Car Seat Headrest - The Orpheum, Tampa, Florida - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Car Seat Headrest - The Orpheum, Tampa, Florida

by Mark Moody Rating: Release Date:
Car Seat Headrest - The Orpheum, Tampa, Florida
Car Seat Headrest - The Orpheum, Tampa, Florida

If anticipation is worth the release, a sold-out crowd on hand for night three of Car Seat Headrest’s inaugural Florida run was ready to uncoil.  Plans to pogo to Will Toledo’s deeply personal but also relatable songs were being bandied about as the appropriately anxious fans started to pack in.  Maybe not a bad strategy given the metal poles interspersed throughout the club to keep the upper portion of the building from collapsing on us.    

A long way from home, Seattle-based Naked Giants (pictured right) played their brash brand of no-holds-barred rock to open the show.  Also comprising half of Car Seat Headrest’s touringimg 6063 band it’s a wonder the trio could keep the energy level up over the course of the evening.  Particularly so for drummer Henry LaVallee.  It quickly became apparent why the drum kit was placed center stage as he furiously flailed his way along.  Songs ranged from the overtly 80s/90s rock derived ultra-long ‘TV’ to the power chords and bass-heavy rhythm of set-highlight ‘Sluff’. 

From having heard their debut album a few times, I had assumed bassist/vocalist Gianni Aiello was the de facto leader of the band.  That seemed true enough at the beginning, but as their 45 minute set moved forward guitarist Grant Mullen seemed to take over the lead.  Latest single ‘Green Fuzz’ (not a Cramps cover but maybe an inspiration) devolved into a Zeppelin/Sabbath mutant blues deconstruction with Mullen at the helm.  Indulgent rock-god posturing was aplenty, but Mullen twisting pedal knobs after collapsing to the floor did make for an inspired and funny moment.  A raucous and rowdy set to get the crowd abuzz and LaVallee’s playing was inspired.          

Will Toledo has kept the core of his Car Seat Headrest studio and touring band intact for the last few years.  Taking over core duties from the Naked Giants were guitarist Ethan Ives, drummer Andrew Katz, and bassist Seth Dalby.  Frankly, though, the stage was masked in fog and lights to an extent that really only Toledo and Ives were img 7119regularly visible.  They led with a new song, ‘Can’t Cool Me Down’, and what was immediately apparent was that Toledo was sans instrument and remained so for the 90-minute set.  He’s clearly trying to step forward as band leader though his “dancing” seems as if controlled by a drunken puppeteer somewhere high above the stage.  The lead song was driven by an angular guitar scratch and Aiello on synths.  It was the best of the two new tracks with a Spoon-like groove showing ‘Can’t Cool Me Down’ could be the flip side of ‘Hot Thoughts’ even if Toledo has a few shows to go to get to Britt Daniel's (or James Brown’s) stage presence.

The song was followed by two from the reimagined Twin Fantasy with shorter tracks ‘Bodys’ and ‘Cute Thing’ making for early moments to get the crowd involved.  If you ever wonder if today’s youth sit around listening to digitized records in their rooms, it’s safe to say that the locals didn’t learn all of Toledo’s lyrics from going to shows but they certainly knew them all.

Another hallmark of the set was Toledo’s noted knack for not playing songs straight from the recorded versions.  ‘Fill In The Blank’ was given a funkier groove by the band and had Toledo jogging in place like David Byrne.  Sometimes the songs were only recognizable by the choruses as on ‘Sober to Death’ that was taken to a lower register anthem to great effect.  Ives took over vocals with Neil Young’s ‘Powderfinger’ that was appended to the song. 

The entire set was mesmerizing and given the variation in songs clearly played to the more serious fan base that was out in arms.  The pre-doors crowd stretched down theimg 7527 street and well around the corner.  That being said, the closing three songs could have swept up anyone in their momentum leading with Toledo gently crooning the opening to ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ before having it give way to a pretty straight up version of the song.  The crowd singing along was at least on par with Toledo’s own volume.  A fully involved and fully baked ‘Destroyed By Hippie Powers’ was the set highlight for me, maybe standing out for its sheer power but also the line “tell my mother I’m going home” hitting particularly starkly.  I love Toledo for his depth, creativity, and never settling on a final take, but ‘Hippie Powers’ stood out for having all seven on stage going bluntly for the throat.

Though the set only consisted of eleven songs, closing with an encore of ‘Beach Life-In-Death’ was the perfect move.  The song covers the full arc of the Twin Fantasy story and its quarter-hour length lent for variations in speed, volume, and texture to close out the set.  I’m not sure anyone would have been less happy if Toledo had added an hour to the song to have it be the only one played that night.  Toledo’s willingness to fully reveal in his many-faceted songs has gathered him a rabid following.  Being able to deliver them so powerfully and effectively in a live setting was a much-appreciated bonus. 

All photos:  Christa Joyner Moody           

Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Will Toledo is a bit different every time I see him. He really mixes up his music and this review proves I should go see him again!

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

He definitely keeps tweaking his songs which always makes things interesting.

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