Oxford Art Factory, 25/01/17
I’m not exactly sure how Car Seat Headrest ended up playing a venue as intimate as the Oxford Art Factory, especially when you consider the success of their 2016 album Teens of Denial, but I’m pretty gosh-darn happy they did. The fact that the show sold out at an alarming speed shows that the documenters of modern adolescent neurosis could be set to play larger venues when they next hit our shores.
For a red hot minute it was looking like we were going to be treated to a Will Toledo solo show as his band, who were travelling separately, were struggling to make it to Sydney due to flight delays.
Hello Sydney! Want to give you a heads up…the three men I admire most (Andrew, Seth, & Ethan) ended up having to catch…
Yes Will, it was very exciting indeed!
At first, I wasn’t sure how to feel about this. I was definitely interested to hear some of the more complicated and extended songs from Teens Of Denial and had my apprehensions if they would have the same impact sans band. I also knew that a solo performance from Will would be a rare treat and was sure that he would’ve held that room in the palm of his hand even if all he was left with was a kazoo and maybe a pair of castanets. He’s just that talented.
The excitement was pushed to the last minute with Melbourne jangle pop outfit Jarrow informing us that the band had landed and were on their way to the venue before adding, “…I think. I don’t know, I could be talking shit.” Thanks, Jarrow, thanks for nothing! Well, not nothing, they got the crowd wonderfully warmed up for what was to come with their catchy guitar hooks and interesting time signatures and rhythms that they somehow made seem entirely danceable.
Curiosity was satiated when the sharp dressed man and his shabbier mates took to the stage looking slightly stressed out from the rush to set up and sound check.
Once all of the technical t’s were crossed and lower case j’s were dotted, Will made a quick apology to the crowd and said, “We’re still not sure what tonight will look like but we’ll figure it out as we go.” The guitar trill intro of ‘Vincent’ sparked the crowd and the energy of the room exploded.
As expected, the set list was largely comprised of tracks from Teens of Denial but it was a great surprise to see some much earlier offerings such as ‘Maude Gone’, a heartfelt rendition of ‘Bodys’ and Sober To Death’, which were received with possibly even more enthusiasm from the crowd. Some punters behind me were yelling the lyrics along so loud I could barely hear Will’s crackly yet dulcet tones. To those people behind me I say, shine on you crazy diamonds but also shut the fuck up next time. Please and thanks.
After only a few songs Toledo prefaced ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ by saying that he wasn’t sure if they were going to play this song on this tour but everyone loves it so much that they had to include it. Mr Toledo didn’t have to do any in-depth market research or analyse trends to find that out, he just needed to listen to the crowd. Everyone in the room was belting out the refrain “It doesn’t have to be like this,” to the point that it could drown out the guitars.
The highlight by far was a rendition of ‘Cosmic Hero’ that seemed to contain a medley of other Teens of Denial tracks, as well as a surprise chorus of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Sweet Jane’ that was worked in there so masterfully that it would have been easy to miss amongst everything else that was going on in the very complicated mosaic of the piece. When you only have an hour and a whole lot of great tracks to get through, this is an incredibly creative way to showcase them.
Before departing for the night Car Seat Headrest handed vocal duties to lead guitarist, Ethan Ives and dropped a stellar cover of The Pixies’ ‘Motorway To Roswell’, as a nod to the 90s alt rock roots that have influenced the band over their brief but prolific career.