Why? / Dress Whites / Josiah Wolf Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON July 15

Why? / Dress Whites / Josiah Wolf Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON July 15
When Why? drummer/solo artist Josiah Wolf took the stage, the nearly empty Horseshoe Tavern seemed to spring to life, as patrons from all corners of the bar suddenly swarmed around the stage for his short set. The crowd loved him, and he happily reciprocated, both for the crowd and the city itself: "We judge a city on its sushi," he quipped. "You guys pass." Second openers and Toronto natives the Dress Whites were similarly well-liked by the crowd, and managed to sound better on a bar stage than they do on record.

Of course, neither act moved the crowd like Why? and lead singer Yoni Wolf, who strode animatedly around the stage, cool as a cucumber in his thick-rimmed eyeglasses, cut-off denim shorts and hightop kicks. The band kicked off with "The Fall of Mr. Fifths," but the show began in earnest when drummer Josiah and Wurlitzer maestro Doug McDiarmid launched into "January Twenty Something," their hands flying madly over a xylophone and keyboard, respectively.

Show highlight "The Vowel's Pt. 2" was a perfect demonstration of the band's rhythmic strength, the musicians hammering out the song's loping beat in forceful unison while Yoni dramatically deadpanned the song's chorus before springing to life for his rhyme-showcasing verses. The show pulled heavily from Alopecia — still the avant-hip-hop outfits best album — but last year's Eskimo Snow was also well-represented, making for a concert that tempered the band's playful energy with moments of lyrical sincerity and emotional warmth.

The show was tantalizingly brief, and when Yoni stated after less than ten songs that they had four left, he prompted a "more than four!" chant from an enraptured audience, which hung on his every word. They got their wish: Yoni and co. piled back onto the stage for an encore not two minutes after finishing "The Hollows," claiming, "Normally, we'd be halfway to Rio by now," but since the Horseshoe patrons were the "awesomest audience," the group would perform two more songs. Wolf's ear-to-ear smile belied his "reluctant" encore, and the two songs, "Good Friday" and "Simeon's Dilemma," left the audience satisfied enough not to chant, making it the perfect way to end Why's outstanding hour onstage.