04.20: Sun Hotel – Ampersand
In it’s fifth incarnation as the Gulf South’s can’t-miss punk event of the year, the Community Records Block Party is a shining paradigm of how to go homegrow a DIY culture without losing any of the ethic associated with it. Though having taken the “all day long” formula to its logical peak last year with a stacked indoor-outdoor lineup and a phenomenal headlining set by ska/punk/prog legends the Rx Bandits, the subtle evolvements to be seen this year are less the result of an obligatory urge to expand than they are a manifestation of the growing numbers of artists both in front and behind the scenes who aspire to what Community Records has already achieved and who simply want to contribute. Consequently, this year’s pre- and post-Block Party festivities only serve to further highlight the depths of New Orleans’ underground rock and punk community. And though it’s hard to spotlight only one – what, with the Breezys boys opening their doors up to the likes of Informant and the Switchers on Friday afternoon, Sun Hotel playing a pool party at Ampersand later that night and the Big Top (the scene of the whole event) hosting punk shows on Sunday and Monday right when you think it’s all said and done – Chinquapin Records‘ Block Party After Party will be, if you can muster the physical energy, the must-see show of the weekend aside from the obvious 12-hour festival around which the entire weekend is based.
It can be strangely enthralling, the experience of seeing and hearing Houston’s the Tontons, a band brimming with talent but operating with no particular angle of contemporariness (unless of course being a barefaced amalgam of its members’ influences is an “angle”). Though this might put them at odds with the hyper-modern approach to making music that characterizes much of the artistry in their hometown, a live performance from this quartet is often simply an exercise in interesting (though not necessarily groundbreaking) songwriting and perfection in execution: a high register, R&B-informed voice in songstress Asli Omar; dynamic multi-genre guitar work – ranging from jazz to shoegaze to calypso to indie – from Adam Martinez; and a robust, airtight rhythm section composed of Adam’s brother Justin on drums and Tom Nguyen on bass.
The Tontons haven’t been through down in about eight months, not since their planned appearance at Chinquapin Records’ first Chindig was cancelled due to weather and scheduling conflicts. However, they’ve picked the perfect weekend to reemerge in the New Orleans underground. Immediately following Block Party (which, while we’re on the topic, features another Houstonian, prodigious earache rapper B L A C K I E), the Tontons will headline a late night aftershow at the Circle Bar along side local power pop four-piece the Beams and Austin-based psychedelic punk act Major Major Major.
MP3: The Tontons: “Leon”
Check out our New Orleans Music Calendar for a full slate of constantly updated live picks