“I’m not in this business to make friends.”
I’ve probably said that more times than “I love you” or “I’m so hung over” in the past 10 years; I use it like a mantra. Just because we’re chummy at a Casbah show and you give me a dap (along with a copy of your new album), that does not mean that I’m your friend.
But sometimes I can’t help it. Case in point: Jordan Hammond. He’s been a dear friend for as long as I’ve lived here, but he’s also quietly established himself as one of the scene’s best musicians. Whether it was the first time I heard him play with his indie-rock trio Rebar & Plums or his more recent project, the noise-pop band Primitive Noyes, I never felt nepotistic writing about him. His music was just too good not to say something.
I first met Hammond when I was sitting in my car in the parking lot at the Educational Cultural Complex in Southeast San Diego, when he stealthily approached and asked, “Hey man, are you listening to the new Koalbum?” I was, unfortunately, but that didn’t stop us from bonding over much better music. Over the years, I watched him develop as a musician via his solo bedroom project Inkblot Propaganda. His music—a mix of droning, mostly instrumental guitar noise and tender ballads guided by a voice that resembled a less abrasive Isaac Brock—could sometimes be a lot to take in, but it was still novel.
Hammond finally channeled the best of both projects with Primitive Noyes. I was lucky enough to have seen their early shows, and I was the first to write about their debut release, Ideation (which you can still download for free on their website). One listen to the majestic guitar jamming on “Anyway, Perfect” and the drum-as-heartbeat atheist ballad “Science vs. The Story” and I knew that Hammond had reached a creative peak.
Even so, the band hasn’t had much to show for their efforts in the past two years. They never sold out a show and only have about 300 fans on Facebook. Maybe it’s because my diminutive friend hasn’t a self-marketing bone in his body. Maybe it’s because their music just doesn’t fit the trends. But it’s not because it sucks.
There were only about two-dozen people in the audience at Hammond’s farewell show at Tin Can Ale House last Thursday. It was a disappointing turnout, especially for a guy who’s let countless bands crash at his house in Golden Hill and hosted plenty of shows there for local and touring groups that had nowhere else to play. But it didn’t matter. Hammond still gave one of the most spirited performances I’ve seen, filling the room with marvelous, transcendent, looping guitar noise. Anyone who was there knew they had witnessed something special.
“Why not try to live the adventure that you see in yourself?” he responded after the show when I asked why he was moving to Austin, Texas. “I guess I just feel like I’m done here, and it’s not the city’s fault; it’s just where I am as a person.”
Some watering of eyes and “I love you, man”s ensued. We often take our friends for granted, and when there’s also music involved, the impact of someone leaving is even more profound when you think of all the shows when you said to yourself, “Oh, I’ll just catch their next gig.” Whether by going to his shows or writing about his bands, I’ll miss supporting this local musician. But, mostly, I’ll miss my friend.