Whoa, there you are! I told you I’d be back with a review of the recent Car Seat Headrest show at Union Transfer and here I am. Would I lie to you? No need to answer that question. In fact, let’s move on quickly and get you something you can sink your teeth into.
Car Seat Headrest is a popular “lo-fi” band that is the brain child of Will Toledo. Toledo hails from Northern Virginia (ye olde stomping grounds of BRP) but has since moved to Seattle because he has an aversion to sunlight. Anyway, Toledo started doing albums and releasing them on Bandcamp, and the lad was prolific. I believe he has 12 self-released albums. Talk about the epitome of the DIY movement!
CSH eventually got signed to Matador Records and went from being the solo project of Toledo to being a real band with four members. Toledo still does the songwriting and singing, in a monotonous but not untuneful way, but he is now backed up by other musicians. And at the Union transfer show, he had quite a few musicians supporting him (more on that below – just a teaser to keep you reading, and do so because it’s GREAT).
Apparently, the name Car Seat Headrest comes from Toledo’s early days of recording. The story goes that he would go out to his car to get privacy, and ended up recording vocals while sitting in the back seat. The band name came from staring at the headrest in front of him. Now, I’m sure that those recordings were technically brilliant, but it is probably a good thing that Matador helped move the dude into a real recording studio.
So how was the show? Funny you should ask. There were two openers and we missed most of the first one. However, despite arriving a tad late, I think I snagged my best parking spot ever for a show at UT. No longer able to dump my car by the pistol range, I have been parking down Spring Garden for a while now, but this time I got a choice Spring Garden spot virtually in front of the club. It is true that I had to move a “men working overhead” sign in order to comfortably fit, but because safety always comes first for me, I did check to see that there were no men working overhead before the sign was moved. I was channeling Toledo’s DIY!
Back to the show. The second opener was a Seattle band called Naked Giants, who sport a great song called SLUFF. If you go to the website, it tells you what SLUFF stands for, and even though in my real life I am a generous user of profanity, I have really tried hard not to smut up BRP. So who is Naked Giants? They are a power trio of talented musicians making a huge sonic wave. Once they figure out how to make their songs more catchy, these guys could actually be something. They were, however, extremely energetic on stage. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a drummer leave his kit as many times as drummer Henry LaVallee did, constantly going in front of the stage to urge the crowd on. The other two members, Grant Mullen (guitars, vocals) and Gianni Aiello (bass) were equally enthusiastic. For a trio, there was a lot going on up there. Here are a few pictures:
Next up was the headliner. Here are two very interesting facts about the show (I told you this was going to be GREAT, and here it is). First, all three members of Naked Giants was fully incorporated into Car Seat Headrest for the entire show. Yep, they played every tune as members of the band. CSH bills itself as a foursome, but they were a sevensome at UT. As Ryan said, having the opener also play with you is one way to keep your costs down as you’re traveling across the country.
Second, Toledo never picked up an instrument other than the tambourine. [I’m still trying to figure out whether the tambourine actually qualifies as an instrument. I know in my hands that it does not, but the same could be said for a Stradivarius violin, so I’m no help at all on this subject.] Back to Toledo. Mr. DIY for 12 albums played no instrument at all. Rather, the rail-thin Toledo sang and “danced.” Yeah, he moves kinda funky up there, but in the world of verbs I could use to describe his somewhat herky-jerky groove, “dancing” is the best one I could come up with.
Now don’t jump to conclusions that the show was bad. In fact, it was just the opposite. The band was tight, they rocked pretty darn hard, and seven musicians can pack a sonic punch that is worth every penny you paid for the ticket. In fact, with two lead guitars, and a third chiming in on occasion, the songs sounded really strong.
And what songs! CSH ran through some of their best tunes (including Fill In The Blank and Drugs With Friends), but also played covers by Lou Reed, Dexy’s Midnight Runners (!), and Neil Young. Good choices, all. Here’s a link to CSH’s YouTube video for Fill In The Blank:
And here’s the setlist link from our good friends at setlist.fm:
The sellout crowd was into it, and the place was humping. It was definitely a younger crowd, which brought with it the vibrancy and energy of youth that can help to carry a show along. At one point, Toledo asked how many people were in college, and about half the crowd screamed, including me, hahaha. It was a good time, and continues the hot streak that Ryan and I now find ourselves on. Let’s see if we can keep that momentum rolling.
So what’s next? Well, Johnny Marr for sure. And I just circulated a fat list of shows to my email crew to carry me into the holiday season. I’ve already bought tickets to a few shows in 2019 – you gotta plan ahead to avoid those evil scalpers.
I hope you are also out enjoying some live music and glamming around town. It’s fun! And to crib from Bill Kirchen’s song, there’s a whole lotta things that I’ve never done but I’ve never had too much fun. Keep going – you only live once so don't screw it up, haha!
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.