Why I Spent the Last 4 Years Making a Movie About a Funk Band…

Josh Freund
Apr 12, 2017 · 4 min read

It’s hot. Not beach hot. Swamp hot. These clothes need the drying rack hot.

And it’s late. Not just late for a Monday. Late late.

And I’m dancing. Not just rocking side to side. Gettin’ after it dancing. Letting it all out dancing. I don’t even know what’s going on anymore dancing.

And I look around. Sam is there. And so is Skyler. And Dave. And Jenny. I see Adam groovin. Mimsie putting us all to shame.

And I realize how lucky I am to be here. How lucky we all are. And how grateful we are to this band. To this bar. To this city.

Down at The Maple Leaf Bar, in New Orleans, Louisiana, this is how I feel every Monday night. These are the people I see next to me week in and week out. Dancing the night away as Papa Grows Funk pours their heart out for us like they do every single Monday night.

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As they’ve done for the last 13 years. That’s right. Gigging Monday nights for 13 years. Papa Grows Funk, five of the funkiest musicians alive, born out of the funkiest town this side of the Milky Way.

Yeah, I said the funkiest! And I stand by it. See, there’s something you need to know about New Orleans right now. Papa Grows Funk- they’re just our current manifestation of a long line of soulful cats dedicating their lives to making people move and groove. Check our family tree. We’ve got the hitmaker Fats Domino, the innovative Louis Armstrong, the flamboyant Earl King, the trendsetter Professor Longhair, the genius James Booker. We’ve got the humble gentleman Allen Toussaint. The psychedelic Dr. John. The soulful Irma Thomas, the queen Mahalia Jackson. The Meters, man!

For decades this city has run on music. The folks here feed off it. Need it. Can’t breathe without it. And hence, what we’ve got down here. What we love about our city. About our bands. Is the community it builds. The traditions that can only arise from countless nights sweating on the dance floor together.

Just check the local listings on WWOZ right now. Playing this week in town we’ve got Dumpstaphunk, Jon Cleary, Aurora Nealand, King James and the Special Men. Papa Grows Funk, just like these bands, was a beautiful amalgamation of all that came before it. Papa Grows Funk took up the mantle of being a New Orleans band. And boy did they run with it.

Notice the passed tense? Yeah. Sadly, this legendary band Papa Grows Funk, they haven’t brought the house down together since June 29, 2013. (Of course I was there!) Despite all the gifts they gave with every riff and every jam, despite all the joy they created for every person slammed onto their ass on a Monday night, you’ve probably never heard of them. Maybe if you’re a fellow funk freak. Maybe if you’re a Jazz Fest regular. But most of you. Plain and simple, you’ve missed out.

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And Papa Grows Funk? They gave it a damn good shot. They hustled in this dog fight we call the music industry for 13 years. They tried to “make it.” And ultimately, they just may end up in the same place most New Orleans bands end up. Unheralded. Unsung heroes. Never lit up by that bright spot light.

But wait. Hold on. What about me? And Sam? And Dave, Mimsie, Jenny, Adam and Skyler? What about the thousands of people who walked into the Maple Leaf on a Monday night over the years who felt the energy you can only feel there, with that band?

For me, the bottom line to this band’s story comes down to one idea. We call it success. Most of us want it. Most of us evaluate our lives by it. But what does it really mean to you? How do you know if you’ve made it? If you’ve done enough? If you’ve got more in the tank?

Do you know what it meant to this band? Or this city?

This conversation, explored through the musical heartbeat of Papa Grows Funk and the one and only city of New Orleans is the subject of my upcoming film Do U Want It? I made this film, along with Sam (from the dance floor), because letting this band drift away into our collective memory didn’t feel good enough. Didn’t feel just. Their story needed to be told.

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And now, after working to make this film a reality for over four years, we are honored to announce that Do U Want It? will make its world premiere April 21, 2017 at the Bare Bones International Film & Music Festival.

And like us on Facebook, keeping your dial tuned funky, to stay updated on when the movie might be playing in a theater near you.

Trailer below:

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