New Orleans’ Community Records started with the purest punk rock intentions.
For founders Greg Rodrigue and Daniel “D-Ray” Ray, punk is an approach, not a genre, and they wanted the label to be a collective. While never exactly that, it’s never strayed too far from that goal.
Appropriately, its signature event is the Community Records Block Party, a celebration of the local and national talent it has worked with as well as the scene that spawned it.
This weekend, the Community Records Block Party will be on its third block. For the event’s first six years, the New Orleans-based indie rock label took over the now-defunct Three Ring Circus and much of Clio Street outside to present a day and night of local and touring indie rock and punk.
When Three Ring Circus closed, the Block Party moved to the Carver Theater. It allowed organizers to maintain two stages so the music never stopped, but it was too big to get the intimate vibe that Rodrigue and Ray wanted.
Community Records Block Party will take place at Gasa Gasa on Friday and Saturday, and Rodrigue sees the two nights on the club’s one stage as a plus. In the past, they would put on a daunting 20 bands in one day. “We’re doing seven bands on Friday and 11 bands on Saturday — which is still a lot — but it’s not quite as overwhelming,” he said.
In the past they had two stages so the music never stopped. That’s not possible at Gasa Gasa, but Rodrigue sees the set changes as a net positive as well. “There will be a good 15-20 minutes between the bands for people to take in the experience.”
Community Records does its best to live up to punk and indie rock’s DIY, grass-roots aesthetic. It has only handshake agreements with artists. They work with some bands from top to bottom, from recording and releasing music to helping them book tours. There are others that have released music on Community and moved on to other labels, and some have appeared only on Community Records’ compilation albums that draw attention to interesting bands.
Woozy is one of the acts working with Community on every phase of their new album, “Blistered.” According to Woozy’s John St. Cyr, the flexible, informal nature of their relationship is part of the label’s appeal.
“Our relationship with the Community dudes is very much friends first and business associates second,” he said. “We’re both very passionate about helping to cultivate each other’s projects and to help grow the New Orleans music scene as a whole.”
Woozy’s new album, “Blistered,” was co-released by Community and Exploding in Sound Records. The Block Party influenced the band’s decision. St. Cyr has been going to them for years, and he saw his first punk show there when he was 14.
“When the time came to do the album, it only made sense to go with our longtime DIY punk heroes,” he said. “In combination with Exploding in Sound, which is possibly my favorite curator for new underground rock music, I feel like we’re putting this album in the most capable and loving hands.”
Woozy will headline the Block Party Friday night, and “Blistered” is the sound of a band that says yes to more ideas than it turns down. The songs cover a lot of musical ground in four or so minutes, finding fragile, lyrical moments in between passages that deliver the speedball of classic rock guitars, tense bursts of wiry guitar that borders on dissonant, and folk-rock strumming. Few songs settle into a conventional verse/chorus pattern; instead, each song has its own logic that the band clearly follows.
That isn’t the Community Records sound. Rodrigue says there isn’t one and thinks the bands they work with are unified by a less tangible quality. “Does the music seem to come from a genuine, heartfelt place?” he said.
Still, live shows like the Block Party affect his thinking. Community puts out music by Caddywhompus and Donovan Wolfington, and part of his consideration is, “If these bands were on a bill together, would it work?”
The Block Party lineup will be split between local and touring bands, and the event has become enough of a gathering of the tribe that a few bands work their tour schedules so that they can swing through New Orleans to play it. “There have even been a few people who’ve moved from Michigan to New Orleans, and they attribute it to the Block Party,” Rodrigue said.
St. Cyr is looking forward to seeing this year’s show as well as playing it with Woozy.
“My favorite memory is really the end of Block Party 2011 during Caddywhompus’ set,” he said. “The crowd was two blocks deep and so excited. It was such a good feeling to see this band I’ve known since the beginning grow into this noise rock monster and to see this huge outpouring of support.”