Will Toledo represents the ultimate expression of DIY that the these past few years have brought to our ears. It’s a fact that moving from the bedroom-pop of ‘Teens of Style’ to embrace a more classic rock grandeur, finally glorified his brainchild Car Seat Headrest to a new level.
I was let down, months ago, when I couldn’t put my hands on a ticket for his gig at the 100 Club. His ‘Teens Of Denial’ made it to my personal Top 10 releases in 2016 and it comes as no surprise that Car Seat Headrest has rapidly become a new phenomenon, after signing to Matador Records and taking a sit beside other giants such as label’s own Pavement or Guided By Voices. Will Toledo is profound and profane, he is an extremely talented musician and his lyrics are empathetic, sharp and vernacular, all at the same time.
So, think about an iconic venue in the heart of Camden Town – Electric Ballroom – on a chilly night at the end of March. Following an intense opening act by TRAAMS, Car Seat Headrest are on stage and the crowd seems to go crazy, as soon as the band’s components start taking the stage in dribs and drabs. Will wears his spectacles, his air quite rebellious. His lead guitarist’s stage presence reminds me of some post-punk acts from the 80s, including the white t-shirt he wears and that states “Listen To Fugazi”. I wonder how many people, in the audience, know what he is talking about…
‘Vincent’ is the overture, and when ‘Fill The Blank’ kicks off, the crowd screams along “You have no right to be depressed!” becoming a rowdy wave of rock ‘n roll energy. Will and his band play what is the best of his majestic production so far. Lo-fi vibes take place with the melancholic ‘Maud Gone’, while ‘Destroyed By Hippy Powers’ from his last album is a gem that on a stage sounds even better than on record. Then, it’s time for a beautifully crafted cover of a Pixies’ song – ‘Motorway To Roswell’ – and it all sounds like I’m in front of an artist whose skills and creativity are not fully discovered yet.
People around me jump, sweat, sing along, feeling emotionally connected to the stage, where a 25 years old man from Virginia moves fast through his setlist. ‘Sober To Death’, ‘Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not An)’, a new edit for ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ are among the highlights, although I believe the entire bunch of songs would be worth some more words.
Will doesn’t play a much-awaited ‘Something Soon’, however, the encore is somehow special. He performs a cover of Frank Ocean’s ‘Ivy’, right before the grand finale. ‘Connect the Dots (The Saga of Frank Sinatra)’ is the schizophrenic final act, that ends up in a psychedelic and noisy run through distorted guitars and obsessive drum riffs. Not to mention a snippet of Patti Smith’s ‘Gloria’ that rings down the curtain on a sweaty and incredibly intense night of pure indie rock vibes.
If you were there, you know what I am talking about. If not, my London-based fellows, well hurry up, Car Seat Headrest will be back in town at the end of August, and I am quite sure they will kill it again.