Theo Katzman unifies at Wicker Park’s Subterranean

Originally published in Third Coast Review.

Vulfpeck lead vocalist Theo Katzman brought a monarchical, yet simultaneously unifying performance to Wicker Park’s Subterranean. Although Katzman didn’t leave behind all of his Los Angeles band for this solo adventure, his presence alone commanded the room enough to cause shushing among audience members.

It’s clear that Katzman’s vision for his productions is to coax his audience to intermix. Subterranean is a narrow, long venue, where chatter isn’t easy to get away with. People are excited to be together for this performance, and Katzman’s stage presence compels us to take heed of his commands. But, of course, that’s with the help of Vulfpeck bassist Joe Dart, a crisp keyboard and guitars. Katzman’s vocals have plenty of soul, which makes for a flawless companion to a funk bass line and guitar strums that swoop.

Merging into his own lane of music, Katzman implements alternative pop sounds into such songs as “My Heart is Dead,” off Heartbreak Hits (2017). He introduced it by asking each side of the room to sing its guitar motifs in their respective registers.

While bringing an audience together is a common objective of musical artists, Katzman reached that goal merely by his choice in venue and his personal cool factor. A Theo Katzman audience wants to do as Theo Katzman says.

Vulfpeck is an innovative band whose every instrumental part speaks for itself, is crisp and makes its audience bounce. And at the Subterranean, every quality of Katzman’s separate parts shone.