Exploding into the sunset
Jason Cassidy reflects on the meaning of Cowboy’s last show
Jason Cassidy has a bewildered look on his face.
“I just had the biggest coffee explosion of all time in my truck. It was unbelievable,” he says, wide-eyed. “Good thing I had another pair of shorts.”
Cassidy is no lightweight when it comes to explosions. The friendly musician and promoter who once performed an original poem entitled “Stompbox"—about his love for jumping on his guitar distortion box to create a thunderous wall of noise—has stopped by the N&R office to discuss the life and times of his local noise pop band Cowboy. The veteran (in indie-rock years) experimental group plays its final show on Saturday, Jan. 26, at Moxie’s Café, during which time a rotating carousel of former members will congregate onstage for a chronological history-of-sorts of the band.
“In the beginning, we were primitives, just like, ‘Make loud now!'” Cassidy recalls. “But over the years, a lot of friends have played with us, and we’ve learned a lot about creativity and music composition in the process.”
Cowboy is centered on the husband/wife team of Jason (guitar) and Connie (vocals) Cassidy, Chicoans for over 12 years, both of whom were tired of playing in early-'90s Chico bands “that broke up after only a year or so.” They formed Cowboy, influenced by the likes of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, as an equal-parts mix of experimental distortion and poppy female vocals, asking different friends to sit in as their schedules would permit.
Originally a trio featuring Nik Abodeely on drums, Cowboy played its first gig at the old Oasis club, “the only time I actually threw my guitar in frustration,” Cassidy recalls. “Totally regrettable; I get reminded of my mistake ever since—every time I have to tune it.”
In the years that followed, the band became widely known as openers for many local indie-rock gigs while also finding time to tour the Northwest (performing at North by Northwest), release several cassettes and a full-length CD entitled Explosion and Collapse. ("Which ironically,” Cassidy informs me, “featured on the album artwork a picture of a skyscraper with a burning flame headed into it. … DNA reminded me recently and said he was turning us into the FBI.")
In addition to performing, Cassidy spent countless hours of his time working for the local scene, organizing such memorable past events as the Superwinners indie-rock show, The Boat Drag extravaganzas (music-themed shows “done solely for fun") and other noteworthy benefits, and most recently promoting shows at Moxie’s—a position he will step-down from after this month.
“As we’ve gotten older, it’s become more about prioritizing,” Cassidy explains. “My wife is about to start teaching full-time, and I would like to improve on my own playing and singing before we try something new in the future. … I’ve found that anything basically that I’ve put a lot of energy into usually yields good results—that’s been true from promoting to playing.”
Asked about his own opinion on the local music scene and its ability to thrive, Cassidy says he wishes bands would do more on their own behalf to promote and increase turnouts at shows—a sentiment echoed by other promoters who find themselves left with the bulk of the detail work.
Over the years, Cowboy featured a number of familiar faces on the Chico rock scene, from the amazing drum work of Abodeely and Trevor Sellers to the unconventional playing and arrangement skills of local music lovers like bassist Conrad Nystrom and guitarist Dave Greenfield—not to forget former guitarist/songwriter Brad Nabors, an accomplished performer Cassidy calls “a genius who really taught us a lot and took it to another level.” Nabors recently left the group to live in Oakland and pursue seminary school.
“Over our lifespan, [Cowboy’s] music became more moody and atmospheric as we grew more sophisticated in our compositional techniques,” Cassidy says of the group’s progression. “We really tried to incorporate the emotion of the song down the line of players.”
The group, along with past and present members, will be performing about 26 of its 50 original songs at the final show, which is free of charge. They will also repress some copies of the old CD, as well as a new full-length recording.
“It’s been a thoroughly pleasurable experience this whole time just playing with friends and being creative. … Now I just need a break to become inspired again—have some free time, see some bands, see a movie, maybe drop in on some open-mic nights every once in a while. … I’m sure we’ll all be playing music again in the future with various friends. But this is it for Cowboy.”
Hopefully for those who enjoy local music, caring people like Jason Cassidy will remain on the scene for years to come—even if he’s only cheering from the sides.