Som kind of wonderful
Isamu Jordan helped pave the way for many in the local music, arts scene
It seems appropriate that Isamu Jordan named his band Flying Spiders.
As the story goes, a flying spider was the scariest thing Jordan could think of, so that’s what he named his band. Now, as the community grapples with his death last week at age 37, it’s clear Jordan sat in the middle of a web that is Spokane’s music scene, connected in some way to just about everyone.
He’d written about them in the pages of The Spokesman-Review. He’d interviewed them for his P.A. System podcast. He’s shared the stage with them. He’d championed their music. One person after another has called him the glue that held his community together.
As the reality of his death by suicide sinks in, members of Spokane’s music and arts community are reflecting on Jordan’s hard work and striving to find a way to make sure that work wasn’t in vain.
Ginger Ewing, a co-organizer of the annual Terrain art show and former curator of cultural literacy at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, talked of Jordan’s layers – he was a music journalist, a band promoter, a teacher, a DJ and a creative force in his own right, as the Spiders’ emcee and songwriter. Jordan was, she said, a pioneer.
“I saw him as someone who was laying the foundation to create a scene before there was one,” she said. “I also saw him as a mentor. I saw him take numerous musicians, bands, people, no matter what genre, what age, under his wing and support them.”
Karli Ingersoll, who is opening a new venue, The Bartlett, downtown with her husband, Caleb, first encountered Jordan when she was in an indie rock band with her brother. He had an eye, she said, for picking the acts that would find traction or were doing something unique.
“What he was doing never felt insincere, or like there were other motives other than this sincere care for what people were doing,” Ingersoll said. “I think that’s really rare.”
She remembers how positive he was. “It caught me off guard at first,” she said. “He hadn’t really heard us play before but he was very excited about what we were doing.
“He’s definitely been one of the most influential people I’ve known throughout my years in Spokane.”
Jordan brought so much to those around him – that infectious smile and charismatic personality attracted people. He was the coolest guy in any room he was in. The band was on an upswing – they’d done a television spot this year and played gigs in Seattle this summer – making his loss even more keenly felt.
Rajah Bose, the Spiders’ violinist, said Jordan created a family in Spokane “that was much bigger than any family he meant to create. Actually, maybe he did mean that, and it was a secret to the rest of us. What we didn’t realize was that Som was creating a family and we were a part of it.”
Patrick Kendrick of Platform Booking is a longtime friend who booked shows at Rock Coffee and Caterina Winery and who helped with Jordan’s P.A. System podcasts at The Spokesman-Review. Jordan laid the groundwork, worked closely with enough people, to help ensure the music scene continues on an upward trajectory, Kendrick said.
“It’s going to thrive. It’s not going to just survive, it’s going to thrive, based on how far his arms reached around,” Kendrick said. “The community support is not going to go away, because he’s never going to go away and he never went away when people needed him.”
Ewing said that already, artists and venues are having conversations about collaborating.
“What I’ve heard so far, and I feel inside, is dogged determination to continue to create something that Som would be proud of, and again because he crossed so many genres, so many generations, that’s a tall order,” Ewing said. “I think ‘carrying on his legacy’ is an overused term, but that’s the only thing that I can really give word to is ‘carrying on his legacy.’ ”
The Spiders, Ewing said, represent all that Jordan advocated for in Spokane’s music scene. It crosses genres, it incorporates members from different musical backgrounds. It’s multicultural.
“I think the Flying Spiders are an incredible example of his impact on the scene as a whole,” she said. “It was a beautiful, beautiful thing.
“He has set such a precedent for us,” Ewing said. “I hope that we can rise to the challenge.”