By the end of April, just as the rest of the country is getting their festival engines started, a triumvirate of consecutive noteworthy weekend events will have already swept through New Orleans, satiating the diverse tastes of locals and flooding the streets with music lovers from all over the world. This past weekend’s record setting French Quarter Festival did well to entertain fans of oppressive downtown crowds and bands you can probably see almost any other weekend of the year, while the looming Jazz Fest – with an old-bro jams heavy lineup that somehow includes Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, The Beach Boys, The Eagles and Jimmy Buffett – is pretty secure in its standing as the marquee event of the season regardless of how much FQFesters boast about that event’s swelling attendance.
But in it’s fifth year nestled between April’s two behemoths, local DIY powerhouse Community Records’ annual Block Party continues to fill the broad niche inhabited by garage, punk, ska, and noise fans of all ages and is becoming not just a local institution but something of a tourist destination. This year’s event features 26 bands from all around New Orleans and locales as far flung as Michigan, Rhode Island, California and Indiana, drawing carpoolers and couch surfers to town from all over the country for what has grown into a nationally recognized event (while an extensive and tightly-packed pre- and post- party schedule has transformed the one-day celebration into a truly weekend-long affair).
During the twelve hours of non-stop music on Saturday, here are two acts to look out for:
Matt Wixson’s Flying Circus – 4PM, outside
A Detroit area native who manages to act both as a DIY go-to-guy in his own community and an artist who wears more hats than his fan base can keep up with, perhaps no performer at Block Party is as unique a case study as Matt Wixson. One of the few (only?) ska artists who seems to embody the internet age’s obsessive collage culture, Wixson’s recorded history plays like a blogged stockpile of old Toots records and a few beat up Dan Pothast CDs owned by a 90s pop culture apologist who’d be working from behind a laptop at home if not for his obvious guitar skills.
Though he’s been known at different times to belt out numbers at the top of his lungs over an acoustic guitar, provide pounding keys to already-earsplittingly heavy skacore bands and craft the strangest punk mash-ups you’re likely ever to hear, the project he’ll be bringing to Clio Street on Saturday, Matt Wixson’s Flying Circus, is an exercise in archetypal genre blurs and splices as he and his merry backing band delve both parodically and reverently into political discourse, protest music, drinking hymns and middle American angst.
Brunt Of It – 6PM, outisde
Of every punk/ska hybrid one may to encounter in a lifetime, Brunt Of It‘s drive to perfect the energy of old school punk will likely always stick out. Where contemporaries of their 15+ year history have tended to take their punk roots into thrash or metalcore territory while relying on ska’s metered upstroke and sinewy brass to create some semblance of melodic balance, this Boston-based act seem to do the exact opposite. With punk spiritually culled from the likes of Dead Kennedys, Brunt Of It’s ska roots often emerge warped and textured, making for strange concoctions of rocksteady and hardcore: where you’d expect Flaming Tsunamis you get Screeching Weasel, and where there might otherwise be a few pieces of pedestrian 3rd Wave Ska bacchanalia, there are horns and rhythms rife with a discordant intensity few ska acts can achieve.
Returning to Block Party after a year off in 2011, Brunt Of It will prove to be one of the highlights of the entire event. Expect a massive, sweat-drenched circle pit and some microphone-induced forehead bleeding.
The 5th Annual Community Records Block Party takes place on Saturday, April 21 at The Big Top, 1638 Clio St. Tickets are $20 at the door, $14 in advance or with a clothing or food donation on the day of the event. Gates open at 11:30AM and the music goes non-stop from noon to midnight.