Back in Brooklyn for their second year, the Vulf has officially landed. Kicking off the first evening of their three-night run at the famed Brooklyn Bowl, with proper fist-pumps galore, the LA-based, Michigan-transplants returned to the stage after an impressive SummerStage debut last night. To follow up the sweet summer evening in Central Park would have been a difficult task for most, especially considering their tight and narrow songbook, but fans of Vulfpeck were treated nonetheless to yet another incredible evening of music.
For the second night in a row, the four-piece rhythm section featured some of their musical idols and frequent collaborators, including guitarist Cory Wong, keyboardist/vocalist/songwriter Joey Dosik, percussion master Richie Rodriguez, trombonist Melissa Gardiner, vocal powerhouse Antwaun Stanley, and of course (drum roll, please), Bernard Purdie. Pretty Purdie has been a lifelong musical icon to those hailing from Vulf Records, so to play together – for several nights in a row – was an obvious honor for all those involved.
Only the real Vulf-freaks got Brooklyn Bowl tickets during the few minutes they remained on-sale following the run’s initial announce. The evening’s ceremony began with a “Speed Walker” > “Sky Mall” narrative, with Cory Wong immediately taking his place as an obvious “should-be” member of the band, earning his position to remain on stage throughout the entire set.
The night was moving at a comfortable speed, progressing in levels similar to a video game, 1…2…3…! before “Fugue State” showed up to roll the dice into another Woody Goss classic, “The Birdwatcher.”
The anthemic “Rango” screamer showcased another heavy Wong highlight, proving his seriously spec-strat-ular musical prowess before the crowd joined in for some Theo Katzman-led bee-bop, scooby-doo’s. It wasn’t long before “Christmas in BK” became a venue-wide chant – bringing the collective energy in the room to its first real peak.
Bernard Purdie was then introduced by a room full of chanting lovers, for Steely Dan‘s classic “Kid Charlemagne” with Katzman doing an admirable job imitating Donald Fagen on vocals, while also keeping perfect harmony with Wong to re-create Larry Carlton’s famous guitar solo. Rodriguez added his impressive fills throughout, confirming his two-year residency with Vulfpeck NYC shows and seat on 2015’s Thrill of the Arts. The feel good attitude was contagious as all getout, with shoulder snaps all around as the band spread their smiles of gratitude in playing alongside the drummer responsible for the original recording itself.
Joey Dosik, the true “Game Winner”, joined the stage to lead through his tune with the band that helped popularize it. A fantastic sing-a-long for all members of the Vulfpack, now featured on their newest shirts of merchandise, and perhaps a slight inspiration to their upcoming album title The Beautiful Game (due out October 17th). The undeniable musical charm of the LA-based songwriter was an important member of the night, as he also performed in the opening slot in support of his recently-released Game Winner EP.
With Purdie still on stage, Stratton called the drummer out to perform his legendary “Purdie Shuffle,” leading directly into “Something” by The Beatles, which was performed live only once previously on the night before. It was a true magical moment, as Vulfpeck surrounded themselves with the exact players needed to take their musicianship to an obvious next level.
Dosik remained on the stage for another cover, The Jackson 5‘s “Never Can Say Goodbye”, before signaling the final drum kick – subsequently leading every musician in the room to dramatically fall to their knees in gratuitous awes of the legend before them. The expressions across the stage were priceless, as the lyrics changed slightly to fit the admiration of the shufflin’ hero in the back.
Soon after, Mrs. Alice Stratton – the mother of Vulf Mon – joined the stage to provide a tutorial of the official “Funky Duck” dance. Watch how it all went down below, featuring Antwaun Stanley on vocals and the fabulously funky Melissa Gardiner on trombone:
Stanley stuck around for his famous “1612”, providing the code to everyone’s heart before surprising fans with their favorite Stevie Wonder cover of “Boogie On Reggae Woman”, featuring Katzman on the talkbox and another Wong shred-confirmation.
“Wait For The Moment”, Stanley’s first big dig from 2013’s My First Car was another moment for Vulf-fanatics, as they reminisced to past times spent on the Internet watching the geniuses before they’d explode. It was a true sing-a-long from the heart, with a pulsating trombone from Gardiner to follow the piano’s typically closing notes. The conclusion of the song ultimately ended in a classically-trained “jam”, of which Jack explained, “oh, this is a conference call now” in reference to the musical communication happening between the improvisational players.
The crowd was once again given the opportunity to join in on the “Back Pocket” sing-a-long, dividing the room into vocal sections that ultimately harmonized a vibrational energy so thick that it had the potential to start an actual fire. As if it wasn’t hot enough, Gardiner joined in for a show-stopping trombone solo – literally. The band lost themselves for a second, having to stop the music completely to relocate their place – and like true professionals, they used the time to provide a teaching moment to the audience of music appreciators. The Pocket resumed and it continued to broaden.
Then there was “Beastly”… Can I get a hallelujah for Joe Dart? With bass lines soaring from traditional 60’s Motown to a neck-breaking, head-snapping, and rip-roaring, almost psychedelic funkitude, the world must wonder how many love letters he has in his back pocket (a pocket so deep, you can practically drown in it).
“Outro” closed the night with the return of Joey Dosik – only this time, he stood impressively with the alto saxophone, a necessity to the 2012 Vollmilch opener. The band clearly planted a seed when they played the Bowl last year, and its starting to bud into something truly special. Jack Stratton, the true bandleader, the Vulf Mon, the rotating instrumental genius, the one with the jokes, the one who can jump super high, the absolute mind-keeper of the entire operation, closed the night with the final bow – as the crowd. went. meltingly. wild.
The machine is well-greased and ready to go for a night two tonight, with a promise of many special guests. See you there.
Thanks to taper Eric McRoberts, we can stream some full audio from last night’s exciting Brooklyn Bowl run opener. Check out the full stream here, and see below for a beautiful gallery of images as taken by Patrick Hughes/Faces of Festivals. Enjoy the grooves!
Setlist: Vulfpeck at Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY – 9/8/16
Speed Walker/ Sky Mall, Fugue State, Birdwatcher, Rango, Christmas in LA, Kid Charlemagne, Game Winner, Something, Never Can Say Goodbye, Funky Duck, 1612, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Wait For The Moment, Back Pocket, Beastly, Outro
[4k videos via LazyLightning55a]