Q-and-A with Sacramento music-scene trailblazer Justin Nordan
The local music promoter talks Sacramento bands, dad fails and what he was doing 25 years ago
Justin Nordan is a crucial player in the local music scene, whether he's putting on local shows or helping power major international festivals. These days, the 37-year-old's working at Queue, a music tech company based out of Old Sacramento. Queue helps venues, festivals and more sell tickets and make the concertgoing experience that much more awesome. Local spots such as Ace of Spades and Assembly Music Hall use Queue, but that's not all. Nordan says Queue made a splash at South by Southwest in Austin by powering more than 15 events, including The Fader Fort, arguably the festival's premier gathering. Nordan shared with SN&R his local music-scene story.
This issue celebrates SN&R’s 25th anniversary. What were you doing at age 25?
Well, I had a 3-year-old daughter at that time. I was working in the events industry and trying to figure how I could make a difference in the local music space. I was going to a lot of shows, that's for damn sure. The rest is hazy.
What kind of music does your daughter listen to?
She is seriously all over the place. One Direction, Ed Sheeran, Arctic Monkeys, Bastille, AFI and lots of country. Is that a dad fail? Possibly.
You work for Queue. Does Queue mean I will never have to wait in line again?
[It] will allow you to wait less, drink more. You will definitely love venues and festivals that use Queue. We are crushing lines nationwide.
What’s the longest line you’ve ever waited in?
At customs, coming back from Jamaica. It sucked.
How’d you get hooked on local music?
I kinda hung around the scene, starting in 1995, by going to shows at Cattle Club, Crest Theatre, The Boardwalk, etc. In 2004, Eric Rushing gave me an opportunity to help street-promote for 720 Records. Just watching him crush it at The Boardwalk made me want to put on shows myself.
Do you remember your first local show?
The first show that I went to, after I moved to Sacramento from the East Bay in 1995, was Cake at Crest Theatre. They performed [songs from] Motorcade Of Generosity.
The music scene is riding a wave these days.
I agree! I have to give a lot of credit to Ace of Spades, Assembly, Abstract Entertainment, LowBrau, and Punch and Pie [Productions] for bringing shows to Sacramento. … I've seen shows selling out left and right, and I think that's a great thing!
But I feel like people aren’t starting new bands. Or maybe I’m just old?
Autumn Sky's new band, and her change of style and direction, has given me some hope. But in terms of new artists, you may be right. There's a lull in the force.
What’s your preferred drink while watching a band?
Ice-cold beer. My favorite is Shiner Bock. Can some bar carry Shiner here in Sac?!
Help this guy out! CDs, records or mobile?
I love the raw sound of vinyl, but to be honest, I listen to Spotify in the car and at work.
Tell me more about the local bands you’re into.
In the past year, artists like Paper Pistols, Autumn Sky, Contra, Survival Guide and James Cavern have given me faith in the scene again.
If you could change one thing about the scene, what would it be, and why?
The sense of entitlement. It's hard work being in a band. It's even harder work to be in a successful band. A lot of bands expect everything will be handed to them. Reality is, it won't.
You get to have a beer with any musician, living or dead.
Man, this is a hard one. Ozzy [Osbourne], Jim Morrison, Robert Plant, Kurt Cobain, Ian MacKaye, Cat Stevens, Daniel Johns, Kanye West, Sam Cooke—and I have to choose just one? And this doesn't include music-industry people like Butch Vig, Cameron Crowe and Rick Rubin. I don't think I can narrow the field, man.
Aww, you can do it.
I'd have to say Daniel Johns. Seems kinda weird, right? He's the lead singer of Silverchair, a band who isn't widely recognized in the [United States], unless you were a teen in the '90s. Well, the unique thing is that their music didn't stop in the '90s. They put out two of the most amazing albums in the 2000s, Diorama and Young Modern. They ditched the grunge vibe, and Daniel started writing from some pretty dark places. He quit taking antidepressants, and I think he made some of the band's best music. Not to mention his work with the Dissociatives, the collaboration between Daniel Johns and DJ Paul Mac. He just seems like a dude I could totally relate to, and I could finally pick his brain a little bit.
Last question: Best spot for brunch?
I love The Porch. If I'm in the burbs, I prefer Awful Annie's.