Part way through the night of July 21st at The Wiltern, a member of team Car Seat Headrest found it imperative to explain to the crowd: “We were informed that none of you bought tickets….” As the story went, they were told while in Des Moines, Iowa, that not many people had purchased tickets to the Los Angeles show. But a marketing tactic was born: they posted a video raffling off two Subway meatball marinara sandwiches, apparently enticing enough people to steadily fill the Wiltern on a summer Saturday night. As promised, two attendees were each awarded a sub.
The story goes that Car Seat Headrest began with Will Toledo making music, alone, in the backseat of his car. The Bandcamp legend has come far since those days of solitude. Toledo graced the stage of The Wiltern with six others, leading the way for a set filled with bombastic lights and gemstone covers. Car Seat Headrest are on tour in support of Twin Fantasy, the re-recorded version of the album Toledo, originally released in 2011.
Orb-like purple back-lights glowed as the band entered the stage. First pings resounded, resulting in applause. The music stopped. “Hello,” Toledo said. The set kicked off with “Cosmic Hero,” from 2016s Teens of Denial. At song’s end, Toledo took a moment to take in the crowd: “Wow this place goes way back.. I hope it sounds alright.” Then, while both going back and forward in Car Seat Headrest’s discography, they played the first song of the night from Twin Fantasy: “Cute Thing.” They followed with “Sober to Death,” which flowed into Neil Young’s “Powderfinger” and featured Toledo on the tambourine.
Car Seat Headrest’s performance was arguably at its most cataclysmic smack in the middle of the night. Despite stopping for the sandwich raffle, “Bodys,” “Fill in the Blank” and “Drunk Drivers/ Killer Whales” inspired a jovial jumping sea of humans. It was lines like, ironically, “You have no right to be depressed” and “We’re young/ we’re thin (most of us)” that were particularly inspiring.
After “Beach Life-In Death” and “Nervous Young Inhumans,” they exited the stage. A handful of attendees left, but many began clapping as a way to call back Car Seat Headrest. Those on the balcony stomped. The lights faded, and when the last two finally dimmed, Toledo reappeared at the keyboard, alone. Colored by the purple hue, he sang Frank Ocean’s “White Ferrari.” It was due time for such a cover in the set. In “Cute Thing,” after all, he sings: “Give me Frank Ocean’s voice.” The tempo eventually began to build. Toledo was again at the microphone stand and the band was back. They played into “Twin Fantasy (Those Boys),” which faded into a cover of Nina Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do.” With golden yellow lights reigning down, Toledo sang, “I haven’t looked at the sun for so long.” It felt like a moment for reflection, but that didn’t last for too long, as the set closed with “Destroyed By Hippie Powers,” a testament to the messiness of psychedelics. What ensued was a bevy of flashing red lights, Toledo’s restricted dancing and the drummers banging away, this time front and center.
The night was big, loud, cathartic. Any mid-adolescent should feel so lucky to stumble upon on Car Seat Headrest, whether live on stage or sitting in the back of a car, headphones in.
- Cosmic Hero
- Cute Thing
- Sober To Death/ Powderfinger (Neil Young and Crazy Horse cover)
- Fill in the Blank
- Drunk Drivers/ Killer Whales
- Beach Life-In-Death
- Nervous Young Inhumans
- White Ferrari (Frank Ocean cover)
- Twin Fantasy (Those Boys)/ Do What You Gotta Do (Nina Simone cover)
- Destroyed By Hippie Powers