John Papa Gros Band @ Tipitina's, 2/17

The John Papa Gros Band will hold its second annual Carnival Kickoff on Friday, February 17th at the world famous Tipitina’s in New Orleans.  Last year’s edition of the party saw the John Papa Gros Band hosting an all-star lineup of guest musicians for a night of unforgettable collaborations.  The same holds true this year with special guests including Ivan Neville, Tank and Jelly of Tank and the Bangas and Khris Royal.  Great music and good times with friends, it’s sure to be a precursor to the revelry the carnival season always provides.  According to John Papa Gros, “last year the Carnival Kickoff was so much fun we are going to do it again and make it an annual event.  It really puts you in the Mardi Gras spirit to kick off the season”.  The James Martin Band supports. Doors at 8pm, tickets available now at Tipitinas.com.

Born in New Orleans, John "Papa" Gros has spent more than a quarter-century championing the music of the Big Easy. He's played it all — New Orleans funk, rock & roll, jazz, blues, Americana, pop/rock — and he swirls those styles into a genre-bending gumbo that pays tribute to his influences while still pushing ahead into new territory.

After kicking off his career as an organist and pianist, for George Porter Jr.’s Runnin’ Pardners, during the 1990s, Gros formed the funk group Papa Grows Funk in 2000. The band held down a weekly performance at the famous Maple Leaf Bar for 13 years, mixing the smooth sophistication of a jazz quintet with the wild, anything-goes spirit of Mardi Gras. Fans and tourists crowded the bar every Monday night, looking for Papa Grows Funk to dish out a greasy, groove-heavy serving of Big Easy funk. The band delivered, releasing six critically-acclaimed albums — including Needle in the Groove, which was co-produced by Nola legend Allen Toussaint, and a 2015 live record that captured Papa Grows Funk’s last Monday night at the Maple Leaf Bar.— and touring around the world, carrying the torch of New Orleans' music scene to far-flung places.

Papa Grows Funk called it quits in 2013. Gros kept playing music, landing work as a sideman for many Nola artists — including Better Than Ezra, Anders Osborne, The Metermen, Raw Oyster Cult, and Bonerama— and playing organ during a pair of all-star tributes to Dr. John in 2014 and the Neville Brothers in May of this year.  Gros is focusing once again on his solo career — which he'd kicked off in 2004 with the album Day's End.

He's been a sideman. A bandleader. A frontman. A solo artist. A singer. An instrumentalist. The roles have been varied, but the goal remains the same: to honor the music he's been living his whole life, and to add his own page to New Orleans' history book.

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