On April 12, the Sad Mag crew piled into a car and headed for Seattle to take in ‘Mo-Wave, Seattle’s brand new, all-queer music festival. In between comically oversized whiskeys and late night street meat breaks, we found some time to interview a few of the festival’s outstanding artists. We took the same (sort of) three (or so) questions to all of them to see what made this amazing celebration of queer art and culture tick.
Over a beer at The Wildrose, Tyler Morgenstern chatted with Jordan O’Jordan, a Seattle transplant with bluegrass charm and a penchant for the personal as political.
Read on! and have a listen to Jordan O’Jordan seduce you with his banjo…
How long have you been playing as your current project and where are you from?
My name is Jordan O’ Jordan. I’m originally from Ohio, but I live in Seattle now.
What brought you to Seattle?
Originally I wanted to make the pilgrimage to the Mecca of grunge rock. Long ago, after college, I thought, “I wanna get out of Ohio, where do I wanna go? Oh. Seattle.” So many bands. Singles is one of my favorite movies of all time. And I know it’s not actually Seattle. It’s like falling in love with LA from movies like LA Story or like…watching Joan Crawford in LA. It’s not real LA, just as watching Singles is not real Seattle, but I still really liked it.
This project (Jordan O’Jordan) started in 2002. So I’ve been doing that for about 11 years now.
How do you go from making a cross-country migration to the city of grunge and end up playing blue grass and doing slam poetry?
I grew up in southern Ohio—in Appalachia—so I grew up listening to a lot of blue grass music. But I played in a bunch of punk bands in high school, then went to college. And it’s hard to play solo punk drums in your dorm room. So I thought “I’ll pick up a string instrument. I’ll pick up the banjo so I can take my culture wherever I go.”
What do you like about ‘Mo-Wave?
One, it’s a bunch of friends of mine who put it together. And it’s always nice when your buddies do something really cool. And I think it’s awesome to have a queer music festival in Seattle. There’s a ton of queer artists around here and we’re all playing music, so just to have a space that’s specific for a moment is awesome. To just say “hey, we’re integrated most all of our lives. But every once in a while we just want it to be us. This specific, tiny, discrete moment–for just a moment–where we can feel completely comfortable.”
As an artist, how do you think we go about creating more queer stages?
Sometimes I think it’s about making specific choices. Touring according to specific choices, about who we listen to, who we are around. It’s so easy to go into a town when you’re on or booking a tour and be like “Who’s gonna draw the most people? Who’s the popular band I wanna play with so lots of people will be at my show? I don’t care if it’s straight people.”
But then sometimes you think, “You know what? No.” Let’s contact our friends who are the queers and the gays in town and let’s play the dive gay bar, rather than the cool, hip joint. Let’s take these spaces, where we’d be anyway and then let’s make them into show spaces or let’s do guerilla art stuff. Some of my favorite shows have been in non-traditional venue spaces like queer houses, parks, galleries, or in tattoo parlors, or on top of a building. People put it together just for a moment.
And it builds community, too. Those spaces are more close-knit. And at the risk of sounding preachy, it’s not about selling booze. When you play a bar or a venue, the goal of why you’re there is to sell booze. Let’s call a spade a spade. You need to pay all the bartenders, you need to pay the door people. You need to sell a lot of booze.
Which, thank God. Everybody likes to get fucked up. But every once in a while, it’s important to make specific choices about the things we’re saying with our careers…that maybe aren’t the things we want to say.
If you’re only playing venues or only playing with straight people…take a minute. Get a little political. Get a little meta.