Indie darlings Car Seat Headrest are back on the road again just in time for the festival season. Although to be fair, the Seattle-by-way-of-Virginia self made rock stars are touching down in areas of the country that fall outside the typical golden road to monetary success. New Haven, Buffalo, Cleveland, Des Moines, Omaha, even venturing into Bachman–Turner Overdrive territory with a stop in Winnipeg before heading overseas briefly and then back stateside again for a few final dates. Still, it was a real treat to have the lo-fi foursome on stage in the Elm City before a near capacity crowd of a thousand plus. But before the main event took place the power trio of Grant Mullen, Gianni Aiello, and Henry LaVallee took the form of, no not Voltron, but of Naked Giants.
The giant Queen City trio crammed the sound of 4 or more into their big sound and audacious live act with head banging hair, twirling bass guitars, and sick drum solos. I write this with zero sarcasm as I truly enjoyed the Giants’ youthful antics and energy, as did the amped and early arriving crowd. In fact, showing up just in time to gain entry into the pit I briefly questioned if I was shooting the headliner or the opener given the swell and roar of applause disseminating from the lively audience at first glance of the band. Playing in near total darkness with occasional flashes of light while guitarist Grant Mullen and bassist Gianni Aiello traded vocal quips with exuberant Henry LaVallee pounding away joyously on the skins. At one point between songs, Mullen and Aiello taunted LaValle about playing his signature solo before launching into the blazing “Pyramids”. Included in their set of dazzling cuts was “Everybody Thinks They Know (But No One Really Knows)”, “Sluff”, and their final epic ten minute plus jam of “Green Fuzz”. With a quick turn around between sets, Mullen and Aiello would grab a quick respite before joining Car Seat Headrest as more subdued members of their backing band.
As the crowd grew restless for the headliners to take the stage, members of the audience yelled “come out, come out wherever you are” in great anticipation of their Elm City debut. Once house lights fell and between set songs went silent the crowd roared as Aiello alone took the stage in front of the keyboard rig. With his sequencer providing the only pulsating light source amid a few sources of back lit beams, Aiello’s beats ushered the rest of the band to the stage to begin playing the new track, not on any studio release as of yet, “Can’t Cool Me Down”. The swell of yelps, screams, and applause signaled the start to a memorable and emotional evening. With minimal stage banter between songs frontman Will Toledo acknowledged his appreciation of New Haven’s vegetarian dining options as well as the city’s storied past of fine pizza options. Ripping through songs from Teens of Denial, Twin Fantasy, and Teens of Style the near sell out crowd was in the hands of Toledo and company. So much so that toward the end of their classic cut “Weightlifters” as visibly inebriated woman gained access to the stage with a point and shoot camera to get a closer look. Without missing a beat, Aiello calmly ushered the altered female fan back down off the stage where security whisked her away without further interruption. As the song drew to a close Toledo interjected “before we start our next song I’d like to say…please don’t do that.” It was almost as if this marked a turning point in the set and the audience focused all of it’s energy on proving their loyalty to the band through undulating waves of pogoing to each of the remaining songs.
The ensuing opening guitar twangs of “Bodys” brought even the seated balcony goers to their feet, singing along almost louder than the P.A. would project. The energy remained for the final four tracks which included “Sober to Death / Powderfinger”, “1937 State Park”, “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”, and “Destroyed by Hippie Powers” before departing for a very brief backstage break. Upon returning the Emerald City boys broke into a rousing and extended version of Twin Fantasy‘s “Beach Life-In-Death”. Sweaty and satisfied, audience members mobbed the merch table with audible gasps of admiration as they waited online for LPs and Tees. Don’t miss the boys of the Pacific Northwest they invade your town, they won’t disappoint!
- Can’t Cool Me Down
- Fill in the Blank
- Cute Thing
- Maud Gone
- Bodys Sober to Death / Powderfinger (Neil Young & Crazy Horse cover)
- 1937 State Park
- Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales
- Destroyed by Hippie Powers
- Beach Life-In-Death