Car Seat Headrest – O2 Forum Kentish Town – 29th August 2017
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Car Seat Headrest – O2 Forum Kentish Town – 29th August 2017

Car Seat Headrest – O2 Forum Kentish Town – 29th August 2017

Kentish Town Forum marks the largest London show to date for Will Toledo and the three-piece that make up the rest of Car Seat Headrest. Last time I saw them, I had caught them at Brighton’s Hope & Ruin, certainly a venue a shade lighter than tonight’s welterweight, 2,000-plus capacity. 

Opening the night were Philadelphia’s Nothing, the band that set a pulsating rhythm prior to Toledo and co soaring into ‘Fill in the Blank’, the opener from their 2016 release Teens Of Denial. The track would go on to set the tempo for the majority of the evening with the guitarist, Ethan Ives and his blistering hooks growing ever louder before eventually taking the lead rein for the band throughout the rest of the set. The power that omitted from his Vox amp was a level previously unwitnessed and ultimately the binding glue for the band's sound.

Credit where it’s due, no band I have seen myself this side of 2017 can pull together such volume in their guitar section and meticulously embed it within lo-fi guitar pop and make it sound good. It’s guitar pop that is brought together with ambition and a solid, forward-moving rhythm leaving no room for innocent bystanders. Where they offered respite was on the second track of the set, 'Maud Gone', a squirmish, sluggish electronic-rock jive, it was a small slice of calm before a barrage of scuzzy hits.

Car Seat Headrest piled their bigger players towards the front-end of the set with tracks such as ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’, ‘Destroyed By Hippie Powers’ and ‘Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not An)’ sandwiching in a formidable cover of James Brown’s ‘I Don’t Mind’. In particular, these numbers stood out in the set, the addictive hook of ‘Drunk Drivers’ is a track that is bound to act as the basis of a sound introduction to the band for audience members who perhaps stumbled into the show as friends and plus ones. It's the perfect indication for new fans who are destined to then delve into the full catalogue by Car Seat off the back of this listen. ‘Destroyed By Hippie Powers’ humorously ties a chorus around a slightly lethargic beat, leaving audience members down the front slightly delayed on their moshpit jump, not that this necessarily puts them off flying forward over the tops of other member’s heads when crowd surfing.

Working the set in this way means Toledo and co had more room for experimentation towards the latter end. Toledo claimed midway through the set that they are used to playing 50-minute festival sets, therefore, their night wasn’t particularly tailored towards a 90 minute headline night, it left no room for disappointment though. A thumping rendition of ‘Vincent’ introduced a driving acid-house track around the guitar harmonic intro, a live showing of new track ‘War Is Coming (If You Want It)’ pointed towards a fan favourite in the future before exploding into ‘America (Never Been)’ taken from their 2014 effort How To Leave Town.

A real highlight was saved until the end though, ‘Connect The Dots (The Saga of Frank Sinatra)’, a propelling rhythm, squalls of guitar and their archetypal stop, start, stutter approach to music. It was forceful, energetic and cathartic in how it offered complete release. 

The set tied up at little over an hour, but I don't feel like anybody expected anything much longer. The drive and power that went not into every song but every thwack of the snare, cut on the guitar and thump of the bass was relentless in how it pushed you as an audience. It was a complete night, from the band, to the crowd and to the atmosphere. Car Seat completely won this one and showed little intimidation from the size of the night. 

Tom Churchill


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