High Five Jordan Lives Forever: Reflections on Six Months Without Live Music
Remembering the connections forged (and alter-egos christened) by the festival experience in an era of remote live streams.
The first time any of us met High Five Jordan was at the 2014 “Fuck Yeah Festival” (better known as FYF) in Downtown Los Angeles. Slint had just finished their 4 p.m. set at the LA Memorial Sports Arena.
Emerging headlong into the light like some elemental monster from the darkest recesses of the stage, Chinatown tattoo visible on his shoulder beneath the sleeveless Black Flag t-shirt he wore, black and red Pendleton cinched around his waist, High Five Jordan raised his right hand in exultant celebration.
“Dude! Fucking Slint! Did you see that? Up top! Give it to me!”
It didn’t matter if he knew you or not. He greeted everyone the same way. Not everyone shared his passion—some were frightened, some confused—but no one could deny this flannel-clad ball of energy. No one was more “fuck-yeah” about that festival than High Five Jordan. Every show was the most epic show ever, every night the best of his life.
In reality, High Five Jordan was the FYF-forged alter-ego of our real life friend, Jordan, a filmmaker who has directed music videos for Little Hurricane and We Were Indians, toured the film festival circuit in 2018 and 2019 with Boom!, a documentary he produced and directed about Seattle-area garage rock pioneers The Sonics, and is the sometime-associate of Jordan on Molly when circumstances allowed. Sometimes you got all three, sometimes you got just the one. It just depended.
Despite some questionable behavior from time to time—his and ours—we were grown men who were fanatics about music. This has led to some important discussions since COVID broke the world. “Zeppelin II is the best Zeppelin. Fight me,” I texted three of my friends one Saturday for no reason other than to stay in touch. Two disagreed, naming Houses of the Holy instead. One responded with a link for “Platelet-Rich Plasma Penile Enlargement” surgery for the low, low cost of $595. Funny guy.
There are still concerts left we dream of seeing (a Zeppelin reunion being at the top on the list), but between the four of us, we have seen a shit-ton of shows. Not long ago, we debated which year, in all the years we’ve known each other, was the best for live music. For us, it was 2014. Hands down. Coachella had The Replacements, Pixies, Queens of the Stone Age, Neutral Milk Hotel, Muse, Beck, Arcade Fire, Motörhead, and The Cult. At Riot Fest I saw Jane’s Addiction, Murder City Devils, The Cure, Flaming Lips, Stiff Little Fingers, Cock Sparrer, and a life-changing set from the Goddess of Punk, Patti Smith, the first of a dozen times I’ve now seen her.
In 2014, our immediate circle collectively attended four festivals and over a hundred concerts—103 to be exact. But the lineup at that year’s FYF might have been the best of all. It was an absolute beast: Slint, Ty Segall, The Bronx, Mariachi El Bronx, Blood Brothers, The Strokes, Slowdive, Interpol, Run the Jewels, Murder City Devils (again), Phoenix, Presidents of the USA, Pink Mountaintops, Deafheaven—and those were just the bands we saw.
There were others in this collective of music junkies of ours. Fox, Aubo, Jay, B-Robs, Pat, Haroon, Dusty Sid. I remember the eight of us standing in a line at the back edge of the crowd for Slowdive’s FYF reunion set as the Southern California sun illuminated pink and orange behind the stage. As much as we liked to pretend sometimes, this wasn’t Hunter S. Thompson’s Barstow and we weren’t on the edge of the desert. We were in Downtown Los Angeles listening to atmospheric ’90s dream pop. There was no danger of bats. How we’d gotten there and where each of us had come from wasn’t important. Long Island, Seattle, St. Louis, Cincinnati. We were all right where we belonged.
Concerts were more than just a pastime for us. It was a way of life. We scheduled our lives around the shows we wanted to see, planned weeks in advance, or didn’t. At the Buzzcocks show at The Fonda three days after I came back from Riot Fest in Chicago, I broke my arm in a pit (which I started) before the first song was over, watched the rest of the show from the medic’s closet, then finally went to the ER. When I got back to my apartment at 3 a.m., my friends were waiting for me to see if I had any painkillers I wanted to share. At least they brought pizza.
Two nights after that, three of us saw Samhain at The Wiltern. Over the next couple of years, we would see Danzig, and then Misfits on New Year’s Eve Eve at The Forum to complete the Trinity. We’ve sat in the fifteenth row at Dodger Stadium for Sir Paul (better seats than Tom Morello had), saw Babes in Toyland reunite at The Roxy, ridden up in a hotel elevator with Tom Verlaine and the members of Television, and were at the Hollywood Bowl for Mötley Crüe’s “Final Tour”—until it wasn’t their final tour anymore.
We just marked the six-year anniversary of that FYF. A couple of us have gotten married or engaged. Some of us have moved away. One of us has died. For some of us, arguing about music by text is all we have left right now.
So, what do we do now that COVID has taken concerts away from us?
There really aren’t that many options. Artists streaming on online platforms such as StageIt and Veeps.com are doing what they can to fill the void (sound quality varies and connection can sometimes be spotty), but drive-in concerts and live streams seem to be as effective at capturing the energy of a real, live mosh pit as drive-thru strip clubs are at recreating the immediacy of a lap dance. I suppose we could all jump onto Zoom and watch Celebration Day together for the hundredth time, or Decline of Western Civilization, but it’s just not the same (Control and 24 Hour Party People will also do in a pinch). In any case, you’re not going home with glitter on your pants.
We just marked the six-year anniversary of that FYF. A couple of us have gotten married or engaged. Some of us have moved away. One of us has died, one of us almost did, and a few of us probably should have except for sheer blind luck. For some of us, arguing about music by text is all we have left right now. But 2014—especially those two days at FYF—was the moment it all came together, the moment we were connected forever. “There was madness in any direction, at any hour. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave…”
Hunter was talking about an entire generation. We numbered less than a dozen, but his words rang no less true. High Five Jordan and his wife welcomed their first child into the world in July 2020. His name is Jack. The day after he was born, I asked my friend if he had a “first song” picked out to play for his son. He didn’t yet but said he had at least half a dozen Johnny Cash records in mind. He figured that was probably a good start. I didn’t disagree.
FYF has been postponed indefinitely, as have countless other shows. But in those moments, High Five Jordan stood for all of us. Our excitement for the music and for the fun and for the relationships we were forging. If we’re lucky, maybe by the time Jack is old enough to take over for his dad this will all be over. Come to think of it, High Five Jack has a pretty nice ring to it. FL