Since its premiere at the 2010 South by Southwest film festival, director Mark Landsman’s documentary Thundersoul: The True Story of Conrad Johnson & The Kashmere Stage Band has been gaining new fans with its uplifting and inspirational story of a Houston high school music teacher who transforms the school’s jazz band into a funk powerhouse. One of those fans is Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx, who decided to use his Hollywood star power, and his bankroll, to executive produce the wide release of the film.
In an interview with National Public Radio, Foxx explained, “Like how Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry embraced Precious, I came on and embraced Thunder Soul, because I thought that the – first of all, the music component which, you know, me being in the music community and friends that I have that are musicians, I said this would be a fantastic movie. And when you watch it there’s nothing but joy in your heart and you’re rooting for these guys. So I wanted to be able to say, listen, let’s get as many eyes and as many people aware of this as we can because this thing is happening, one. Two, it helps keep the focus on young people in music.”
The film is an immensely enjoyable trip in time back to the ’70s heyday of Black Pride, funky soul music, and afro hairdos, juxtaposed with 2008 a reunion show, where the original band members not only have to relearn their dance steps, but in many cases, their instruments. It’s an emotional experience, and essential viewing for fans of funk, soul, and Texas. The film is rated PG, due to what The New York Times describes as “Tight pants and tearjerking stories.”
The heart and soul of the Kashmere Stage Band, and of the movie, is Conrad Johnson a/k/a “Prof,” the visionary bandleader who molded his students into one of the greatest funk ensembles ever, a 38-piece musical juggernaut. The band’s recordings have been just be collected in a deluxe CD/DVD reissue on Now Again Records entitled Texas Thundersoul (1968-1974), a must-have item for fans, new and old alike.
The movie opened in select cities on September 23rd, and returns to Austin this Friday at the Alamo Drafthouse South, 1020 South Lamar Boulevard. Following the 7 p.m. screening, there will be a bus available to take attendees to a special performance by the Kashmere Reunion Stage Band at Uncle Billy’s Brewery & BBQ Lake Travis, 6550 Comanche Trail, next door to the Oasis. Getting the 30-odd members of KRSB onto Uncle Billy’s stage will be a challenge, but once they get on up there, they are guaranteed to move behinds and blow minds, just as they did back in the day.
Kashmere Reunion Stage Band will play two sets of Texas Thundersoul, Friday September 30th at 9 pm, presented by Uncle Billy’s Lake Travis, in association with Mal Thursday’s Texas Tyme Machine, Roadside Attractions, SnootDocs, Now Again Records, and Jamie Foxx.