This time of year, more than any other, seems to trigger specific memories associated with specific songs/albums.
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone is a one-man band (Owen Ashworth) I feel I grew up with. I can still remember the exact moment during my sophomore year of college when my friend Lou popped Twinkle Echo into his car’s CD player and skipped ahead to track 7, “Calloused Fingers Won’t Make You Strong, Edith Wong” which we played on repeat as we made our way from campus to his apartment.
I’ve never been able to understand or fully express how or why certain songs/artists affect me the way they do, but I guess for CFTPA, I loved how the simplicity of the music paired so well with the quirky, brilliant, and bittersweet lyrics. During a time when I felt fucked up, confused, and depressed, his music seemed to best express the simple and complex emotions that I seemed incapable of controlling: love, sadness, anger, longing, etc. So when I couldn’t untangle the muddled mess of feelings for myself, I relied on Owen to do it for me, which he managed to do using a keyboard and 1-3 minutes long songs. CFTPA became the background noise that I moved with constantly. I would scribble his lyrics in the margins of my notebook, walk to the beat of the lyrics as they played over and over in my head, and, true to the times, constantly leave snippets of his words as my status messages on AIM.
As it’s said to happen, life changed and who I was/how I felt changed, too. It took awhile, but I was able to grow into myself and out of my depression. I was able to find a little more stability in my surroundings and rebuild myself after feeling shattered (learning later that this is never-ending–the break, the rebuild, each time getting stronger and smarter). And although many of the things/relationships I found comfort in also changed, Owen’s music always seemed synonymous with some coming-of-age moment or a particularly fond memory.
One of my favorite memories from when I lived in Houston was seeing CTFPA play at Super Happy Fun Land. Sitting on the worn out couches in a space that felt more like someone’s basement than a concert venue was exhilarating. For years I had listened to these songs alone or with the company of a select few who “got it” in similar settings, and suddenly I was able to experience that magic with a roomful of strangers who had felt the same way about the same music. Talk about instant camaraderie.
And after we migrated back up to Philly, Owen followed us there, too. Sitting in the sanctuary of the church with D, listening him play covers of “Graceland” (one of all-time favorite songs on one of my all-time favorite albums) and “Streets of Philadelphia” had me floating for days. And during another show at the church, I found myself outside having a cigarette at the same time as Owen. But knowing there was no real way to not come off as a creepster if I introduced myself to him, I just politely smiled and said “hey.”
In more recent years, my love for CFPTA has waned a bit, and I found myself skipping out of shows, figuring I could catch him next time, or shrugging in response to D when he’d ask if I was interested. But on the hard days, on the crisp fall days, or the days that I could not shake the feeling of melancholy, I still revisit his tracks in my iTunes collection and still recommend him to friends or acquaintances who I think might need a friend like this in their life.
Today was one of those days for me. I could not completely shake the feeling of sadness and suddenly found myself singing “Blue Corolla.” This started me on a You Tube frenzy, looking up every song of his I ever used to mend a broken heart (many posted here). I had read back in the summer that Owen was planning on hanging up his Casiotone for good, though he would still pursue his music career. Out of curiosity, I looked up where his closest show would be. Turns out he’s playing his last New York show this Friday.
Call me a sucker, but I believe wholeheartedly in signs. I had no intention of going to NYC this weekend or seeing this show, but I kind of feel like this show is not only a last hurrah, but it might be an opportunity for some closure, too…
so i’m gonna change
i’m leaving something
to remember me by