Vulfpeck, the fun-loving and eccentric group of studio-musicians-turned-stage performers in 2011, closed out their largest and most expansive tour to date with a pair of shows at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 6th and 7th. Both nights saw collaborations with famed funk drummer Zigaboo Modeliste of The Meters, who sat in on “Cissy Strut”, Bill Withers’ “Use Me Up,” and a pair of Vulf originals: “1612” and “Barbara” from 2013’s Vollmich EP.
Bay Area residents have always been down with the off-kilter timing and head-bobbing bass lines that funk inspires. When Vulfpeck announced their two nights at the Fillmore nearly five months ago, some in the area saw it as a lofty reach. The Fillmore holds a thousand people, and the band chose to end their tour on a Tuesday and Wednesday night. Well, the show sold-out months in advance, and second-hand ticket sales were cresting above $150 the week before.
Specifically, what Vulfpeck is bringing to the forefront of funk is the return of the all-star rhythm section, where the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts, and in cities saturated with musical talent like San Francisco, people will gravitate toward quality. 2016 was a big year for Vulfpeck on the festival circuit, which definitely played into the quick sell out. It’s worth mentioning that the band ended up selling out nearly every date on their tour as well as their upcoming Brooklyn and European dates in September.
The intimacy for which these musicians know their material is second to none, which is why for the longest time Vulfpeck was a true musician’s band – that is, by the time the band’s third EP, My First Car, was released, they were still relatively unknown to most non-musicians. Sleepify, the silent, 10-track album Vulfpeck used in 2014 to generate a quick $20k in royalties for a record and admission-free tour for fans, quickly catapulted them into international headlines.
Jack Stratton, Theo Katzmann, Woody Goss, and Joe Dart are the core four former classmates and graduates of the University of Michigan’s prestigious music school that comprise Vulfpeck, bringing clarity to their unbelievable knack for wielding multi-instrumental roles from song to song. Some of the Vulfpeck’s secret weapons are explicitly tangible, like their schooling, studio catalog, and history of tapping multi-generational talent for their shows. These secret weapons add vibrancy and personality to an already downright enjoyable crew. Featured on many of their studio recordings, artists like Cory Wong and Antwaun Stanley contribute a serious level of appeal to the overall Vulfpeck sound. Both were on-call and in the mix for each of the Fillmore performances, in addition to opening multi-instrumentalist, Joey Dosik.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, June 6 and 7, the shows started at 8 p.m. sharp with Dosik warming the crowd up proper. He finished his set by 8:45, and Vulfpeck was on the stage at 9. Each night, the band was introduced to the stage as if they were athletes, given the drawn out announcer treatment and the audience loved every second of it. As is tradition, they quickly kicked off the hour and a half show without delay. If you are a habitually late person or an optimist, going forward it should be known that Vulfpeck are as punctual as they are funktual. It’s practical and fun to say, and it is obvious that they would be keeping perfect time.
There were a lot of things that I learned about Vulfpeck shows the first night that helped me prepare for night two. Vulfpeck is a band that finds a rhythm and sticks with it, and there is definitely a similarly simple formula to their tour. Each night they played for exactly an hour and a half, starting at 9, and of the 20 songs played between both nights, night two only contained three different songs, and it was mostly in the same order. But to quote a fan I caught leaving the show the first night, “As long as they play like they played tonight, I wouldn’t care if they do the exact same songs tomorrow.”
For as much fun as Vulfpeck and Co. have on stage, it never crosses into gimmicky or campy. There is an odd sense of sincerity in every funny face, and even when Wong revealed himself to be the funky phantom of the Fillmore when he appeared in the upper balcony in the middle of the show. Their outright enjoyable tenacity and ferocious mentality of the group was summed up during one point of the show where Stratton mused about creating experiences together. It was a very TED Talk-esque keynote presentation, only lacking graphs, but heavy on the memory tricks by making use of the old storybook beckoning “Fi Fye Foe Fum”. As similar as the nights were, they were also full of their own unique energies.
If you want to catch them live, which is highly recommended, keep an eye out and don’t wait too long after a show is announced in your area – they will be swept up quick. Check out the setlists from Vulfpeck’s San Francisco tour closer below, as well as check out photos from Tuesday and Wednesday, courtesy of Josh Huver.
Setlist: Vulfpeck | The Fillmore | San Francisco, CA | 6/6/2017
Band Intros, Intro, Fugue State, Cory Wong, Chepe, My First Car, Cissy Strut*, 1612*, Use Me Up (Bill Withers)*, Funky Duck, Aunt Leslie, Wait For The Moment, Bitter Sport, Back Pocket, Beastly, Christmas In L.A., Deantown, Outro
* with Zigaboo Modeliste on drums
Setlist: Vulfpeck | The Fillmore | San Francisco, CA | 6/7/2017
Band Intros, Outro, Cory Wong, Tesla, Smile Meditation, Cissy Strut*, Barbara*, 1612*, Aunt Leslie, Funky Duck, Wait For The Moment, Ritter Sport, Back Pocket, Beastly, Christmas In LA, Dean Town, It Gets Funkier
* with Zigaboo Modeliste on drums