Car Seat Headrest takes on Chicago
Claire Lyons | Thursday, March 24, 2022
“I knew there were going to be a lot of Docs in the crowd today, but I didn’t know there’d be this many,” freshman Riley Potter said. “Let’s count how many there are in line.”
Last Friday, a small group of my friends and I traversed the treacherous Indiana Toll Road to arrive at The Vic Theater in Chicago. We were there to see indie-rock band, Car Seat Headrest, kick off the beginning of their North American tour. Apparently, almost every other Doc Marten-donning, dyed-hair and silver-studded emo from the Midwest was standing in line for the doors with us. It was nearly wrapped around the block.
If you aren’t already a fan of Car Seat Headrest, you’d probably be put off when the band stepped on stage. A single spotlight illuminated the stage, shining directly onto a stock-still Will Toldeo, the front-man of the band. If this wasn’t melodramatic enough, Toledo’s outfit adds to it all. Imagine the very skinny man wearing an XXL Goofy t-shirt, booty jorts (over leggings), all underneath a bright orange hazmat suit. Then, top it all off with a gas mask that has an LED board for eyes and with a pair of unidentifiable animal ears attached to it. (Many people believe this is Toldeo’s fursona.)
Yeah. Pretty weird. Then, the band started playing background music with a warbly guitar and synths as Toledo delivered a weirdly haunted and prophetic speech reminiscent of David Burne of The Talking Heads. It was their live performance of, “Crows,” which sounded just as grimy as their recording. Complementing waving green lights on Toldeo’s mask, green lights flashed behind the band on stage with an intensity and frequency that made it necessary to post an epilepsy warning at the doors. I thought it was pretty cool, but the group of tech theater kids next to me were unimpressed.
The band played popular songs from their new album, “Making a Door Less Open,” highlighting: “Weightlifters,” “Hollywood” and “Can’t Cool Me Down.” Toledo’s dance moves during “Weightlifters” and drummer Andrew Katz’s quirky singing during, “Hollywood,” were so much fun to watch. But the real show-stopper of this section was, “Can’t Cool Me Down.”
Instead of the typical five-minute run-time, it felt like “Can’t Cool Me Down” lasted forever (in a good way). “We’ve never done this before,” Toledo nervously chuckled. “We need about fifty percent more funk on this stage.” Surprisingly the opening act, Bartees Strange, arrived on stage. They added a sick guitar solo and backing vocals which made the performance stand out and gave me a newfound appreciation for the single.
In addition to their new stuff, the band played old crowd-pleasers like “Maud Gone,” “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” and “Fill in the Blank.” I’m impressed that they performed their fifteen-minute long magnum opus, “Beach Life-In-Death.” In fact, Toledo actually stopped the whole show, legitimately shushing the crowd during a part of the song. “Wait, wait, wait. We’re gonna stop for a second,” he said. “We’re gonna build it up real slow and it’s gonna feel great.” Crouching on the ground, Toledo whispered into his mic, “This is my brother,” and chanted it over and over, growing taller each time until his voice crescendoed into a victorious howl.
My favorite part of the show was their stripped-down performance of “Bodys.” Although the band scaled back on the elements that make their 2018 studio recording so compelling — the beautiful synth drum intro, the chorus crescendos and the layered production — they still kept the same enthusiasm during the live performance.
The crowd was sent into a frenzy as the song played. A man in front of me grabbed his boyfriend by the shoulders and shook him with all of his might. He screamed the lyrics, “I just wanna hold you!” Together, with the crowd jumping as one to the chorus, I forgot about the fact that I couldn’t see past their shoulders. I didn’t even care that there were people in the audience with cat ears and tails, as cringe as that is. We were all united by music and by an eccentric band that we all get bullied for liking.
That’s the beauty of a Car Seat Headrest concert. That’s why so many strange people flocked to their concert last Friday. You can be whoever you want to be, and they’ll accept you.
Artist: Car Seat Headrest
Tour: North American Tour 2022
Venue: The Vic Theatre
Favorite Tracks: “Can’t Cool Me Down,” “Beach Life-In-Death,” “Bodys”
Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5