Smith Westerns / Wampire Lee's Palace, Toronto ON, July 29

Smith Westerns / Wampire Lee's Palace, Toronto ON, July 29
Photo: Matt Bobkin
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Portland psychedelic pop-rockers Wampire were down a keyboardist due to a border snafu, but they were still able to rock out on the Lee's Palace stage. Decked in colourful clothing, the quartet's set was largely composed of songs from their recently released debut LP, Curiosity.

The curiosity of listeners was indeed piqued thanks to the band's funky bass lines, quirky surfer riffs and interesting lyrics. With standout tracks including "Orchards," a cover of Kraftwerk's "Das Modell," "Magic Light" and set closer "The Hearse," the band entertained a quickly growing crowd, both with their fun and intricate tunes and the sequined lead singer's childlike fascination with the fog machine. If their set was any indicator, the band's time in the spotlight is definitely not far off.

Chicago's Smith Westerns were the night's headliners, and the denim-clad quartet's chilled out vibe and lackadaisical attitude didn't impede their ability to bring the uptempo verve they have become known for in recent years. With the riffs of star guitarist Max Kakacek and the vocals of blissed-out frontman Cullen Omori, the band simultaneously rocked and relaxed during their hour-long, 16-song set.

Haphazardly alternating between songs from their 2011 breakthrough, Dye It Blonde, and June release Soft Will, the band treaded the line between pop and rock, with songs chock-full of jangly hooks, warm synths, and groovy bass lines that rarely stopped walking. While you could only occasionally catch a glimpse of Omori's face through his hair, you could hear his voice clear as a bell, owning his upper register to spread lyrics about love and youth. The band worked together to take the good feelings of the studio recordings and make the vibes permeate live. Soft Will's "Fool Proof" was aided by bouncy synths, and Kakacek's impeccable riff during the slower "White Oath" kept the set going.

The band definitely saved the best for last, holding off on their singles until the end of their set to go out with as much of a bang as they could muster. Dye It Blonde cut "Smile" enchanted from the moment the band began to play it, with a soaring chorus that stood as the set's best moment. The song was followed by the faster-paced "Weekend," filled with catchy lyrics and another great riff from Kakacek. The band closed with "3 A.M. Spiritual" and "Varsity," the first and last tracks from Soft Will, and the closing numbers provided a graceful comedown.

"Mondays are the saddest days," noted Omori during the set, but thanks to him and his bandmates, they made the patrons of Lee's Palace a little more joyful.