Live Review: Car Seat Headrest


02 ABC, 18/05

Jogging around the stage clutching a water bottle, Car Seat Headrest frontman Will Toledo sometimes looks like a runner limbering up for a big race. Other times, he looks like your cousin cutting shapes at a wedding after a few pints at the free bar. It’s a real ‘dance like nobody’s watching’ situation, except everyone is watching. It’s hard to tear your eyes away from such a tight, energetic act – particularly since Car Seat Headrest are joined, for the duration of their set, by support band Naked Giants. With not one but two drum kits on hand, then, the setup is conducive to sonic brilliance.

‘Everybody’s dancing all of the dances/everybody’s dancing every dance now’, Toledo sings on ‘Bodys’ as the crowd grooves to this infectiously upbeat slice of indie pop. ‘Maud Gone’, which finds Toledo on keyboard duty, is just as haunting live as it is on Teens of Style. With its roominess and its gloomy lyricism, there’s a certain nostalgia about it – the song comes on like teenage angst on a stifling summer night.  

‘You guys know all these songs’, Toledo later cuts in, his remark tinged with a note of surprise. It’s true that the crowd is well-versed in his whip-smart, introspective lyrics. Toledo might be the lo-fi indie guy who used to record vocals in his car, but that doesn’t mean the music lacks far-reaching appeal; the frontman’s unusual, unmistakable voice and the band’s ability to make one song sound like three different ones have been capturing attention for a while now. These properties are why the likes of ‘Twin Fantasy (Those Boys)’ and the thirteen-minute-long extravaganza ‘Beach Life-In-Death’ translate so well live – this is, after all, what the people came to hear.

The audience might be confronted with melancholy and some unhappy truths throughout the night (‘you share the same fate as the people you hate’, we’re reminded on fan favourite ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’), but this isn’t a show devoid of fun. Not for a second. A fan is invited to dance onstage; someone gets a record signed during a song (‘mid-show record signing – never been done before!’), and there’s some humorous confusion about Glasgow’s ‘here we fucking go’ chant (apparently, to American ears at least, it sounds like ‘Harry Potter’).

‘Nervous Young Inhumans’ proves the perfect closer, with vocals tumbling over pulsing drums and the screeching, siren-like guitars commanding the crowd to keep moving. Displaying a triumphant energy, it’s clear that Car Seat Headrest haven’t run out of gas yet.

[Morgan Laing – @sm4shingpumpk1n]

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