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Car Seat Headrest impresses at Chicago performance

| Monday, September 10, 2018

Joseph Han

For anyone who has never heard Car Seat Headrest before, they can be summed up fairly easily in one word; angst. Really poignant, loud, indie angst. If you are dealing with relationship troubles, drug problems or are simply pissed off at the world, Car Seat Headrest would be a pretty good prescription — lead singer Will Toledo has seen it all. His personal struggles and his written music are basically one in the same, creating a passionate relationship when he plays. In fact, the vocals of the first few albums were recorded in the back of a car for privacy (hence, Car Seat Headrest.)

They craft dynamic songs, with commanding guitar riffs. The structures are very ambitious, spiraling up and down through different emotions and events from Will’s life. This band is definitely ahead of the pack when it comes to indie and punk rock. Will and his supporting members are originally from Leesburg, Virginia, but now reside in Seattle. On Sept. 7, a few friends and I were lucky enough to see them at The Riviera Theatre in Chicago.

They are currently touring for their latest release, “Twin Fantasy (Face to Face).” This album was initially recorded in 2011, and the new version has slight musical changes and a significant improvement in production. The album revolves around a relationship Will was in and the overall struggles he faced growing up gay. It contains ten songs, with lengths ranging from 1:29 to 16:11. Highlights from the album include “My Boy (Twin Fantasy),” “Beach Life-In-Death” and “Bodys.” The tone of the entire album is despairing; Will wants nothing more than for this relationship to work, but it’s indicative that it won’t. You can really hear the pain in this album. I find it is best to belt out the album on an hour-long car ride alone.

The opener for the concert was “Naked Giants,” which included three touring members of Car Seat Headrest. They played a few lousy songs at the beginning of the set list, but by the end they had earned their share of head bopping from the crowd. They have a song called “Slow Dance II” from their album “Sluff” that is worth a listen.

Car Seat Headrest opened with a cover of Lou Reed’s “Waves of Fear.” Although the crowd did not know the song all too well, the ranting verses and intense bass were pretty close to the band’s own style, and the catharsis of the song set the mood that would remain for that night. The band launched directly into “Bodys” — one of their more popular songs — directly after finishing the Lou Reed cover. The lights went wild, as did the crowd. People rushed the stage jumping and yelling and pushing like any punk concert.

Will sang without his guitar, as he has done throughout this tour. The members were wearing t-shirts and jeans and Will was dressed in all black. They were all relaxed; not unenergetic, but cool. Will’s clenched fists and rocking torso showed how passionate he was about this music, even when he had to stop to fix his glasses.

It was greatly entertaining, and a must see if you are even the slightest of a fan.

The rest of the set was as follows:

1. “Waves of Fear” (Lou Reed Cover) 2. “Bodys” 3. “Fill in the Blank” 4. “(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem)” 5. “Cute Thing” 6. “Sober to Death / Powderfinger” (Neil Young and Crazy Horse cover) 7. “America (Never Been)” 8. “Drunk Driver/Killer Whales” 9. “Destroyed by Hippie Powers” 10. “Something Soon” Encore: “Beach Life-In-Death.”

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