Car Seat Headrest’s Thursday night performance at Boston’s Royale nightclub can, riffing off the group’s name, be compared to a relentless road trip. The likes of which many of us are all too well accustomed to from our childhoods. Sure, they always start with buzz and excitement, full of hope and cheer as to where the journey will take us. But reality has no problem rearing its ugly head as these preconceived notions quickly fade away into boredom, dizziness, and unpalatable nausea.
Kicking off the night with a cover of Lou Reed’s “Waves of Fear,” Car Seat Headrest managed to easily and efficiently allure the audience. Lead singer Will Toledo contributed to this sense of captivation by dancing along to the music on stage. Moving his body rhythmically yet violently, Toledo managed to enchant the audience with a sense of an uncontrollable power. It appeared as though the fellow members of Car Seat Headrest were looking toward the spasms of Toledo’s body as though he was their musical conductor, while he simultaneously allowed the sound the band was producing producing to animate his body.
Pausing after “Waves of Fear” due to a microphone malfunction, Car Seat Headrest engaged in a brief dialogue with the crowd. It polled the college-dominated crowd, asking what majors their fans were pursuing. Toledo then directed his bandmates in an icebreaker-like introduction, interjecting at the end with the remark, “Somebody is smoking weed, I can smell it.”
The band then began to progress into a set chock-full of its own songs, albeit mixing in a healthy dose of covers as well. The first of their pieces was “Bodys,” followed by “Fill in the Blank” and “(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs with Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem).” The Royale came alive as Car Seat Headrest churned out these melodies, with a vivacious crowd singing and swaying along. Toledo even paused at one point to reflect, remarking that even though the band members were well into their tour, Boston’s crowd still managed to surprise them, going so far as to call it “the best one yet.”
Unfortunately, with the crowd at full momentum and spirits riding high, Car Seat Headrest failed to capitalize on the energy. Rather than reading the room and reacting to the audience, the band continued forging on what seemed to be a rigid, predetermined path. Relentlessly bombarding the crowd with one high energy song after another, Car Seat Headrest gave no opportunity for the audience to truly take in its music and whatever message it may have been attempting to convey. This led to what seemed to be an adverse reaction in the audience, as the crowd seemed to grow increasingly distant and detached from the performance.
This musical monotony plagued a large portion of the night, as Car Seat Headrest performed “Cute Thing,” “America (Never Been),” and a cover of Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s “Sober to Death / Powderfinger.” The mood within the venue’s crowd continued to remain rather docile, even as the band’s music remained full of energy. It was almost as though Car Seat Headrest had reached a terminal velocity early on in its performance, and was unable to break through this barrier. Rather than laying off the gas for a few seconds and allowing things to naturally re-adjust, the band tried incessantly to pump energy into a sputtering crowd.
The only respite came in the form of the group’s well-established crowd pleaser, “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales.” Starting off with a slow, simmering melody that gradually built up on itself, Car Seat Headrest proved capable of reigniting something within the audience. This newfound momentum continued on throughout the band’s show, as it performed “Destroyed by Hippie Powers,” “Something Soon / Tell Me When My Light Turns Green,” and an encore featuring “Beach Life-In-Death.”
While Car Seat Headrest managed to save its performance at the end of the night, it is regrettable that it ever let it get so far. Resorting to tactics like jumping off the stage and pulling crowd members up, Car Seat Headrest should have made a continuous effort throughout the night to read and react to its audience in a more apt manner.
Featured Image by Kaylie Ramirez / Heights Editor