The Neighbourhood Fights for Its Place in Pop Culture at the Fillmore

The Neighbourhood craft the sort of emotionally turbulent music made for staying indoors on stormy nights. So the rainy weather enveloping the Fillmore Miami Beach Tuesday evening was perfect in terms of atmosphere – once inside the building that is. Was their concert worth braving the frankly crappy conditions? If the eardrum-shattering screams of a few thousand teenage girls are any indicator, then yes, soggy shoes and soggy hair were a small price to pay.

Ironically, the hashtag The Neighbourhood have been using for their current tour reads, #THEFLOOD2015 and on their official website they warn of flash floods at every city. Conditions in Miami didn't quite reach that point, but still, it was a little bit too on-the-nose. This particular series of shows comes in anticipation of the band's sophomore album, Wiped Out!, set for release on October 30.

Joined by opening acts Hunny and Bad Suns, the LA-based quintet decorated its genre-crossing dark romance of indie rock, hip-hop, and R&B with more color than expected. Known for their pervasive fixation with black and white aesthetics that are integral to every medium they appear in — be it photos or video — The Neighbourhood added a dash of brightness to their set.

At first blinding, strobe lights, above and below, danced to the beat along with the crowd. Before long, a violet sunset appeared behind drummer Brandon Fried, however that was hardly the most vibrant presence on stage. Frontman and lead vocalist Jesse Rutherford came out clad in an open Hawaiian shirt, revealing his impressive collection of neck and chest tattoos. He wore slide sandals with painted toenails peeking out. 
The music and visuals came together to form an interesting sight: California film-noir meets Las Vegas neon lights, soundtracked by fuzzy, surfer R&B. Rutherford was at home in all of this, doing his best to both croon and race back and forth across stage to touch hands with fans in the front row. With his slinky body and hair that could conceal its own surfboard, Rutherford had the sex appeal of a modern Jeff Spicoli, minus the constant burnout dopiness. The band's combo of sultry Killers/Weeknd rock stylings helped its female fans forget how their ribs were slowly being crushed the closer they pressed towards the stage.

A lot of the beach and water elements are of course influenced by their west coast home, but the themes were all the more prominent thanks to the forthcoming album. The Neighbourhood played several songs from Wiped Out!, including the title track, “Prey,” “The Beach,” and the lead single, “R.I.P. To My Youth,” the latter operating as the closer. The truly orgasmic cries of affection erupted during the band's biggest hits, namely “Afraid” and “Sweater Weather.”

About two-thirds of the way through, right around another new song titled “Daddy Issues,” Rutherford was gifted a bra, which he promptly hung from the mic stand. Presumably it'll wind up keeping company to the bouquet of roses tossed on stage earlier in the show. This seems to be the point of this band: they're a cathartic, but sexualized escape from reality. Yet The Neighbourhood are also sometimes guilty of valuing style over substance. They have some inspired, if oftentimes melancholy songs, but they mostly come off as a band trying a little too hard to occupy a space already populated by so many. 
The appeal to young women is undeniable — a group of hunky, SoCal guys playing blue-eyed soul with a hard rock edge and urban undertones. It's a winning mix of popular genres and pretty faces, but does it have staying power? The encore featured Rutherford alone at first, aided only by Auto-Tune and a flurry of pop culture images fluttering across the LED screen behind him. After a time the remainder of the band joined him and they knocked out a cover of Gnarls Barkley's “Crazy,” a brilliant pop song in its own right. Although The Neighborhood did an admirable version of it, they just couldn't come close to the heart of the original. Like the mushrooms that spring up after a particularly wet day, The Neighborhood are in our field of vision, striving for space in a crowded field. But how long until they're plucked or simply shrivel away?