Car Seat Headrest – The Bowery Ballroom – September 14, 2016
Playing the first of two sold-out shows in New York City this week—with a breakout album in tow—Car Seat Headrest are certainly a band of the moment. Before they got a chance to show the Thursday night Bowery Ballroom crowd why they’re a hot ticket right now, something that might be “what’s next,” in the form of Lucy Dacus and her band, got the evening going. Hailing from the recent hotbed of great music and indie-rock personalities, Richmond, Va., Dacus combined her unique voice, terrific songs and musicians with the propensity to kick out the rock. Songs from her own breakout album, No Burden, like “I Don’t Want to Be Funny Anymore” and “Troublemaker Doppelgänger,” took new life onstage to the audience’s delight.
After a quick changeover, the room now filled to capacity, the headliners began with frontman Will Toledo solo on “Way Down,” a two-chord-ish slow-burner with a repeated chorus. The opener’s simplicity was a bit of a tell on the rest of a set filled with songs that seemed straightforward punky lo-fi on the surface but proved to be filled with interesting complications and fun developments. Indeed, when the band joined in for what Toledo later described as a “reinterpretation” of “Cosmic Hero,” off of Teens of Denial, there was plenty more than met the eye. The tune flitted through multiple sections of varying intensity, Ethan Ives’ bass crunching throughout, eventually coughing up a single, almost perfectly realized chorus of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane” midway through.
“Fill in the Blank,” up next, was all it took to completely enrapture the crowd, which exploded in a full-throated sing-along and pogoed with bounding energy that reached to the back of the room. The band successfully brought down things a couple of times, like on “Maud Gone,” but they were at their best on numbers like “Destroyed by Hippie Powers,” with its two-guitar mayhem and cross-rhythmic drumming. Between songs, Car Seat Headrest returned a few times to a fun “ask the band” shtick, answering questions posed to them online such as “Why does [drummer] Andrew Katz like toilet humor?” The set ended as it began, Toledo solo with just his voice and guitar, a subtle punctuation to close out a wonderfully rambling paragraph of a set. Returning for an encore, they finished with another rager. It was called “Something Soon,” but Car Seat Headrest are undoubtedly something right now. —A. Stein | @Neddyo