Day 2: Attendee Live

Attendee.com brings two distinct artists to the stage at North Coast Festival on Saturday night…

The Strumbellas

The Strumbellas don’t shy away from their ties to the ancient roots of folk. The chords are simple and familiar, the melodies sing-along, and it’s all by design, a connection to guitar-strumming ancestors that made music meant to be memorized and passed on from generation to generation.

Of course, this is 2018, not 1818, and the Canadian group has adjusted accordingly. The melodies might still be sing-along, but they’re delivered as massive anthems, the five-member frontline of the band all leaning into their microphones and leading the crowd through the irresistible choruses of songs like “We Don’t Know” and “Spirits.” And yes, the chords are simple, but the group has a way with minor turns that emphasize the sneaky darkness lurking beneath the surface of even its most uplifting sounding songs, like “Young & Wild.” “There’s a ghost ghost ghost living in my head” goes its unforgettable refrain, and you can’t help getting caught up in all the excitement even as singer Simon Ward navigates what sounds like the finer points of living and dealing with depression.

It doesn’t hurt that the Strumbellas radiate positivity and camaraderie, gently teasing each other on stage and making sure to point out (as if it could be missed) the impressive pregnancy of violin player Isabel Ritchie, apparently so far along she’s past the point of taking airplanes from gig to gig. The band also knows how to rock a goofy hat, which put them right in line with North Coast’s anything-goes fun-with-fashion crowd, where less is more but even more is better. And besides, even if you’re singing about matters of life and death, it’s hard to keep a straight face when you’re singing it to a dude in the crowd waving a pool noodle. The world is tough. Sometimes you’ve just got to embrace the silly.

Vulpeck

Like a hip youth minister on a public access channel, Vulfpeck ring leader Jack Stratton hopped up onto the stage with religious fervor. Adorned with a headset mic, Stratton did a roll call for each member of the band as a soft organ solo played in the background. The crowd whooped and cheered, as if they personally knew the individual musicians. Stratton took a huge bow after the rest of the band took their places, before jumping into one of Vulfpeck signature funk jams.

Vulfpeck, which formed at the University of Michigan’s music school, performs with an intense musical syncopation, but they act like musical theater kids. They dance and jive to their music like their performing it for the first time. They crouch close to the ground during sonic build ups and wear huge grins when the crowd oohs and ahhs during bass solos. “Do the bass!” Stratton yelps and bass player Joe Dart plays with Flea-esque precision.  

What makes seeing Vulfpeck play so entertaining is the movement. Most of the members are multi-instrumentalists, so they are constantly zipping around the stage to pick up a different piece of gear to play. They also feature a plethora of guest appearances that range from soul singer Antwaun Stanley to saxophonist Joey Dosik to a Vulfpeck cover band that Stratton found on Instagram. A Vulfpeck concert is a party and everyone’s invited.

The issue with some jam bands is that they will drag a song on for way to long. Not so with Vulfpeck, who seek to find the most interesting sounds without exhausting the crowd. They’ll croon acapella like their backing the Bee Gees, take a quick bebop intermission and then play soulful pop that sounds like a Soul Train episode, but won’t drag any particular sound on for too long. Vulfpeck acts like entertainers, not exhibtionists.

Most mainstream festivals like North Coast feature a lineup predominately centered around electronic, so it’s always nice to take a break from trap snares and sub-bass and get down to some more classical kinds of party music. Vulfpeck is the sort of band to do exactly that and their unique brand of funk will get you dancing whether your a festival-head, hip-hop stan or middle-aged concert goer.  

By: Caleb Brennan

By: Josh Klein

Photos: @clarkstcollective