Vulfpeck got their start in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance. They hit their stride and formed a fervent fanbase in New York City, amid the Big Apple’s recent funk boom (and within commuting distance of Theo Katzman’s native Long Island). Now, like so many who have “made it” in the music world, Vulfpeck has planted its flag in Los Angeles—never more clearly and triumphantly so than on a Sunday night in mid-July at the Greek Theatre.
It helps that Joey Dosik, the band’s saxophonist and frequent collaborator, is an L.A. native, having attended the same high school that produced Chris Pine, Elizabeth McGovern, and Moon Zappa, to name a few. Joey got to take center stage with his own opening set, during which he serenaded his hometown crowd with a pleasant plate of R&B (“Take Mine,” “Running Away”), a sprinkling of gospel and soul (“Stories”), and a heaping helping of praise for his beloved Los Angeles Lakers, most notably leading into “Game Winner.”
Joey got to strut his sax through Vulfpeck’s winding set, which lasted for nearly two hours through an ever-expanding slate of sonic hijinx.
There was Jack Stratton playing the part of host and producer (headset and all), introducing the lineup, giving mock Ted Talks, doing handstands and cracking jokes about Greek life—since the band had played at Berkeley’s Greek Theatre the night prior—when he wasn’t busy on the keyboard, drums or guitar. There was Cory Wong, spraying the manic glory of his guitar across the stage on his eponymous track “Disco Ulysses,” and Woody Goss keeping his cool on the keys, at least until he took his turn tickling the ivories on “Soft Parade.”
Antwaun Stanley was his usual, inimitable self on the mic, bringing his crisp be-bop vocals to bear on his signature tracks, from “1612” and “Funky Duck” to “Wait For the Moment” and “Aunt Leslie.” The Flint native and fellow Wolverine also took his pipes for a spin on the “Peck-a-pella” rendition of “Back Pocket” and while spearheading a cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” during Vulfpeck’s encore “wedding set.”
As always, bassist Joe Dart dominated the set through a sizzling slew of funky instrumental tracks. Whether walking his way through “Beastly,” making his digits dance on “Dean Town” and “My First Car,” spurring his own renewable revolution on “Daddy He Got a Tesla”, or trying the bassline from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Around the World” on for size, Joe had the audience howling to his raucous rhythms as he kept his cool behind his shades.
Tying it all together, just like The Dude’s rug, was Theo Katzman. After being spotted arriving to his gig at the Greek on a Lime scooter, Theo turned his attention to keeping time on the drums, strumming some guitar, and, of course, turning a packed house of 5,870 into his own personal harmonic chorale on both “Back Pocket” and “Christmas in L.A.”
Aside from quipping that Vulf’s holiday-themed song would not, in fact, be “Hanukkah in Santa Monica,” Theo took time to acknowledge his admiration for the city he’s called home of late, since leaving New York. He espoused his own story, like so many, about moving to LA to pursue his dreams in what he called the “city of imagination.” He spoke passionately about the sheer volume of creativity in the City of Angels, and of the ethereal connection he shared with the band, especially given the revelation that his and Joe’s grandfathers had toured in a band together some 80 years ago.
For them, Vulfpeck has become a community unto itself, one that has inspired a growing legion of supporters to follow its uniquely goofy, music-nerdy ethos from its days as a fake German session band to a talented collection of burgeoning, real-life stars. The fact that they’ve managed to sell out larger and larger venues across the country, from Brooklyn and Denver to the Bay Area and L.A., is as much of a testament to the band’s evolution as it is to the fans who have flocked to a sound that’s both fresh today and befitting styles dating back to the 1960s and 1970s.
As a result, that “matter of time” that always seemed to lurk in Vulfpeck’s future, as far as popularity is concerned, appears to be now. With two Greek Theatre performances in the rearview, that giggle-inducing group in Ann Arbor will next make its return to LOCKN’ festival in Virginia this August before circling back to New York City in September to conquer Madison Square Garden.
Checkout a beautiful gallery of photos below from Sunday night’s show courtesy of photographer Brandon Weil.
For a full list of Vulfpeck’s upcoming tour dates, ticketing, and more information, head to the band’s website.
Setlist: Vulfpeck | Greek Theatre | Los Angeles, CA | 7/14/2019
Set: Intros, Animal Spirits, Cory Wong, My First Car, Daddy He Got a Tesla, Soft Parade, Disco Ulysses, 1612, Funky Duck, Aunt Leslie, Wait For the Moment, Back Pocket, Beastly, Christmas in LA, Dean Town
Encore (“Wedding Set”): I Want You Back (Jackson 5 cover), December 1963 (The Four Seasons cover), September (Earth, Wind & Fire cover), It Gets Funkier, Chromatic Walk