Ann Arbor, MI based funk group and former music students from the University of Michigan, Vulfpeck has been making waves in the Great Lakes state since 2011, but as of late they have been spilling over into the national scene.
They first made national heads spin in March of 2014 when they released a silent album, Sleepify, on Spotify to raise money for a free tour in the fall of 2014. Over two months they were able to raise $20,000 in royalties on ten, 30 second songs of silence.
A band of former students of music at the University of Michigan, Vulpeck made the trek across the mitten on Thursday, August 27 to Bell’s Eccentric Café for a show as they prepare for the upcoming release of their first full length LP, Thrill Of The Arts, on October 9.
After beginning the show with a set-list confirmed “Outro”, Vulfpeck dove straight into “Fugue State”, the titular track from their fourth EP released in 2014 (Read the review here). 2013’s My First Car saw lots of love throughout the show, beginning with “The Bird Watcher” featuring a guest saxophonist and a funky take on a Mario World-esque jam.
The band shuffled around the stage and left the drum throne empty for the next track “Rango”, a throwback to their first EP, 2011’s Mit Peck and a continuation of the heavy 8-bit theme throughout the song. Engaging the crowd early, the band relied on the clapping hands of the crowd to hold the beat down.
The band brought the saxophone back onstage for a performance of “Back Pocket”, a track off of the upcoming album that debuted less than 2 days before the show. The song is soothing in a way that is hard to describe, and with the addition of the saxophone carries a sexual tension perfected by artists such as His Purpleness, Prince, and Marvin Gaye.
Many people in the crowd seemed to have already memorized the songs catchy lyrics in the two days since it’d been out, but when they went into “Up On Cripple Creek” by The Band, it seemed as if everyone started singing along.
After a piano heavy jazz piece, Vulfpeck did some more onstage shuffling. “Are you playing the melody?” “What’re you on, guitar?” Whether staged or not, the crowd erupted in cheers and laughs – it was clear the band was in the moment and the setlist was changing on the fly.
“If you know the words to this one, sing along,” encouraged keyboardist Jack Stratton. The song was “Wait For The Moment”, followed immediately by “1612”, from My First Car and Fugue State, respectively. Both tracks feature Antwaun Stanley on vocals and are Vulfpeck’s most popular tracks on YouTube. Further involving their fans, Vulpeck brought a fan onstage to sing Antwaun’s parts during “1612”, but even on the microphone he was drowned out by the rest of the crowd.
Inspired by the crowd’s enthusiasm, the next song “Christmas in L.A.” followed and featured lyrics, unlike its “Fugue State” album appearance. Stratton split the room in two, and had the crowd singing along to the song’s main melody and bass line.
The song “My First Car”, was fleshed out for the crowd to dance to, as was the 80s newsroom dance track “Sky Mall” before moving into the funk classic “Tell Me Something Good”, penned by Stevie Wonder for Rufus & Chaka Khan.
Things slowed down without grinding to a halt as they moved out of the spacey melodies and back into the atmosphere with an airy, feather on the wind version of “A Walk To Remember”. Just as that feather was about to land, however, a gust of wind sent it flying higher and the band reassured the crowd with their set closer, “It Gets Funkier”.
Without an encore planned, and a roaring crowd demanding a reappearance, Vulfpeck played a new song off their upcoming album before giving life to a whisper of a tease from earlier in the night by covering “Oh What A Night” by The Four Seasons.
Oh what a night, indeed.
Check out the full gallery of photos by photographer Tyler Bailey, including snapshots of the opening act Kim Vi and the Siblings, below: