Friday, September 9, 2016

Car Seat Headrest at Terminal West, Atlanta, September 8, 2016

Well, we're deep in in now, kiddo - five consecutive nights of good shows, starting with Thursday's 90-minute triumph by Car Seat Headrest.  The killer combo of a day job and a show Friday night by Angel Olsen and Juliana Barwick meant I didn't initially have time to say much about Car Seat Headrest the day after his show, other than to share a few pics and post the obligatory video, but now through the miracle of next-day editing, here's the complete review.

But before getting to the review, let's first consult the I Ching for guidance (as we should with all things in life).  Today's hexagram is Jian, Number 39, sometimes called "Hindrance."  Water, a dangerous abyss, is in front and behind is a high mountain. One's way is blocked and the hexagram signifies that difficulties are sure to follow opposition and separation, and does not appear to be an auspicious start to this review.

Literally, Jian is the symbol for incompetency for the feet and legs, involving difficulty in walking. Jian did not seem to affect Thursday night's openers, Long Island's The Lemon Twigs.  The Lemon Twigs are brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario from Hicksville, NY, who alternate on drums and guitar, backed by keys and bass.  They play very simple, two-chord 4/4 rock, but the fun is watching the band's antics and Guitar Hero moves, doubtlessly perfected from years of bedroom air guitar practice.  Here are some samples:

The whole thing was unintentionally hilarious and while the new Lemon Twists record was produced by ex-Foxygen co-founder Jonathan Rado, the D'Addario brothers still have a long way to go musically.  However, you have to admire their commitment to classic rock posturing, totally unimpeded by Jian.  As someone in the audience pointed out to us, if Jonathan Schwartzman and Jim Brewer had a baby and raised that baby on amphetamines, that baby would resemble the D'Addario brothers.  They already have a stage act that's hard to look away from and here are some pics to prove it:

Will Toledo, who performs as Car Seat Headrest, seems very aware of the challenges of Jian.  "I couldn't get the car to start," he sings in Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales, even though "I'm only trying to get home." The obstacles of Jian are all around, from drunk drivers to that voice in your head that always gives you shit about everything and yet we press on, and many if not most of Toledo's songs face head on the challenges Jian poses to getting through the mundane impediments of daily life.

Fortunately for us, Jian still allowed us to arrive early enough to get a front-row position, right in front of Will.

Teens of style: Toledo looked sharp in black shirt and tie, with the kind of jacket that only a millennial could find at the mall and pull off wearing. 

Musically, Car Seat Headrest sounds at times like classic alt-rock bands such as Pavement, with a heavy influence by post-millennial indie-rock bands like Okkervil River.  If I were forced to put a label on them, it might be something like "Alt-Rock Singer/Songwriter," but comparisons and labels like that are still meaningless and irrelevant, so please ignore this paragraph.     

This was a great show, one of the best of the year, and Toledo's combination of thoughtful lyrics, meticulous craftsmanship in songwriting, and honest, soul-baring performance made for an unforgettable night. 

The audience's respect and appreciation and even love for Will was evident throughout the set, and most of us sang along to many of his songs, and a few even sang along to most of all of his songs, and a fewer still even sang along to all of all of his songs.

So, yes, Jian exists, but if we all act like Will Toledo and practice acceptance instead of opposition and intimacy instead of separation, it does not have to be a hindrance.

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