On a hot and steamy June night in New Orleans, Papa Grows Funk played their last show of an illustrious thirteen year career at a sold out Tipitina’s show. To say there was a lot of history represented that night would be a massive understatement. While making my way through the crowd, I counted no less than ten different Papa shirts, a great visual history. Adding to that history would be another New Orleans legend and a grand sendoff that would stretch over three and a half hours.
The evening started off with fellow New Orleans artists Billy Iuso and the Restless Natives. Billy and company ran through a quick set, mostly comprised of covers and a few originals. At times it just seemed rushing to fit in too much in a short span, but one can chalk it up to playing in front of a sold out crowd and the mere fact they were going to be the last band to open for PGF.
The evening’s main event was at hand and there was an energy that was purely electric filling the club. The crowd knew something epic was about to happen and boy they were not going to be disappointed. John Gros and company came out to the stage to give a thank you bow before the set, John’s tee said it all, “THANK YOU.” I think Quint Davis, the producer of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival said it best about Papa Grows Funk, “…[they are] one of THE best, one of THE hottest and most important funky bands in New Orleans.”
In a year of lasts, their last Jazz Fest gig, their Maple Leaf finale (after holding down the Monday spot for years); it was only fitting to end it all in one of the city’s most important venues: Tipitina’s.
Throughout the night, John Gros and company played as if they were possessed by Professor Longhair himself. Each musician got their own solos, homages of sorts to the thirteen year career they were leaving. It was not even four songs into the set when the evening was abruptly thrown on its ear when out of nowhere, Allen Toussaint jumped in on “Red Spark” which had a dose of “Shakin” in the middle. Mr. Toussaint’s energy and affection for the band were felt immediately and carried on throughout the rest of the song. There’s nothing like a New Orleans musical legend showing up and playing with you, but then again, that is the Voodoo of this great city.
As the evening started to draw to an end, you could tell the band and crowd were starting to feel the gravity of the final bars ahead. The solos helped channel a lot of the sorrow into something magical. This is not the end, but rather a new beginning for greater thing to come, John and company will no doubt play again, but for the moment have other projects and life experiences to discover.
Red Spark – w/ Allen Toussaint / Shakin’ / Red Spark Reprise
Rat a Tang Tang
Planet of Love & Hate w/ Jam
Say B’uh (I Jus’ Playin)
Who’s Knockin’ at Your Door
Needle in the Groove
Walkin’ to New Orleans
Fish Eyed Fool w/ Organ & Sax intro
Dolemite Returns w/ Drum Solo
Ain’t No Use w/ guitar intro
Papa Grows Funk were:
John “Papa” Gros – Hammond B3, keys, vocals
Jason Mingledorff – tenor & alto saxophone, cowbell, vocals
June Yamagishi – guitar, vocals
Marc Pero – bass
Jeffery “Jellybean” Alexander – drums, vocals