Car Seat Headrest frontman Will Toledo has produced eleven Bandcamp albums since 2010 before signing with Matador Records last year. What started as a bedroom pop project turned into an impressive full, four-piece rock ‘n’ roll band. Last year’s Teens of Style, was his first on Matador, a retrospective collection of reworked songs. Teens of Denial, the band’s latest record released earlier this year, and the first Matador release of new songs is full of narratives and themes unfolding throughout it’s songs; one of the year’s best albums. When I heard the vulnerability in the lyrics “I find it harder to speak when someone else is listening” off the track “Vincent,” I knew I had to see them perform the album live.
Thursday night, Car Seat Headrest played a sold out show at Terminal West in Atlanta. With all the angst in Denial you wouldn’t imagine Toledo in a suit, but he was, taking front and center ready to deliver. Guitar riffs and the band’s soulful backing brought the energy to life and the crowd was more than eager to let the music carry them away. One of the crowd favorites was “(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem)”. The extremely long titled track brought the hippie out in all of us and people sang every word together. Andrew Katz, drummer, was impressed. “Damn Atlanta you guys are fucking great you know all the lyrics”.
One of the best moments was during “Vincent” when Toledo quite honestly forgot some of the lyrics. Simply put “I kind of forgot the lyrics, that’s ok they’re kinda the same anyways” had everyone, including Toledo’s infamous poker face, all smiles and laughing. Then during the middle of “Vincent”, right when it’s starting to climax, Toledo politely excuses himself and tells us that he has to go to the bathroom, walking off while the band still plays. On our toes, everyone is looking around at each other: Did that really just happen? Maybe it was part of the act, maybe he was being honest. Either way when Toledo came back on stage he jumped right back into the narrative “Don’t you know I have strength?!”. Everyone was ecstatic, including a group of guys on the balcony just raging and having the best time dancing and kicking around.
Another highlight of the evening was the over 11 minute song “The Ballad of the Costa Concordia.” Toledo showed off the true depth of his songs on “Ballard”, taking the crowd on a long and twisting journey, full of ups and downs, faster and slower pace, with a true power behind his lyrics, all within the same song, never losing even one audience member along the way. In a night full of moments that make you say “wow” at Toledo and his band, this song was one of those moments that just blow you away. The crowd was fully engulfed in Car Seat Headrest, belting out with Toledo “I Give Up” as the night continued on.
The beginning of the encore begins (because with a band this great you have to have two rounds) and the band dismembers leaving Toledo alone on stage. The singer/songwriter presence comes out as he transcends into his take on Frank Ocean’s “Sky” off the just released new Ocean album Blonde. The lights go low leaving just a spotlight and a mesmerized audience. You really see his brilliance come out on his cover. Toledo then leaves the stage and for a few seconds the crowd is silent. It doesn’t last long before people start shouting for more and clapping. The band comes out full force and performs three more songs for us.
Toledo’s stage presence is a staple to the band’s music. Toledo, especially during “Vincent”, reminded me of David Byrne. The way he held his body real close to the mic and then swayed away into a trance when the band came in, just phenomenal. And it’s not just Toledo that captured the crowd, the whole band. Andrew Katz, Ethan Ives, Seth Dalby and Toledo have developed a camaraderie that electrifies. The band definitely has “clicked” in all the right places. And that group of guys on the balcony? Turns out Adam Driver, Channing Tatum and Daniel Craig are Car Seat Headrest fan’s after all.Kicking off the night to prepare the crowd for Car Seat Headrest was Long Island, New York based The Lemon Twigs, a baroque pop rock band with throwback vibes. These guys remember the days of the “rock star” and put on a heck of a show, full of many kicks in the air, jumps higher than Randy Moss, and dancing around the stage all while wearing bell bottoms. The Lemon Twigs had the crowd feeling the energy early, making a crowd full of new fans that are looking forward to the release of their debut album, Do Hollywood, due out October 14th on 4AD. / Written by Avery Newmark
Check out more photos from one of the shows of the year by Mike Gerry:
Car Seat Headrest’s Setlist:
Watch an iPhone video of Car Seat Headrest covering Frank Ocean’s “Ivy”:
Watch Car Seat Headrest perform “Drunk Driver/Killer Whales” at Terminal West: