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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Sept. 19, 2014

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Lead singer Jesse Rutherford and the rest of The Neighbourhood struggles through technical woes during their set Sunday night.
Lead singer Jesse Rutherford and the rest of The Neighbourhood struggles through technical woes during their set Sunday night. (Photo: Summerfest)

The Neighbourhood struggles through a disappointingly short set

With lyrics like "I don’t like you, f*ck you anyway," "you suck anyway" and "you make me wanna die," it’s safe to say that glum rockers The Neighbourhood don’t really need any more reasons to be angsty and angry. But that’s unfortunately exactly what happened Sunday night at the U.S. Cellular Stage, where some apparent behind-the-scenes technical issues sent the California-based rockers off the stage in a huff and the excited young crowd home disappointed.

It seemed to open strong, with the guys starting off as black silhouettes out on the smoky white stage, rocking out their set opener "Female Robbery." There was a brief audio dip and the lead guitar seemed very low, but a few mix issues are to be expected on the first couple of songs; otherwise, it was a good start.

The band’s cloudy California beach brand of moody rock sounded good and visually, the stage looked cool, with the boys seemingly in black-and-white (even the screen showed the concert sans color) and aided by black-and-white film and cartoon clips.

Things, however, were apparently not all good in The Neighbourhood. After the opener, lead singer Jesse Rutherford told the crowd essentially that it sucked, that they weren’t quite ready and for the fans to "pause your turn up." It’s hard to say what exactly the problem was – Rutherford would later describe it as "computer sh*t" – but something somewhere was wrong.

At first, the band seemed to be handling the situation above and beyond pros. Rutherford chatted a bit with the crowd, eventually performing the stripped down rap of "West Coast" as some "story time" before heading into "Sweater Weather," one of the band’s big radio hits.

The technical issues may have left the mix sounding a tad on the empty side, but then again, it was very minor. Plus, a "Pulp Fiction" clip of Vincent Vega dancing playing on a loop on a side screen made everything better.

After "Sweater Weather," the technical snafus seemed to be fixed, and The Neighbourhood launched back into "Female Robbery" 15 minutes after attempt No. 1. The music perhaps sounded a bit richer and had more heft, but now Rutherford’s vocals seemed low on the mix. Ominously, the next song on the setlist? "Everybody’s Watching Me (Uh Oh)."

The band got through that slice of paranoid angst rock quite pleasingly (the group rocks much harder live than on the more mellow and moody album), as well as the next bunch of tunes, including "Let It Go," the unexpectedly sax-happy "Jealou$y" and "W.D.Y.W.F.M.?". "Jealou$y" was particularly enjoyable; musically, one of The Neighbourhood’s best attributes is the unpredictability of some of their songwriting. Having a sax blare during the chorus certainly qualifies (see also: the cut to the dreamy bridge on "Sweater Weather").

The problems began to reemerge around "Baby Came Home." The Neighbourhood seemed to be struggling to get into a flow, with significant moments of dead air. Rutherford in particular seemed frustrated.

The little audience chats from earlier in the night (including an amusing out loud thought process about why he wasn’t going to attempt a dangerous on-stage jump) disappeared, and on "A Little Death," the lead singer spent much of the song wandering around the stage, occasionally getting back to performing for the crowd.

Things seemed better on "Lurk" (originally meant to be an older selection before Rutherford nixed it seemingly on the fly), especially with assorted movie clips in the background – "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," Disney cartoons, Veruca Salt freaking out in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" – providing an amusing diversion.

However, Rutherford still seemed upset, spending most of "Wires" and "How" meandering around the back of the stage with his back to the crowd and draping his arm disheartenedly on his mic stand multiple times. Whatever the technical problems were, they didn’t seem to be fixed, even though I doubt the crowd could even tell. Other than Rutherford’s occasionally low vocals, the setlist (while certainly not for those unwilling to briefly hang out with their glum moody emo teenager side for a bit) sounded good, and the band’s fans were happily eating it up.

Still, by the time The Neighbourhood reached its last song, the band apparently had enough. The group rocked out its other hit "Afraid," which seemed to briefly energize the guys on stage. As soon as it ended, however, Rutherford and company couldn’t seem to get off the stage fast enough. Five minutes after the lights went up and roadies started unplugging mics and wrapping cords, fans still filled about half of the bleachers, waiting around and seemingly trying to reassure themselves that no, they’re totally coming back on … right?

Nope. No encore tonight, kids; just a barely hour-long set (if you started the clock from when they rebooted the setlist and replayed "Female Robbery," the concert came in at about merely 45 minutes) where the lead singer spent a notable amount of time performing toward the wrong side of the stage. The fans came for angry, angsty rock music; they likely left feeling more than a touch of anger and angst themselves. 

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