Published Feb 17, 2011It's a testament to Smith Westerns' buzz-band status that the group pulled in a large crowd to the Biltmore, despite the fact that the gig was on the same night as a high-profile show by reunited post-rock heroes Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
The room was already full by the time first opener Sun Wizard took the stage. The shaggy-haired Vancouver four-piece clearly have an affinity for '70s rock, and their punchy guitar jams evoked the heartland stylings of Tom Petty with a hint of garage grit. The set didn't offer much in the way of variety, but this didn't make it any less fun.
Next up were Smith Westerns' tourmates, the Portland-based Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The group's bass-heavy post-punk songs were effectively fiery, but their spiky rhythms and jittery vocals seemed out of place on the bill, leading the crowd on the dance floor to thin out during their set.
However, the area in front of the stage filled up again once Smith Westerns began, opening with "Still New" from this year's Dye It Blonde. Effortlessly switching between jangling garage pop and cinematic, Bic-waving rock, the band recreated the album's expansive sound with the help of a fifth member on keyboards and guitar.
The songs were tight, but the group seemed agitated, repeatedly asking the sound man to adjust the mix in their monitors. Prior to "End of the Night," the microphone began feeding back, causing frontman Cullen Omori to sarcastically joke that they had become an experimental noise rock band. After playing the brisk and breezy "Weekend," the singer abruptly announced that it was their last song and bounded off the stage as the house music came on. Vancouver was clearly excited to see Smith Westerns, but the musicians didn't appear to feel the same way.