It is safe to say that the funk outfit Vulfpeck is taking the scene by storm. After debuting at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, last year as the support for The Motet, the Michigan-born group returned to Denver for a sold-out debut at Denver’s Ogden Theatre on Tuesday. Their spirited performance came ahead of Vulfpeck’s return to Red Rocks supporting Trey Anastasio Band the following night. At last night’s performance at the Ogden, with help of frequent collaborators Joey Dosik, Cory Wong, and Antwaun Stanley and special guest Adam Deitch of Lettuce, Vulfpeck tore up the 1,600-head venue, reiterating why the ensemble and its extended group of friends-cum-collaborators are continuing to earn fans for their diverse and ever-growing fanbase.
The night started off with opener Joey Dosik (who would return frequently across Vulfpeck’s performance on sax), whose soulful set served as an appropriate warm-up for the already-packed house. Stationed at the keys while laying down crisp vocals, Dosik’s unmistakable musicianship set the tone for the evening. As is only appropriate for a Vulfpeck show, particularly when recognizing that an emphasis on underlying friendship rules Vulfpeck and its extended family of close collaborators, a number of the members of Vulfpeck joined Dosik throughout his performance, adding instrumental depth to the multi-instrumentalist’s expressive songs. Less funk-oriented than the headliners who followed him, Dosik’s performance was a charming way to start the night, priming the audience to pay attention to the expert songwriting across both acts.
Vulfpeck took the stage in a dramatic manner to start their set following the short break after the end of Dosik’s performance—with an “Outro” opener, an announcer introduced each member of the group and the additional musicians who would join them during their set. The group wasted no time getting into, with their “Outro” intro moving deftly into “Cory Wong” (predictably featuring Cory Wong on guitar), a song off their latest album The Beautiful Game. The tone of the night was jubilant, to say the least, and during the number, Wong, Jack Stratton, and Joe Dart moved into a coordinate two-step, pumping up the crowd and clearly enjoying themselves.
After moving through spirited renditions of “Rango” and “My First Car,” Vulfpeck introduced their first surprise of the night. After noting that the complex drum part of the next song required finesse, the group introduced the drum extraordinaire behind Lettuce and Break Science, none other than Adam Deitch, to join them for “Daddy, He Got A Tesla.” Dosik was featured heavily on sax in the beginning of the number, eventually moving aside and allowing Deitch to take center stage with an authoritative drum breakdown as the other members watched on grinning. Bassist Joe Dart then joined in (and a little bit later Stratton on keys), showing off this powerhouse rhythm section. You can check out a video of this tremendous collaboration below.
“Daddy, He Got A Tesla” with Adam Deitch
Deitch then departed from the stage, and it was clear that the group was truly dialed in and the crowd was loving it. After a high-energy rendition of the number “Animal Spirits” carried by Woody Goss‘s cascading keys, the group introduced the powerhouse vocalist Antwaun Stanley, who joined the crew for the massively catchy “1612.” From this point, the extended Vulfpeck lineup was out in full force, with the huge crew then moving through “Aunt Leslie,” “Funky Duck,” and Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful”—the crowd was eating up the music, and looking across the theater, many of the dedicated fans could be seen beaming while singing along to the various numbers. For their final song of this segment, the group laid into “Wait For The Moment,” a favorite for many because of Stanley’s immaculate voice, the fugue-like keys, and the group’s propensity for climactic builds and pauses.
Jack Stratton was left solo on the stage after this string of crowd-pleasers, with the bandleader strutting across the stage and giving each of his bandmates a more intimate introduction. The interlude felt almost like a bit from a comedy club, eliciting laughter while simultaneously functioning to build up each member (perhaps the best line was the announcement that Joe Dart is “really good at bass,” with the simplicity and apparent veracity of the statement verging into anti-comedy and earning whoops from the crowd [Editor’s note: Clearly, the best jokes should always be explained.]) The rest of the musicians came back for a “Vulfapella” intro into “Back Pocket,” with Theo Katzman’s impressive and soaring falsetto coasting over the other members tight a capella base before dropping into the full instrumental version of the song.
“Back Pocket” (Vulfapella)
From there, it was a full-out sprint to the end of the show, with Joe Dart tearing up the bass and more or less engaging in musical witchcraft during his mesmerizing and frenetic feature during “Beastly.” Dart’s solo served as the catalyst to close out the song, accelerating as additional members joined in, with an initially discordant segment toward the song’s close that culminated in a dramatic finish as collectively the group returned to the main theme of “Beastly.” The group closed things out with the song “Christmas in L.A.,” with the enchanting narrative contributed by Katzman providing a perfect set-up for Vulfpeck’s final song of the night. After a quick break, the group returned for an encore of “Dean Town,” which ended with a huge drum solo by Stratton and Katzman sharing the kit.
While perhaps Vulfpeck thought they were done for the night after “Dean Town,” they weren’t. Following the first encore, the crowd lingered wanting more, and the group obliged, emerging for a rare second encore. For their true final song, the core group put on a hilarious delivery of the song “It Gets Funkier,” which featured a “dubstep” interlude and absurd antics from Stratton to end the night on a high. You can check out a video of this final song below. The group continues on to Red Rocks tonight in support of Trey Anastasio Band, before continuing this leg of their tour, which runs through the beginning of June.
“It Gets Funkier”
[Photo: Joseph Fruehwald]
Setlist: Vulfpeck | Ogden Theatre | Denver, CO | 5/30/2017
Set: Outro, Cory Wong, Rango, My First Car, Daddy He Got A Tesla*, Animal Spirits, 1612, Aunt Leslie, Funky Dunk, Simply Beautiful (Al Green cover), Wait For The Moment, Ritter, Back Pocket, Beastly, Christmas In L.A.
Encore One: Dean Town
Encore Two: It Gets Funkier
* with Adam Deitch