ACL Fest: Hunting funky ducks with the Vulfpeck

Let’s be real: the dudes from Vulfpeck are a bunch of nerdy Midwestern college dudes in a jam band that funks way harder than you think it should. With a bevy of special guests, including guitarist Corey Wong and R&B singer Antwaun Stanley, the crew hosted an upbeat breakbeat party with enough slick rhythms and meaty grooves to get a crowd moving despite the sweltering late afternoon heat.

Vulpeck performs on Day 1 of the 2017 ACL Music Festival held at Zilker Park in Austin.

Part of their charm is their self-awareness. They don’t take themselves too seriously. “This is the oldest trick in the book,” multi-instrumentalist Jack Stratton said near the top of the set, while joining Wong and bassist Joe Dart, in an easy side-to-side step while cranking out a funk riff.

Stratton, who who rocked red striped tube socks, a matching jersey and shorts with all the flair of an ’80s Jazzercise instructor was the goof-in-chief for the band’s set. He lamented the afore-mentioned “Funky Duck’s” unfortunate fate as foie gras and led the group’s signature mashup, convincing the crowd to sing an a capella version of Smashmouth’s “All Star” while he played the drum beat to Clyde Stubblefield’s “Cold Sweat.”

“It’s hard to remember the best drum solo you’ve ever seen, but you’ll never forget the worst,” he said later, putting a foot on the snare and spinning the cymbals. To put an exclamation on the set he inverted himself, literally walking on his hands during the closing number.

But acrobatics and jokes aside, this group clearly has studied their music history. Their musical talent runs deep, but they’re not afraid to have a good time.


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