For one night, Car Seat Headrest turns Union transfer into an arena

Car Seat Headrest | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN |

I just did the math. I’ve been to 42 shows this year, and I think seeing a sold out Union Transfer crowd belt out the chorus to “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” was my favorite concert moment of the year so far. As Car Seat Headrest singer Will Toledo closed his eyes, sung and danced around the stage in a manner only someone who can’t dance would dance, every single teen/twenty-something/whatever raised their fists in the air and belted out the words “It doesn’t have to be like this / killer whales.” It was that moment when Toledo made the Spring Garden Street rock club feel like an arena and defiantly said “No. We will not be another flash-in-the-pan indie rock band.”

Although the band’s 2016 album, Teens of Denial, was the one that propelled them into the limelight, the Seattle-via-Leesburg, Virginia band has continued to attract new ears with their seventh and most recent album, Twin Fantasy, which is actually a re-recording of a previous album Toledo wrote in 2011. For me, it took seeing the songs performed live to fully realize the grandiose live setting the songs deserve to be heard in. Among the new tracks played live were “Sober to Death,” “Bodys” and “Cute Thing.” The encore consisted solely of “Beach Live-In-Death,” Twin Fantasy‘s 13-minute marathon (although still only the second longest song on the album).

Car Seat Headrest | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN |

But they played the old shit everybody loves from Teens of Denial as well, including “Fill in the Blank,” “Destroyed By Hippie Powers” and the irreverent “(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem).” Plus some others of course, including How to Leave Town‘s “America (Never Been),” Teens of Style‘s “Something Soon” and a cover of Lou Reed’s “Waves of Fear,” which kicked off the show.

Interestingly, it looks as if Car Seat Headrest’s live lineup has gotten a bit of a rework. The lineup consists of the same four guys who were in the band last tour (Toledo, guitarist Ethan Ives, drummer Andrew Katz and bassist Seth Dalby), but with all three members of Naked Giants added in (Naked Giants also opened the show, by the way). This included Gianni Aiello and Grant Mullen on guitar and Henry LaVallee on auxiliary percussion (Aiello also contributed some keyboard playing). With three guitarists now in the band, Toledo, who had previously played rhythm guitar, was relegated to only lead vocal duties. It was a role that made him look out of place at first, but you got used to it.

Before Naked Giants went on stage, the night was kicked off by Don Babylon, a Richmond, Virginia band who recently relocated to Philly. They played a sloppy but fun set of straight up rock and roll music, fitting right in with the other two bands. It was my first time hearing of them, and I plan on keeping an eye out for them in the future. You should too.

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