Car Seat Headrest returns to the DMV for an invigorating show
Underdogs of the indie rock movement played at 9:30 Club in September
Will Toledo, lead singer of Car Seat Headrest, graced the stage of the 9:30 Club on Sept. 19 sporting an all-black ensemble, including loose-fitting pants. The stage was filled with not four guys, but seven; Naked Giants, the opener, had joined Car Seat Headrest for an extremely energetic performance. Car Seat Headrest is generally a loud band with elements of punk, lo-fi and electronic rock, but the sound was fuller, enhanced by the amount of people performing.
Toledo started Car Seat Headrest as a solo project out of his college dorm room. For a long time, they were a truly independent band; they weren’t popular and didn’t even have a label. Toledo self-released 10 albums on BandCamp and other streaming services, often recording in strange spaces, including his parent’s car and a church parking lot. .
In 2015, they finally signed with Matador Records, and the band had to expand beyond Toledo. The band officially expanded in 2016 and now includes Andrew Katz on drums, Ethan Ives on guitar and Seth Dalby on bass. With this newly formed group, Car Seat Headrest released "Teens of Denial" in 2016. “Teens of Denial” placed fourth on Rolling Stone’s Best Albums of 2016, quite an honor for a newly-formed band.
At their concert, Car Seat Headrest played a variety of songs from their newly-released album, "Twin Fantasy,” as well as old songs, mostly from “Teens in Denial.” However, their new album isn’t really new; it’s a reissue of a 2011 album. In 2011, the album didn’t gain that much success because Car Seat Headrest was still relatively unknown. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Toledo explained that he wanted to revisit the album because he “felt like I could re-record it better. So far, it’s worked out.”
Toledo’s perfectionism and sheer talent is what has fueled Car Seat Headrest into making it one of the best indie rock bands out there. Even in his performances, each element comes together to produce a cohesive sound. The interesting chord progressions, harmonies and rhythmic patterns are expertly executed.
Toledo has a certain lovable awkwardness about him. He was dancing to what most wouldn't consider dancing music, twisting his hips every which way. It could be categorized as strange, but his smile made it clear that any criticism about his dancing could not affect him. Occasionally, Toledo also brought out a tambourine when he wasn’t singing.
Halfway through the performance, people began moshing to “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales,” the leading song off of “Teens of Denial.” It was a strange song to mosh to because the song is about death. There were people crying and other people were moshing and being obnoxious. But the mosh pit didn’t take over the show and it was seen as an option for the most energetic and rowdy fans.
Near the end of the show, the percussionist from Naked Giants, Henry LaVallee, started to circle the stage while playing the cowbell and dancing spiritedly. He went up to the guitarist of Naked Giants and licked his guitar. LaVallee picked a girl from the crowd to join him on stage and play the cowbell. Unfortunately, she looked rather uncomfortable to be on stage.
Their set ended, and all seven of the painfully sad boys exited the stage. But the crowd begged for more, shouting, “One more song,” with each repetition of this phrase growing in volume. After a few minutes of shouting, both Naked Giants and Car Seat Headrest came back on stage. Toledo went back to the microphone and said, “We forgot a song.” They played a few more songs, including “Bodys” off of “Twin Fantasy,” with each song blending into the other.
Car Seat Headrest put on an amazing show for the 9:30 Club, a much needed experience for everyone involved. There were elements of teenage angst as well as genuine musicianship, which left everyone pumped and impressed. Especially in successful bands now, there isn’t always a commitment to produce good music -- there’s pressure to create what will appeal to a general audience. Fortunately, Car Seat Headrest isn’t one of those bands.