Papa Grows Funk shaken by Katrina, but still road worthy and powerful

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:: Papa Grows Funk ::Oskar Blues :: Jan. 27 ::
:: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom :: Jan. 28:: 

 

By Matt Marty 

“Can you feel the music?” asks front man John Gros on the first track of Papa Grows Funk’s new album Shakin’. How could you not feel the music? Papa Grows Funk has power  — power to make its audiences get up, dance and play air guitar every time they hear Papa’s music. It is raw, funky and most importantly, just down-right good.

The New Orleans-based band contains a line-up of nothing less than stellar musicians, including bassist Marc Pero, Jason Mingledorff on sax and guitarist June Yamagishi, all of which provide the sail for John Gros to direct the ship with his Hammond B3 and funky vocals.

For Gros, Papa Grows Funk was a gig to fill his Monday nights. Playing keyboards for George Porter Jr.’s band and fronting a band of his own, MuleBone were his top priority.  In a recent interview with The Marquee, Gros said, “Papa Grows Funk slowly and steadily started getting more and more phone calls and the calendar started to fill up.” 

As the work with George Porter Jr. started to subside and Papa Grows Funk started to gain recognition, the next logical step was to record some tracks. “We had been together nine months and the best way for people to take us seriously and for us to get some gigs was to put a CD out,” said Gros. So that is exactly what they did in 2001 with their release of Doin’ It.

Word of mouth about Papa Grows Funk quickly spread in the New Orleans area. The band was able to gain fans from very diverse musical backgrounds, which contributed to their success in New Orleans. “Our fan base integrated all the way from the Funky Meters, Radiators crowd to the Widespread Panic, Phish crowd,” Gros said. After a short time, Papa Grows Funk was being heavily traded over the internet and the word of mouth that started in New Orleans started to spread around the country.

The success in New Orleans led to the group expanding to markets outside of the South. To keep families intact, the touring schedule for Papa Grows Funk was, and still is, going out of town for a long weekend or a week. “We don’t do a lot of six week or two month tours,” said Gros. 

Playing markets like San Francisco, Colorado and New York have been the closer-to-home gigs for Papa Grows Funk. In the past few years the band has gone abroad, playing in France and Japan. “It was like the Beatles, when we went into June’s (Yamagishi’s) first solo, whoever was sitting down was screaming and jumping up and down. It was wild,” said Gros of the trip to Japan.

The past few years have been filled with success for Papa Grows Funk, although the events of the last five months have stalled plans for the future momentarily. Hurricane Katrina has affected Papa Grows Funk in a tremendous way, as it has all New Orleans residents. Sax player Mingledorff has had to temporarily relocate to Tampa Bay, Fla., due to roof damage to his house.  The rest of the band has been fortunate enough not to have had major damage to their homes and they are all now living back in New Orleans. The absence of a member has been tough on the band, logistically as well as spiritually, said Gros. “When we’re going out of town, we have to make sure that he has a plane ticket or a car to wherever we’re going, which has made things complicated,” said Gros.

Despite the problems in New Orleans, Papa Grows Funk continues to play their Monday night gig, which has been a return to normalcy for many New Orleans residents. For Gros, he sees this as a meaningful step in the rebuilding of New Orleans.  The return of New Orleans musicians is just one step in the renovation of the city, in Gros’ eyes.  Papa Grows Funk has no plans to leave the city, he said. “We are a New Orleans band. This is home, and this is where we are going to be,” Gros said.

 

:: Papa Grows Funk

::Oskar Blues :: Jan. 27 ::

:: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom :: Jan. 28::

 

Spectate if you Gravitate:

• The Radiators

• Funky Meters

• Dirty Dozen Brass Band

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