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Concert review: Cheerleader at Club Garibaldi

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Cheerleader entertained a small crowd of around 30 with their synth-driven, summery indie-pop jams in the back room behind the bar of the tiny Club Garibaldi, located in the Bay View area of Milwaukee Friday Oct. 3.

The small stage was modestly set; simple, unchanging colored lighting provided the whole show’s visual enhancement, and the band wasn’t given much room to move around, but they seemed (with the exception of their lead singer, Joe Haller) to be energetic enough.

Vocally, Haller’s performance was notably laid-back. He didn’t often stray from his comfort zone, tending instead to stick to the mid-register. This wasn’t necessarily a problem – it fit, for the most part, the mid-tempo pace of the majority of their songs – but it left the audience yearning for a bit more dynamic in his performance.

With the crowd as small as it was, and with the relative obscurity of the band, nobody was singing along to any of the bands songs, and crowd engagement was noticeably absent. This obviously wasn’t Cheerleader’s fault, but it still served to make for a rather disconnected performance.

The band attempted to remedy this with an informal performance. At one point, keyboard/guitarist Josh Pannepacker asked the crowd to act as if Cheerleader were actually the Rolling Stones, and they were playing “Satisfaction” for the first time to a live audience. Although humorous, it pointed out the clear lack of engagement the audience had with the band.

Cheerleader played about eight songs for a set list that ran around 35 minutes, before leaving the stage for Knox Hamilton, who proceeded to play a lively and entertaining set reminiscent of Two Door Cinema Club’s dancey, electro-tinged tunes.

Overall, Cheerleader was somewhat overshadowed by their following acts, Knox Hamilton and Colony House, but not for lack of talent. Cheerleader played their cheery pop songs tightly and very much together, and it was clear they practiced their stuff. Maybe it was the fall weather that descended on Milwaukee that night, or perhaps it was the crowd’s overall lack of enthusiasm for the band, but their set simply wasn’t that memorable (with the exception of their self-described cheesy, terrible and humorous love song they wrote as a competition between friends, which sounded exactly like a cliché Fountains of Wayne rip-off).

In any case, it was the Philadelphia band’s first time traveling to Wisconsin on tour (Haller’s grandmother is a Baraboo native, so he’s been here before), and judging by their overall quality, it probably won’t be the last time the quintet makes their way through the state. Hopefully next time, though, their name will carry a bit more recognition and excitement to put a little more energy in the crowd and the performance.

Cheerleader’s debut EP, “On Your Side,” will be released Oct. 7.

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