ACL Review: Vulfpeck

Sessionistas bring the Midwestern funk party

Vulfpeck’s Wisdom of Crowds tour ended not with a bang – or even last weekend’s onstage handstands – but with a solid dose of funk. Any skepticism that a core group of white dudes, particularly ones at the end of a grueling road schedule, couldn’t bring the house down was promptly drowned out in bass lines and a lively horn section on Friday afternoon.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

The gang of studio musicians, originally from Los Angeles’ Vulf Records, broke off and went independent in 2011, but they’ve kept the spirit of collaboration alive. In performance, they add anywhere from three to six additional members, most notably vocals from Antwaun Stanley. On “Aunt Leslie,” Stanley punctuated his back and forth alongside a backup vocalist with coordinated karate kicks.

The stage was set.

After a spirited, if not innovative rendition of Rufus’ “Tell Me Something Good,” multi-instrumentalist Jack Stratton posed a question that Vulfpeck undoubtedly takes seriously.

“Austin, y’all ready to get funkier?”

Most assuredly, so funkier it got. “Funky Duck” included sax, trumpet, and trombone, all driving Stanley’s pristine vocal play and culminating in one of the band’s guitarists being brought back from somewhere in the crowd on the shoulders of a security dude while shredding funk.

Vulfpeck embraces its origins of a Midwestern college party band. They’re unapologetic with their camp, but their musicianship makes it work. Playing a blazing afternoon set isn’t the sexiest way to end a tour – Stratton said the true end would be when he jumped into Barton Springs after the performance – but it’s refreshing to see a band committed to having as much fun as its audience.

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Vulfpeck, ACL Fest 2017, Antwaun Stanley, Jack Stratton, Rufus

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