Vulfpeck went to Red Rocks, and they brought Kamasi Washington and Knower with them.
Vulfpeck destroyed a sold out headline performance at Red Rocks Amphitheater on April 27. The show had been long in the making, after the band had supported acts at the venue in 2016 and 2017. Vulfpeck surely did not disappoint, and delivered an absolutely stellar performance.
The night was filled with special guests, including openers Knower and Kamasi Washington. It’s an injustice to only call the acts “openers” as both were full bands playing nearly an hour of music each.
Knower was first up. The funky four piece from Los Angeles consists of Louis Cole (drums, keyboards and vocals), Genevieve Artadi (vocals), Jacob Mann (keyboards), Dennis Hamm (keyboards), and Sam Wilkes (bass).
Notorious for quirky stunts, Knower gave the audience many a laugh throughout their performance. Halfway through their set, Artadi performed “What’s in Your Heart” while atop the shoulders of a crew member – an incredibly difficult task for any singer. However, Artadi’s light, airy voice sang on flawlessly, with a few laughs here and there.
Earlier in the set, nearly all band members had left the stage leaving Cole to perform a song alone. Alone that is, except for Mann to the left of him, eating a bag of potato chips. While the audience laughed and cheered, Cole continued to rock it, both singing and playing keys.
The band closed with “Overtime,” and left the audience feeling warmed up and beyond ready for more funk.
Kamasi Washington took the stage next. Washington performed with a full band of extraordinary talented musicians, along with vocalist Patrice Quinn. Miles Mosley (upright bass) took the first of many solos, setting the bar high for the rest of the ensemble. Each musician proved their skills though throughout the rest of the night, delivering equally incredible solos to Mosley’s.
Front and center, with his band behind him, Washington stood tall and powerful, clutching his tenor saxophone. To begin their set, the band performed “Truth” (off Washington’s 2017 release Harmony of Difference) with dueling drum solos by Ronald Bruner Jr. and Tony Austin following Mosley’s solo.
Having just announced the release of a new album Heaven and Earth (June 2018), Washington performed “Fists of Fury” next, a recently released single off the album. With an epic solo performed by Washington, “Fists of Fury’” was arguably the highlight of the set.
Continuing on to deliver nearly an hour of intense, incredibly jazzy goodness, Washington really showed Red Rocks why he’s one of the biggest up and coming jazz musicians right now. He worked on Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. and To Pimp a Butterfly and has worked alongside other popular musicians (bassist Thundercat and producer Daddy Kev, to name a few) on his two full-length studio albums The Epic and Harmony of Difference. The saxophonist performed at Coachella this year, sharing the stage with musicians like Daniel Caesar, SZA, etc.
Needless to say, Kamasi Washington and his band were just as much of a treat to watch as Vulfpeck soon would be.
With “Tee Time,” playing over the loudspeakers, the unmistakable nasally voice of Vulfpeck band leader Jack Stratton began to announce the band onto the stage. First came Woody Goss (keyboards) then Theo Katzman (guitar, drums and vocals) followed by Joe Dart (bass) with Stratton (guitar, drums and keyboards) taking the stage last. The Vulfpeck four started their set off strong, performing “Fugue State” off their 2014 release, Fugue State.
Next came “Outro,” off of Vollmilch, released in 2012. During “Outro,” Vulf invited Kamasi Washington back onto the stage, to perform a fiery saxophone solo. Also on saxophone was Joey Dosik, a popular addition to the Vulfpeck four. Antwaun Stanley and Cory Wong, fellow frequent Vulf collaborators would later take the stage with the rest of the band. As if these additions weren’t enough, the band would later be joined by Louis Cole (of Knower) for “Daddy, He Got a Tesla,” and Charles Jones for “Baby I Don’t Know,” and “Birds of a Feather, We Rock Together.”
Antwaun Stanley’s smooth, boomy voice was highlighted performing the highly anticipated “Wait for the Moment” and “1612” as well as a Dosik tune, “Game Winner.” Later would come a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie on Reggae Woman,” performed solely by Stanley and Dart.
Perhaps two of the biggest “fan favorites” of the show came next. Stratton’s iconic TED talk monologue, and “Back Pocket.”
In classic, hilarious Vulf fashion, Stratton was left alone on stage to deliver a “TED talk,” or “TED Rocks” as Stratton joked. In the “cathedral of live music” Stratton told us that we are “reminded to remember in case we have forgotten to always remember.”
After more bizarre yet somehow incredibly hilarious banter, Stratton introduced onto the stage “Peckapella,” the Vulfpeck a cappella cover group made up of all Vulfpeck members. The band then performed “Back Pocket,” leading the audience in a three part harmony of “Put it in my pocket, put it in my pocket, in my back pocket, put it in my pocket, in my pocket, in my back pocket… oh, oh, oh.” With their entire audience singing and dancing along, it was a just as surreal of a moment for the audience as we know it was for the band.
“Christmas in L.A.” was another pivotal moment in the show’s incredibly high energy levels. Leading the audience in their second three part harmony, Vulfpeck really made us believe we were celebrating Christmas in L.A. despite it being April in Colorado.
Throughout the entirety of Vulfpeck’s set, anyone would agree that Joe Dart was truly the shining star. While there were moments of nearly every song that could qualify as mini solos by Dart, his true moments in the spotlight came during “Beastly” and “Dean Town.” Shredding for nearly six minutes during “Beastly,” Dart had the entire audience in awe. With the whole crowd singing the notes of Dart’s solo during “Dean Town,” our love towards the bass player was hopefully very clear.
Too soon though, the show came to a close. Or so we thought. Welcomed back by applause and cheers, Vulfpeck returned from the show’s “end” to perform an encore of classic funk/soul songs (as well as some classic Vulf tunes). The crowd’s energy was truly at its peak, and the feeling in the room (or valley, rather) was electric.
Even after the encore, the audience was still not ready to let Vulfpeck go. Trudging up the flights of stairs back to the parking lots, many expressions of excitement and gratitude towards the band could be heard.
Vulfpeck, you really outdid yourself. This show was most definitely one for the books.
Molly Zucchet is a multi-instrumentalist based in San Diego, California. If she’s not playing music, she’s either writing or talking about it. Her musical style is hard to define, but she considers herself a lover of all things jazzy.