Sunday was just one of those nights where you had two very good choices from which to choose. On the one hand you had the International Noise Conference over at the Jet Lounge while The Mink Backroom had Casiotone and HOA. I’d actually considered trying to catch both but then realized how club hooping is generally a recipe for disaster and simply staked my claim with the show at the Backroom.
Opening was Hearts of Animals who I’ve seen so many times that it would generally seem pointless and redundant to catch yet another performance but everyonce in a while you catch one performance like this and you remember what’s so particularly special about HOA. Sunday night saw HOA perform under some dodgy circumstances: a Mac with its battery nigh dead, an odd little drum machine whose signal never fed properly to the board, and pre-amp tubes that weren’t cooperating thus refusing her the crunchy distortion that we have come associate with HOA. But after a futile request for a distortion box, HOA simply forged ahead and, the thing was, I never missed the distortion. Perhaps because she had to fight the circumstances somewhat and knowing that her Powerbook could go at any moment, this HOA performance had a little but of the sass that had been missing from her SXSW performance. The clean guitar was actually quite enjoyable as the clear ringing notes had nothing to hide behind and, being a fan of her simple yet effective finger picking style, it was nice to hear that unfiltered and pure. That being said, despite the excellent performance, one thing kept ruining the music for me and that was the dude who was writhing on the floor, bumping into the microphone, and engaging other generally annoying behavior that would a suggest a person who clearly is desperate for attention. First off, I am still shocked that dude was not on drugs but more importantly the question that should be posed to people like this is “Did I just pay 8 bucks to watch you make an ass of yourself or did I pay 8 bucks to see someone play some songs that they worked pretty damn hard to perfect?” followed by the inevitable “No dude, that is a rhetorical question.”
Clue to Kalo followed with a pretty shaky set. Don’t get me wrong Clue to Kalo have their share of good solid songs (check out Love Check Music Game on their myspace for a lovely example of the band at their best) yet, there was something that never quite took off. You could argue that the sound didn’t do much for the type of clean poppy instrumentation and harmonies in which the band prefers to tread and sure, they came off as pleasant, charming, and droll enough but the set never really left me engaged beyond a shrug of pleasantness. Perhaps this is a band better left to the controlled and precise world the studio which, by the way, is no dis.
Closing the evening was Casiotone for the Painfully Alone who played a sweet set. Now, I’ve been pretty shaky on his voice on his recordings (perhaps because he at times employs some good vocalists to share duties) but in a live perfoemance his voice is charming, sincere, and endearing. Now don’t get me wrong with these qualifiers for his vocals, Owen Ashworth’s main strength lies in his ability to write lovely little personal pop songs and arrange them with some lovely keyboards that at times give me the same fun kick I’d gotten when I’d first heard latter day Kraftwerk. His is all about the beauty of simplicity and Sunday’s performance was appropriately ungilded; he simply laid out those songs and charmed the audience with his low key and humble stage personae. The oddest and funniest bit of banter came when he explained to the audience how the legs on muppets freak him out which may seem a bit of a shaggy dog but it pretty much captured the spirit of the evening which was simply a bunch of people sitting together listening to some songs and enjoying each others company. Now how much more pleasant a Sunday night would you want?