Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Live Review :: Car Seat Headrest :: Tramshed, Cardiff - Nov 5 2018

Credit: Coal Poet Photography


Car Seat Headrest

Tramshed, Cardiff

November 5 2018

Words: Kieran O'Brien

Pictures: As credits

Pick any culturally significant indie guitar band from the past forty years, search for their biggest hit on YouTube and scroll down through the comments section. It is almost guaranteed that somebody will be bemoaning the death of guitar music (or worse still, ‘real music’) and complaining that the youth of today are incapable of creating anything close to the brilliance of their beloved classics. What this usually roughly translates to is that they want new bands to sound exactly like their old heroes, and they can’t be bothered to leave their warm houses to watch any emerging acts live. Tonight’s Car Seat Headrest show at Cardiff’s Tramshed is the perfect gig to demonstrate to these naysayers just how narrow minded their viewpoint is, as the notably young 1000 capacity crowd buzzes waiting for the Virginia quartet to take to the stage.

Car Seat Headrest are the brainchild of frontman Will Toledo, who built a cult online following with numerous lo-fi releases on Bandcamp, before the band’s breakout 2016 record ‘Teens of Denial’ catapulted them into the indie rock stratosphere. The album combined Strokes-influenced vocals with authentically witty and personal takes on the insecurities of early-twenties life, and tonight the band open with one of the highlights of the record ‘Cosmic Bodies’.

Credit: Julian Doyle

Toledo’s Casablancas-esque vocals are front and centre, filling the arena with impressive ease while often only accompanied by a sole rattling rhythm guitar. Clocking in at over eight minutes, 'Cosmic Bodies' is a lengthy opener and there is possibly even a palpable impatience in the front sections of the crowd as they await the songs’ crescendo. When it does arrive, it is undoubtedly worth the wait, as the audience bounces to Ethan Ives’ angular guitar lines and Toledo’s pained screams. There is no such impatience from the crowd as the band burst into ‘Bodys’ from 2018’s ‘Twin Fantasy’, a machinic and Strokes’ esque guitar line clatters behind Toledo’s angst ridden vocal at a ferocious pace. The band have two drummers live and it brings an energy reminiscent of Suburbs-era Arcade Fire; this energy is taken to another level again on ‘Fill in The Blanks’ as Toledo bounces round to an immediate and infectious chorus.

The very best indie rock bands can leave an audience feeling exhilarated and breathless, and this is certainly the case on a number of occasions tonight with songs such as ‘Destroyed by Hippie Powers’ and ‘Nervous Young Inhumans’ sounding euphoric and bringing the Cardiff crowd to feverish levels of excitement. However, there is also the sense that some of these songs, particularly from the 70 minute plus ‘Teens of Denial’ sound overly long in a live setting. The charm of Toledo’s poetic story telling often carries that particularly record, making the length of it a non-issue, but where there is less clarity in this live the rhythmic and melodic elements of the songs are occasionally exposed as somewhat repetitive and predictable.

Credit: Coal Poet Photography

That is not to say that Car Seat Headrest’s penchant for a long song always misses the mark; crowd favourite ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ builds and builds before a cacophony of noise brings surely the biggest mosh pit seen at an indie gig in Cardiff for some time. This was a moment that will live long in the memory for everybody who attended, and if the band can perhaps alter some of their longer album tracks to yield similar dynamic changes in their live set, they could produce even more highly memorable moments.

Nevertheless, the show as a whole is undoubtedly a triumph, a view clearly shared by Toledo who leaves the stage before an encore exclaiming that this is his ‘favourite show ever’. Whilst it is probable that he’ll be repeating this line throughout the band’s UK tour, he is clearly enjoying himself and at the top of his game. The band return to blast through a cover of Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ ‘Something Soon’ before leaving to rapturous cheers and applause from a clearly delighted Cardiff crowd. The YouTube commenters’ proclamation of the death of indie guitar music has quite clearly been highly exaggerated.

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