Live Note: Car Seat Headrest @ Red Bull Sound Select 30 Days In LA @ Teragram Ballroom, November 13, 2016
A highlight of this year’s Red Bull Sound Select 30 Days in LA November concert series, the ascendant Car Seat Headrest rocked a packed Teragram Ballroom Sunday night, their first area show since April.
Their origin story as a bedroom-recording Bandcamp wunderkind has been well documented, though Car Seat Headrest is very much a proper four-piece band these day, the live lineup consisting of Ethan Ives on searing lefty lead guitar, Andrew Katz bashing the kit, Seth Dalby holding down the low end, and of course, singer-songwriter Will Toledo, on rhythm guitar and vocals. He has a classic throaty delivery that’s more earnest than ironic, that, along with the big guitar sounds, tap right into nostalgia pleasure centers for older indie rock fans, a few of whom are in the room tonight. While at the same time they’re clearly bringing in youngins brand new to indie, forged all the more by Will’s engaging online presence. He’s fast easing into the role of star band frontperson, sporting a smart blazer and skinny tie, cutting a shape something like a vintage anime hero, all big hair and slim limbs.
They’ve shown keen sense of history and impeccable taste in rock and roll, with classic and indie sonic and lyrical references laced throughout the records and in choice of live covers. Evince tonight: opening with a timely solo take of the late Leonard Cohen’s (an oft cited musical hero of Toledo’s) “Field Commander Cohen,” while Bowie’s “Five Years” is brought out in the encore, and sections of classics like “Sweet Jane” and “Gloria” woven into their own songs.
The set focused around their crafty, catchy debut full length for Matador, Teens of Denial, released in May, with it’s four by now familiar ripping singles “Fill in the blank,” “Drunk drivers/killer whales,” Vincent” and “Destroyed by hippie powers” serving as the anchors, making for crowd singalongs, fist pumps and some appropriately awkward mild moshing for the bouncier parts. The hooks and inventive arrangement twists packed into the songs keep the energy of the show from flagging, and the compact 12-song set with hardly any filler makes for hardly any lull in the show, a rare feat for a newer act. Here is the ending part where they usually say “look for big things to come from [insert new band]”, but really, big things are already here for Car Seat Headrest and just more of the same will be more than fine.