in which paper feath­ers, bowler hats, and pat­terned col­lars queer­ily coex­ist

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.