enough about the music to have an arsenal full of requests to call out when prompted. "Grandmother's Pearls," ended up winning this time. After each song, audience members called out more and more requests, and Owen usually obliged - even with "Young Shields," which he initially claimed was too bass-heavy to play. Owen closed out his set with "White Jetta" before stepping off stage and making his way through the crowd, receiving pats on the back as he went.
Be sure to check out Casiotone for the Painfully Alone while you still can. The last New York show is on October 15th at Monster Island Basement (all dates on that "final tour) still TBA).
More pictures and Casiotone's setlist from Monster Island, below..
Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang...
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone...
CFTPA set list
Optimist Vs. The Silent Alarm (When The Saints Go Marching In)
Man O' War
I Love You Creedence
White on White
Lesley Gore on the T.A.M.I. Show
Traveling Salesman's Young Wife Home Alone on Christmas In Montpelier, VT
New Year's Kiss
Cold White Christmas
Streets of Philadelphia