Live Review: Vulfpeck Brought the Funk to the Fillmore

The nerdy virtuosos inspired the crowd to two-step with reckless abandon.

As Vulfpeck frontman Jack Statton performed a handstand on stage at the end of the show, the crowd was instructed to first slow clap, then build their adulation into a fierce melee. Los Angeles funk and R&B band Vulfpeck was closing out the last night of its tour at the Fillmore on Wednesday, June 7, and the room was elated thanks to the vacuum-sealed jams, sing-a-longs, and mind-bending talent of the hip poindexters on stage.

I felt like I was at a house party, and that’s because Vulfpeck was having more fun than any band I’d seen in recent memory. Throughout the evening, everyone on stage was beamingly effusive, switching instruments, dancing in unison, and carrying on with massive, toothy grins.

Baby-faced keyboardist Joey Dosik opened with Vulfpeck’s Theo Katzman accompanying on drums and bass. Despite The Golden State Warriors game happening at the same time, the dancefloor was two-thirds full and he brought up a few other members of Vulfpeck when he played his silky-smooth flagship tune, “Gamewinner.” His falsetto crooning set to Katzman’s funky backbeat was an apt harbinger of things to come.

Luckily for the crowd, Dosik returned on saxophone as Vulfpeck took the stage and launched into “Outro,” a brassy, uber-groove that sounds like the credits of an ‘80s sitcom. Next, they brought up guitarist Cory Wong and went into the eponymously named “Cory Wong,” an up-tempo Prince-like jam that gave way to the driving, disco-y “Daddy, He Got A Tesla,” a track off their newest album, The Beautiful Game.

As we caught our breath, the band smoothed out the room with “Smile Meditation,” off Thrill of the Arts. However, we only got a moment’s rest because drumming god Ziggy “Zigaboo” Modeliste who, among other things, was a founding member of The Meters, got up on stage and played a near-perfect rendition of “Cissy Strut.” They backed it up with Vulfpeck’s “Barabara,” and we all felt like we were exactly where we needed to be.

Next came “1612,” the ultra-catchy, soulful summer anthem sung by Antaun Stanley, who remained on stage for the rest of the show. The crowd and the band really started to have a mind-melding experience as he led some solid call-and-response chanting during “Funky Duck” (which sounds exactly like you think it would) and “Wait for the Moment,” which boasts a sentimental sound that could have been minted 40 years ago.

It was around here that the band took a break and Stratton delivered the Tony Robbins-esque TED Talk I mentioned earlier, which would have messed with the rhythm of the show if it weren’t so hilarious. He said it was part of his “Wisdom of Crowds Tour” and I won’t even try to replicate his gut-busting deadpan delivery.

After the motivational speech, Stratton led the crowd in a Smashmouth sing-a-long that nobody saw coming. Again, if everyone wasn’t already eating so willfully from his hand, it could have fallen dangerously flat, but the vibe was so high and the crowd was so apparently well-versed in ‘90s pop lyrics that it went off without a hitch.

The fun and games continued with an a capella version of “Back Pocket,” but they got back to business with the rootsy “Beastly,” a straightforward instrumental with a solid, grooving drumbeat. This was also where stupid-good bassist Joe Dart took the solo we had all been waiting for.

As the show felt like it was coming to an end, Katzman donned a green Santa Claus cap, hopped on the drums and, channeling his inner Michael Jackson, hit us with a mirthful “Christmas in L.A.,” to which the entire crowd sang along. It was beautiful.

Vulfpeck closed with the powerful, driving “Dean Town,” and then encored with Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman,” and their own track, “It Gets Funkier.” The crowd was stoked, the band was amped, and everything at The Fillmore seemed to be in its rightful place.

Vulfpeck left an indelible mark on the same stage as many of their funky predecessors and did right by the erstwhile masters of their genre. I’d see them again in a sweet, melodic heartbeat.

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