Car Seat Headrest makes art at House of Blues

Car Seat Headrest

March 26, 2022 at House of Blues


With five hours to go before doors opened for their Boston show, Car Seat Headrest announced that their opening band had tested COVID-positive. Do not fret, they announced: they would simply open for themselves. And, by god, they did. 

I arrived at the House of Blues an hour before doors in anticipation that it would get pretty crowded, given the cult nature of Car Seat’s fanbase. Indeed, as I arrived, there were already 300 or so eager concertgoers who were waiting in a line wrapping all the way down the street and around the corner, and getting dampened by the rain that had just started coming down. As my friends and I peered at the crowd while walking by, I noticed an abundance of self made merch and silly costumes, with T-shirts that said “MARRY ME WILL TOLEDO” (Car Seat Headrest’s frontman) and “I LOVE YOU ANDREW KATZ” (the drummer). Multiple shirts said something along the lines of “I HATE CAR SEAT HEADREST,” an in-joke among the fans. I wonder what Toledo thinks.

Lead singer and songwriter Will Toledo is at an interesting point in his career. At 29 years old, Toledo has been writing and recording albums under the Car Seat Headrest name for over a decade now, releasing a dozen solo lo-fi indie rock albums on Bandcamp before signing with Matador Records in 2015. Made distinct by its confessional lyrics, queer themes, and explosive buildups, Toledo’s music has had a resounding impact online, sparking countless covers, fanarts, and memes. TikTok’s fad-of-the-week nature has recently laid its eyes on Car Seat Headrest’s 2013 song “It’s Only Sex,” leading some fans (my friend Anneliese in particular) to express fears that the fanbase would be overrun by trend-chasing twelve year olds — likening it to Twenty-One Pilots’ “skeleton clique.” In addition, the album that the tour was dedicated to, Making a Door Less Open (MADLO), had received mixed fan reviews when it was released in 2020, due to its vast contrast with Toledo’s previous work. Many fans were hoping for a sequel to 2011’s Twin Fantasy, remastered in 2018 as Twin Fantasy (Face to Face), which is often seen as the band’s magnum opus. While Twin Fantasy is beloved for its lush, crunchy guitars and lengthy songs (“Beach Life-In-Death” and “Famous Prophets (Stars)” in particular), MADLO is short, sparse, heavy with electronic production, and inspired by Toledo consistently listening to Billboard’s Top 100 songs while writing the album. 

Katz took the stage to open first, accompanied by an easel, canvas, and a handful of colorful sharpies. Slowly but surely dragging his markers across the board to make (what I would really hate to call) drawings, Katz narrated his progress using a very Dennis Reynolds persona.  He would occasionally ask the audience questions like, “DO YOU GUYS THINK YOU UNDERSTAND THE MEANING OF THIS ART?”, to which the audience would hoot and holler and laugh and say, “YES!!!!”, and he would reply, “NONE OF YOU CAN EVER HOPE TO UNDERSTAND MY ART! I AM A GENIUS!” and continue to draw penises in front of a crowd of two thousand people. After he ran out of canvases, Katz played a short set from his EDM side project 1TraitDanger, with lyrics including “Back up / back up / back up / I’m a man now! / Back up / back up / back up / bar mitzvah!” The crowd loved it. 

Next up was Ethan Ives, the band’s guitarist. He played a few of his beautiful solo songs, complete with instrumental breaks that showed exactly how he had landed the gig of Car Seat Headrest’s guitarist. At the end of his set, to the shock of the crowd, Toledo came onstage with his guitar over a half an hour before he was officially slated to, announcing he would be playing a few requested songs from his projects before Car Seat. Sitting on a chair with his guitar while Katz kept drawing in the background, Toledo sang his songs “The Bell Jar,” “Pomegranate Trees in July,” and, much to the shock and delight of the crowd, Twin Fantasy track “Sober to Death.”

Twenty or so minutes after Car Seat Headrest finished their opening set, none other than Car Seat Headrest entered the stage. Initially head to toe in bright orange reflective gear and a gas mask with LED eyes, Toledo was an absolute sight to behold the entire duration of the concert, eventually declothing to reveal jorts over leggings with a cute rabbit T-shirt. With an incredibly tight band and some of the coolest concert lights I’ve seen in my life, Car Seat Headrest played a perfect mix of their new and old material, playing essential songs such as “Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales,” “Bodys,” and “Fill in the Blank,” along with absolutely gorgeous live versions of about half of MADLO, some of which were even mashed up with classics such as “Can’t Cool Me Down / Vincent Outro.” The highlight of the show was undoubtedly their performance of all 13 minutes and 18 seconds of “Beach Life-In-Death”, with a cute little synth intro that sounded quite like a baseball organ before launching into one of this generation’s most ethereal, complex, and heartbreaking love stories ever told through music. 

Toledo had previously mentioned in an interview that he had written MADLO with live performance in mind. While that isn’t apparent in the studio recordings, when it’s being played onstage, every song just feels so right. Car Seat Headrest is a must-see the next time they come into town; they’re a perfect mix of electronic pop, live art classes, EDM, and the best indie rock you’ll ever hear. 

3 Comments.

  1. Bear night of my life!!!!! Wonderful wonderful review archie 🙂 glad we were there together

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Listen Live