No one I’d spoken to in Oxford had heard of Vulfpeck, nor have I ever heard them played on British radio. Yet the four-piece funk outfit’s first foray into Europe, comprising three London shows and one in Dublin, sold out in short order. Blending old-school soul with snappy and occasionally eccentric funk, the group has released a string of EPs since forming in 2011, along with the full length album Thrill of the Arts in 2015. Despite extensive touring in America, however, these shows mark their European debut. Jack Garratt and Bastille, amongst others, took to Twitter to lament their absences.
Opening for the group was Joey Dosik, a talented multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, who invited Vulfpeck’s Theo Katzman and Jack Stratton to the stage to accompany on a selection of melodious tracks from his recent ‘Game Winner’ EP. Katzman jumped between vocals, guitar, bass and drums and Stratton did much the same. Frankly in the context of Vulfpeck the term multi-instrumentalist rather loses its meaning, such is the apparent ease with which they trade positions. Only bassist Joe Dart, recently praised by none other than Bootsy Collins and arriving on stage for the main show, stood firm to channel the groove throughout, playing flawlessly to eighth note chants of “Joe. Joe. Joe.” from the crowd. Completing the quartet was Woody Goss, his baseball cap dancing over the rim of a rather tall electric piano and his frills following suit.
Frankly in the context of Vulfpeck the term multi-instrumentalist rather loses its meaning, such is the apparent ease with which they trade positions.
The stage truly came alive with the arrival of singer Antwaun Stanley, collaborator on much of the group’s recent material and welcomed to the stage to perform songs from Thrill of the Arts. Led by Stanley’s animated and soulful vocals, the crowd sang through the whole of Funky Duck before attempting three-part harmonies on Back Pocket and Christmas in L.A. (to the group’s credit, not wholly unsuccessfully either).
More than anything, that the band was delighted to be playing in Europe showed: be it through reactions to Dosik’s seemingly impromptu saxophone solo and Joe Dart’s virtuoso bass playing, or Katzman’s rambling excitedly about his international data plan (or lack thereof) from behind the drum kit. Meanwhile, the regular funk and soul covers made way for two Beatles tributes: Dosik’s Don’t Let Me Down with the Fender Rhodes perfectly filling in for Billy Preston, and a sincere but upbeat rendition of Something during Vulfpeck’s set.
The music speaks for itself, but it’s impossible not to warm to the group themselves: the band’s energy seemed boundless and it filtered through to the audience. Thrilled by the reaction to this briefest run of shows, Katzman demanded to know why they’d ever played anywhere else – a longer tour will surely follow. For the moment, in any case, both band and crowd felt lucky to be in the Brooklyn Bowl that night and seemed determined to make the most of it.