The white posters and fliers, designed in the style of an old timey newspaper advertisement, are popping up all over New Orleans, seen everywhere from windows of coffee houses to local events like the recent Women’s Awareness Project benefit. And on Monday, Sept. 22, Community Records officially released their 2014 Block Party preview video, saturated with highlights from the last two years of the event. This year, the annual festival, scheduled for October 25, will move to an indoor venue for the first time, the historic Carver Theater.
“It’s a different beast this year,” said Daniel “D-Ray” Ray, one of the DIY record label’s co-owners. He and co-founder Greg Rodrigue, along with Daisi the dog, met up with AXS on Sept. 11 at Hey Café’s back patio to chat about the Block Party and their love for the local music scene.
The duo’s Block Party “started and still is an all day, all ages, music festival,” according to Ray. The Block Party concept stemmed from a simple realization: “In New Orleans, a place that’s known for music festivals, there isn’t an all-ages punk festival, even though there’s an all-ages punk scene that’s very vibrant. So that’s how it started.”
Today, the Block Party retains the same core idea, said Rodrigue, but it is also a sort of showcase and gathering of Community Records alums, family and friends. “I’d say that at least half, maybe more than half, of the bands performing are bands we’ve released music for,” he said. Examples on the 2014 bill include Sirens, Caddywhompus, Donovan Wolfington and Matt Wixson’s Flying Circus.
And music fans, take note: When Rodrigue says “released music for,” he’s illustrating the key difference between a traditional record label and Community Records. Ray and Rodrigue founded the label in 2008, spawned from the DIY scene that was built by their own band, All People, and their friends’ bands. They initially released a compilation to gain exposure, said Ray.
Then, the concept “snowballed,” according to Ray, and turned into “us perpetually putting out music that we believe in so that we can continue to do what we love.”
The label is less about a band being “signed,” said Rodrigue, as it is embracing each other’s music. “It’s more about the music than anything else.”
Ray added, “the label and the festival started so many years ago. And as we’ve learned things and evolved, it too has evolved and grown and gotten bigger and better.”
For instance, in its first year, 10 local bands and two touring bands were on the Block Party bill. “This year,” said Rodrigue. “There are, like, 15 touring bands and seven local bands.”
The event was first held at the now-defunct Big Top Art Gallery on Clio Street. “That was kind of our stomping ground for so long,” said Rodrigue, who also said that the venue served as their primary all-ages venue for seven years.
The first Block Party was held there in 2007, with a stage inside and an outdoor stage on the blocked-off Clio Street. When the Big Top closed its doors in late 2013, Rodrigue and Ray were tasked with finding a new space for the Block Party. They switched its date from April to October, and looked at many different spaces over the course of about six months before settling on the newly remodeled Carver Theater on Orleans Avenue in Tremé.
The indoor-only space comes with an extra perk, according to the pair: They no longer have to worry about rain. “It’s like the biggest weight off your back,” Rodrigue said passionately, as the pair spent a few moments reminiscing about the hassles of holding an outdoor festival when you’re afraid all the equipment will get wet.
“The place is so nice,” gushed Ray. “It’s really new, and it’s so fresh.”
Community Records’ 2014 Block Party tickets are $17 in advance and $20 at the door. Food will be provided by Midcity Pizza and Vegan Steve, and Madonnathan is on host/drag show duty. Don’t miss the event’s free pre-party the night before at Hey Café on Oct. 24, featuring Boyfriend Material, Jordan Prince and various DJs.