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Now for our regularly scheduled program featuring Mr Will Toledo and his band Car Seat Headrest.
I haven’t been this excited for a gig in a long time. Tonight, Seattle singer-songwriter/superstar Will Toledo aka Car Seat Headrest takes the stage at the Triffid. And after what’s been a bit of a scorcher outside, I’m ready to grab a goldie and bask in the air-conditioned Triffid.
I don’t really feel much cooler as the crowd packs in nice and tight. I scan the audience around me, quickly sizing them up to see whether they’ll be jerks later in the show. My friends and I distance ourselves from the group of lads who’ve taken up a quarter of the venue, ultimately pushing us directly in front of the towering speakers. I’ll be a little deafer tomorrow.
The crowd erupts into an awkward clap as three young blokes walk out on stage claiming to be Car Seat Headrest. The fake fans cheer but most of us can see through this façade. They begin a song called TV which soon breaks into a thrashing, distorted jam on stage. The two guitarists jump around as they bend their strings, their sound reminiscent of early Black Keys but the drummer crashes hard on his cymbals giving them a punkier edge. Soon the ‘real’ members of Car Seat Headrest walk on stage, followed by front man and Headrest mastermind, Will Toledo, who sits at the keyboard and fiddles around with the keys. As TV finishes, the band announce they are Seattle rockers, Naked Giants. To be honest, I wouldn’t have mind if they played for a bit longer.
Toledo stands centre stage, guitarless for a change, in an Angry Beavers t-shirt. It’s a bit of nostalgia for all those who remember waking up Saturday morning and watching Rugrats, Hey Arnold and Doug. The band begin The Drum. Toleto’s passionate mumble vocals echo through the hall as the guitarists play off each other’s energy, the dissonant bending guitar notes ring above the rest of the band. The drummer of Naked Giants stands amongst a plethora of percussion, rapidly hitting the cowbell, tambourine and bongos. The added percussion brings further depth into what is already a well layered sound.
Fill in the Blank follows, beginning with a Latin flare thanks to the extra percussion. It’s a more upbeat version that has the crowd dancing along; the cult of Car Seat Headrest begins to mosh in the middle of the audience and things become sweaty earlier than I imagined. Toledo holds maracas in his hand as they begin Bodys. The maracas accompany the added percussion, but really, I reckon they are just there so Toledo has something to do with his arms. He stands in front of the mic, his thick black mop hanging from his head, singing, “I would speak to you in song, but you can’t sing as far as I’m aware. Though everyone can sing as you are well aware, I keep so quiet it’s hard to tell I’m alive,” showcasing the smart song writing and lyrical play we’ve come to love from Car Seat.
Destroyed by Hippie Powers has the crowd banging their head back and forth as the distorted guitars ring out, joining in a harmonious chorus as the band sing, “Tell my mother I’m going home, I have been destroyed by hippie powers.” Throughout each song the band lose themselves in their music, often breaking out into extended jams that sometimes add five minutes onto their songs. It shows true musicianship and song writing ability to be able to alter your music for a live audience, and still keep the magic that the audience come to expect.
Naked Giants take over the stage once again, pushing Car Seat Headrest off the mantel. Though this song sounds similar to what they opened with, it’s still a hard-hitting rock tune and is different enough to stand out against Headrest’s material. Naked Giants have really impressed me with their two songs and their accompaniment to the rest of Headrest.
The band cut the instrumentation and Toledo and his guitarist begin a vocal harmony, singing “I am just a poor boy, though my story’s seldom told.” It sounds familiar and I know it’s a song mum always has on at home, but I can’t figure out what it is. It’s really starting to piss me off, but thanks to my mate he reminds me it’s The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel. The band add their Car Seat Headrest rock flavour to the simple folk song of yesteryear.
The crowd erupt once more as Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales begins. I can’t hear Toledo over the chorus of voices in the crowd, yelling his lyrics back at him. As the song builds, the bass throbs from the speaker directly in front of me. The deep sound waves wash over me, digging into my brain and potentially killing ears, but I don’t give a fuck, the band perform a perfect rendition of their famous single. Toledo yells into the mic with ferocious passion. Well, as much ferocity to still allow him to stand on stage and make it look effortless. The cult of Car Seat Headrest next to us begin a heavy mosh and I realise that the air-conditioning really can’t handle this. The crowd feed off the band’s energy as the guitarists groove and jump on stage.
Car Seat Headrest return for their encore, Toledo sits at the keyboard and begins to play White Ferrari by Frank Ocean. He doesn’t have Frank Ocean’s voice, but Toledo makes White Ferrari his own with his mumbled, drowsy tone. It’s a hard song to cover, but Car Seat Headrest do it with ease. The band transition into Twin Fantasy, the closing track to their latest album. It’s an epic closer to the album and aptly suits as a closer to their show. But the band effortlessly transition into another cover: Do What You Gotta Do by Nina Simone, now known for it’s sample in Kanye West’s Famous. It’s another well performed cover, and Car Seat Headrest have gone through the effort to make it sound like their own, but I feel like it is dragging on a bit too long. In classic Headrest style, the song built multiple times; so many I’ve lost count. I feel as if the set would have ended better with one of their own songs.
As I walk out of the Triffid, I look around and lip read the audience because my ears don’t work anymore. I think I’m hearing, “fuck yeah man that was epic” from one of the lads who’s drenched in sweat after moshing from start to finish. Someone else says “damn, I wish he played the Ballad of Costa Concordia.” Yeah you and me both, mate. Even though my ears will be ringing for the next twenty-four hours, it’s undeniable that Will Toledo is not only a fantastic songwriter but has the ability to transform his songs into something entirely different in a live setting. And still look effortless in doing so in his Angry Beavers t-shirt.
This is Nick Devin in Brisbane, signing off.
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