CAR SEAT HEADREST + PREOCCUPATIONS @ THE REGENT THEATRE
Photos by Sheva Kafai Words by Madison Desler
“I’m not some piece of teenage wildlife,” Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest sang during the song he chose as the encore for his sold-out show at The Regent. “Teenage Wildlife” is a David Bowie song—not Toledo’s—though you would never know it. The introspection of it, the admonishment, the razor-sharp observations passed of as casual margin scrawl, all fit right into Toledo’s wheel-house—one that has taken him from recording songs alone in his car, to last year’s Teens Of Denial, which made every “Best Albums Of The Year” list worth its salt. His ability to craft lyrically shrewd songs that are still Weezer-esque guitar anthems has endeared him to rock fans while providing a much needed sign of life in the midst of the current, indie rock doldrums.
Fresh from Coachella, Toledo took the stage alone. He’s all hair and glasses—sporting the overgrown Beatles cut that took over high schools across America in the mid-2000’s—and in his pastel blue trousers and black tie, looks a lot like that guy you took to your junior prom. He started with an incredible cover of Frank Ocean’s “Self Control,” casting a spell over us that was only broken at the end by Toledo nervously looking over his shoulder, waiting for the band to join him onstage.
A particularly raucous version of fan-favorite “Fill In The Blank” got the crowd super hyped, while the massive dynamic jumps of “1937 State Park” gave the band and crowd alike an excuse to go crazy. Next came the down-tempo “Sober To Death” and “Maud Gone,” which Toledo introduced by saying, “Here’s another older, slower song—to lighten things up.” The band—with its sweat-banded drummer and guitar player wearing a t-shirt he wrote “Listen to Fugazi” on with a sharpie—look like they should be playing in a garage with the door propped open, but shred like pros. Songs that begin in a small intimate space, end up euphoric, the band jamming “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” and “Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not An)” into the stratosphere.
Toledo’s croaky voice delivering teen-angst idioms like “You share the same fate as the people you hate” (“Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”), and “If I’m being honest with myself/I haven’t been honest with myself” (“Vincent”) within songs you can nod your head to is peculiarly affecting. It’s kind of like when you’re tipsy, and you read something scribbled on the bathroom stall that you can’t forget for the rest of the night. “Teenage hands will never touch yours again,” Toledo sings on “Famous Prophets (Minds)” which brought the 11-song setlist to an end.
The show was opened by the very heavy Preoccupations whose relentless, 10-minute harping on three goddamn notes at the end of their set drove everyone crazy. In a good way. Mostly.