The Neighbourhood Rocks the Block

photo by Justin Bettman

2013 is turning out to be a banner year for the Californian buzz band known as The Neighbourhood. Having just dropped their debut album I Love You in April, they’re currently in the middle of a North American tour, fresh off successful gigs at Coachella. The sold out show at the Commodore Ballroom was a testament to their burgeoning popularity, and it seems the band is on track to have one of the biggest songs of the summer with their single “Sweater Weather”, which seems made for those airy summer night cruises; ironic considering how it’s all about being so cold (whoa ohh).

Alternately described as indie-hop and dark pop, The Neighbourhood’s music is full of amorphous beats that would work equally well as either hip hop or rock, and it finds a nice balance between the two and is likely to appeal to those who like a little rock with their hip hop, and vice versa. It’s fitting that frontman Jesse Rutherford dabbled in rapping prior to The Neighbourhood, and you can hear those influences in his multi-syllablic rhymes and hip hop cadences.

The Neighbourhood opened on a strong note, as the intro for “How” kicked the crowd that was already buzzing and cheering into high gear. Then, as the drums started hitting, it was over – the energy boiled over and everyone started moving. They have a carefully managed image where everything is monochromatic black and white, and this colour scheme permeates everything from their website, to music videos, to promo photos. Even onstage, they captured that neo-noir look through the effective use of strobe-light flashes, smoke, and silhouette that worked amazingly well as we’d see brief glimpses of the band in colour before they got swallowed up into the shadows.

After a few songs, the band took a quick intermission to wish the drummer a happy birthday, as it just so happened to be the day of the concert. Out of the five band members, I think the drummer secretly stole the show. I’d find myself occasionally just watching the drums and trying to see if I could hear every single hit and thump. I was also impressed by their versatility, as the songs would transition from dubstep influences to hip hop to alt-rock, and all the different rhythms and styles were capably handled by all members.

Randomly breaking out into song with complete strangers is a luxury not often afforded in everyday life. One of the highlights of my night was this one girl beside me whom I thought was particularly awesome because of the way she played the air drums wholeheartedly. Music can do that to people.

Standout tracks included “How”, “Let It Go”, and “Sweater Weather”. The show was a tight, cohesive set where the moody and atmospheric songs would bleed into each other, and they played the majority of their debut album, plus one or two additions from their earlier I’m Sorry EP. I’d been listening to their album on repeat the last few days as a quick crash course, and the band certainly delivered as the live performances sounded close to studio quality.  As I listened to the dark, atmospheric synth-hip hop beats infused at times with the dubstep “woomp woomp”, I realized how heavy bass just sounds awesome in the Commodore as the floor rumbles with the music and movement of feet.

I can honestly say that, even after seeing them live, I wouldn’t be able to recognize any of them if I happened to pass them on the street, save for possibly the lead singer. The Neighbourhood are a somewhat enigmatic and mysterious band, seeming to subscribe to the ‘less is more’ approach when it comes to background info. Their performance at the Commodore successfully maintained that mystique.