It’s 9:00 pm on a Tuesday in New Orleans, Tipitina’s is sold out, and a huddle of 7 best friends is taking place back stage. Bits of banter can be heard coming from the tight gathering, and after these few moments of intimate motivation, the crew is bursting onto stage, introduced one at a time by Vulf Records extraordinaire, Jack Stratton. The crowd comes alive as one band member after another comes running onto stage, each seemingly a caricature of themselves, bouncing and wearing big, genuine smiles. This positivity and childlike camaraderie have come to distinguish Vulfpeck as a symbol of organic musical cohesion, made in earnest from the simplest elements necessary to achieve their distinct sound.
Before the crowd has time to settle, Jack, Theo, Woody, and Joe (the four original members) bounce right into “Fugue State” and then “Outro,” introducing adopted band members Cory Wong and Joey Dosik in the process. Still rolling through songs, seemingly hell bent on keeping the crowd excitement at euphoric levels, the guys turn it up a notch and move on to two absolute bangers from The Beautiful Game, “Cory Wong” and “Daddy, He Got a Tesla.” After a guest performance on trombone for fan favorite “Animal Spirits,” Antwan Stanley is introduced and songs transition from instrumental classics to soulful singalongs. The band flows through “1612,” “Aunt Leslie,” and a heavy hitting version of “Funky Duck” before Antwan and Joe are left on stage to perform an insatiably funky vocal+bass rendition of Stevie Wonder's “Boogie on Reggae Woman.”
It was all feel-good vibes and sentiment from here on out, as the crew shuffled, fittingly, through “Bird of a Feather” and “Wait for the Moment” before Jack waxed lyrical about Tipitina’s and New Orleans as a whole, calling it the “Temple of Funk.” The night even included such treats as an a capella performance of “Back Pocket” and an offseason-but-still-welcome “Christmas in LA.” After what felt like a marathon of nonstop funk, Vulfpeck ended their show-proper with “Dean Town,” the crowd singing every note of Joe Dart’s solo.
The Crowd at Tipitina’s last night would have been satisfied with this ending, but cries of “one more song!” could still be heard, and in almost predictable fashion, the band members could be heard chanting it themselves backstage. Showing zero signs of having played over two hours of music, the band hit Tips with electric performances of The Jackson 5’s “I want You Back” and Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September,” before bowing out on the highest of possible highs.
In a way, Tuesday night’s show at Tipitina’s was a microcosm of Vulfpeck and the culture that has brewed around them, with their energy and positivity overflowing and taking over the room. The earnestness of the band, the receptiveness of the fans, and the resulting experience is like nothing else in music today. You won’t want to miss the Vulf boys next time they’re around.