Car Seat Headrest may very well be what it sounds like to try to get out of your own head. At Sound On Sound Fest on Saturday, the Virginia-to-Seattle band did the kind of examination that you normally need a to cough up a copay for once a week. Garage rock as mood elevator, let’s call it.
Drummer Andrew Katz sprayed the stage with slinky, syncopated percussion as the show opened, soon joined by haunting guitar yelps from Ethan Ives. By the time Car Seat Headrest mastermind Will Toldeo took the fore to tell stories from the back of the medicine cabinet, we had a show.
“You have no right to be depressed,” Toledo sang on “Fill In the Blank,” the prototypical Car Seat Headrest money line that’s really just a nagging ghost of self-doubt and anxiety, reappropriated as a setlist screamer to make you feel an endorphin rush. “We like playing when it gets dark,” the band reminded the fest in between songs as the night went full shadow. That’s for sure.
Toledo dealt master deadpan on “Unforgiving Girl” and dedicated “America” to that whole representative democracy thing that’s coming up on Nov. 8. “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales,” true to expectations, wrought perverse romance out of self-destruction.
“Cosmic Hero” closed it out and brought together a community of overthinkers for a celebration of disengaging completely from that which might disturb your safe, sad solitude. To my left, a guy with tatts dotting his arms and a feet that hated the ground jackhammered his arm and thrashed like he was at a hardcore show. Eventually, a guy who just came down from a successful crowdsurf crossed his path and the pair, emboldened by mutual enthusiasm, ventured into the middle of the audience together. Thrashing guy finally made it up onto a platform of hands, hoisted into the sky. He raised an arm aloft with gusto, and the crowd immediately dropped him into the crush of feet and shins right as the song ended.
A little triumph in the middle of a sea of letdown. You couldn’t ask for better synchronicity at a Car Seat Headrest show.