Car Seat Headrest

Car Seat Headrest


Will Toledo and the rest of Car Seat Headrest have quite the following in Manchester, if I’m honest it was totally unexpected. I know they’re a great young band with two fantastic albums under their belt, Teens of Style (2015) and Teens of Denial (2016), but I had no idea how packed Gorilla would be. Not because their music is shit or anything, they just didn’t strike me as a band who would strike a chord with the Mancunian contingent. I’m glad I was wrong.

Sipping on our warm cans and debating the potential set, my good friend and I were impressed with the venue itself. I’ve been to Gorilla a few times but never has it looked so right. The lighting is subdued, the smoke machine is giving it the bifters and the hustle and bustle of Northern riff raff and balding heads creates a buzz which excites me.

Creeping onto the stage in his black turtle neck and black swooping hair (from left to right), Toledo looks cool as fuck, ready to mumble his way through an hour or so of heart punching, moody rock n roll. His band are an interesting looking bunch too. Guitarist Evan Ives looks like he’s just stepped off the set of Dazed and Confused and the drummer’s headband tells my brain that he’s about to fucking clatter every single drum at once in a Keith Moon homage (he didn’t). The bass player was also cool as a cucumber, a saying that baffles me to this day but regardless, he looked like he could play.

It’s not really important what a band looks like usually but their opposing styles of dress and varying haircuts made me smile. They don’t adhere to the aesthetics of some bands who dress themselves in a manner of cohesion and image consciousness, CSH (which is what I’ll abbreviate them as because fuck me their name is annoying to write) don’t need the look, they just need the sound. And they have that sound in by the shed load.

Starting with “Fill In The Blank”, the crowd are instantly hooked. The words, “you have no right to be depressed/you haven’t tried hard enough to like it,” ring out around the venue as the front third of the crowd start to pogo, bob and weave. I love how the music stops then suddenly starts again, like a busted old car whose engine is knackered, it keeps jumping back into life and there’s something charming and passionate about that stop-start structure. It’s a fantastic beginning and “Vincent”, its intro giving me tangs of Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm (2005) opener “Like Eating Glass”, continues the great energy in the room. The bassline in this song is particularly pleasing and the drumming too creates a monstrous groove.

At this point I realise how much I’ve underestimated CSH. Their live sound is so much heavier and raw compared to record, I find myself head banging at music which shouldn’t really warrant the aggressive flowing of one’s hair. I am however having a great time and even though it feels like we’ve been here half an hour, we’re only two songs in.

Car Seat Headrest

Car Seat Headrest

Probably the biggest rise CSH got was when the anthemic, slightly Springsteen flavoured ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ was introduced. I’m not gonna lie, I think their best songs are their most popular, which usually indicates a lack of knowledge of a band’s back catalogue. It’s hard however not to enjoy a track so mature and emotive, obviously written by someone with an older head than their age. It’s probably one of the best choruses so far this decade, it feels like a cover of a classic it’s that good. Despite on paper looking nonsensical and sounding like something from the Mighty Boosh, the words, “it doesn’t have to be like this, killer whales, killer whales,” always gets me going, and tonight it certainly has. I did I’m afraid to say become the cunt that chucks beer, I do apologise to anyone who felt the dregs of my lager and gob. Only messing, couldn’t care less, it probably vaporised in the air anyway due to the amounts of positive feeling there was.

Other highlights include ‘Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not An)’ and ‘Destroyed By Hippie Powers’, which sees the hundreds inside tonight swaying, jostling and singing back the words with a passion present at gigs that you know will go down in history. It wasn’t fucking Woodstock, but still, it’s a show that’ll stay with me for a while. And with a quick rendition of ‘Gloria’ by Patti Smith at the end of ‘Connect the Dots’, they were gone and so were we. In jubilant mood, we were ready to paint the town in whatever bloody colour we liked.

Despite being quite a short set, finding ourselves at Manchester Oxford Road at quarter to ten, I would still definitely recommend you experience Car Seat Headrest for yourself. No, you will not leave bruised and broken in that narcissistic way you will with other bands, you will however experience some amazing song writing which can only get better, as long as Toledo continues to exercise that talented wrist of his.

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Liverpool born music writer with passion for punk and Everton FC