Gig Review – Car Seat Headrest @ O2 ABC, Glasgow

words + photos fae owen yule (@OwenYule)

With the releases of both Twin Fantasy and Teens of Denial, Car Seat Headrest has firmly solidified themselves as one of the most exciting bands on the indie rock scene. At the heart of these records is Will Toledo’s brutally honest lamentation and so, Toledo’s personality seems somewhat contrary to the typical characteristics of a zealous performer. In addition, what makes these records so great was the flawless amalgamation of varies styles of rock – Toledo has never shied away from structurally audacious tracks that manage to evoke the whole spectrum of emotion, and it’s for these reasons that I had my reservations upon entering last night’s venue.

Taking the mature decision to relinquish full control of his tracks, Will takes centre stage without a lead guitar. Rather, he performs with a microphone and his eccentricities. Not only is this decision indicative of Will’s efforts to recapture the sincerity of the studio recorded vocals, but also one that enables the flawless execution of the aforementioned complex tracks. This decision is reinforced by the bands performance of Cute Thing, which sees Toledo vocalising harmonies beautifully between the aggressive choruses.

Playing live with a 6-piece outfit, the band makes full use of their camaraderie to recreate the groove of Bodys that invigorates energy throughout the whole crowd. Nonetheless the band was never superfluous with their instrumentation and every note carried weight. The intimacy of tracks like Sober to Death wasn’t lost amongst the 6 members; rather, it was actualised by the efforts of each player. The performance of the track is initially stripped down before coming to full fruition in conjunction with the energy of the chorus.

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Although Toledo’s lyrical poignancy is somewhat derived from his personal anguish and insecurity, he was never a passenger on stage. Instead, he navigated the venue with confidence that brought a new vitality to the music without losing a personal touch. This was foreshadowed in the opening cover of the ever-funky Talking Heads’ Crosseyed and Painless. A track whose reputation is daunting in its gravitas, yet ever so delightfully incorporated into Car Seat Headrest’s live performance. Carrying out the 1980 classic, the band reimagines Talking Heads’ signature groove with cowbell orientated funk.

Their ambition here is carried with momentum all the way through to Toledo’s own rendition of Frank Ocean’s White Ferrari. Well aware of his vocals limitations, Toledo substitutes technical proficiency for heart wrenching emotion that mediates any incapability to recreate Ocean’s vocal expertise (as if one could ever be reprimanded for that shortcoming). Incited, and perhaps somewhat confused by the chants in unison of Glasgow’s very own little concert mantra, the band returned to the stage to encore Nervous Young Inhumans. After moving the crowd with Bodys, inspiring a wholehearted sing along with Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales and awakening mosh pits with Beach-Life-In-Death, Nervous Young Inhumans provokes the very same reactions as all of these tracks in a manner that is equally infectious.

While Car Seat Headrest’s appeal somewhat relies on the expression of alienation on their records, in a crowd of hundreds the band still instigates the same fundamentals of their recordings to their enthusiastic live audience.

Gig Review: ALVVAYS @ O2 ABC, Glasgow

photos + words by liam menzies (@blnkclyr)

When praise is given in a gig review, more often than not there’s a huge focus on energy exerted by both the act and the audience which is fair enough as, after all, a rock or hip-hop show tends to only be as strong as its riffs and beats respectively. This made ALVVAYS a nice change of pace before they had even played a single note: the Canadian dream-pop act has been around for a few years now but 2017 saw the band rise to prominence thanks in no small part to how well Antisocialites meshed with fans both old and new and the chill vibe it rocked.

Of course, once they did start playing they managed to win over the audience without a moment’s hesitation. After showcasing the new album to a busy St Luke’s last year, prior to its release, it’s had time for those in attendance at the ABC tonight to grow attached to certain tracks and witness them being performed in the band’s biggest Glasgow show to date. It was undeniably obvious which one reacted the best with the crowd: as soon as the opening lo-fi keyboard of In Undertow filled up the room, bits of the crowd flooded to the front to lap up every single word and note that the band politely served them.

img_3807-1Usually, if you’ve got your heart set on a Glasgow venue for production value then ABC usually finds itself placed in the middle of the rankings but ALVVAYS managed to subvert this expectation; much like some of their instrumentals, there was a hazy aesthetic splashed on the scenery behind the act, often times taking on the form of TV static, giving the stage a retro feel which went to prove that you don’t have to go overboard with design to leave an impression.

Speaking of retro, well as retro as you can be for an album released four years ago, tracks from the band’s eponymous debut album weren’t left outside in the baltic Scottish weather, especially Adult Diversion whose jangle pop essence resonated well and showcased the band’s weaving instrumentals which they made look almost effortless.

Actually, while we’re on the topic, the whole band has to be praised for the show they put on last night; of course, Molly Rankin (vocals + rhythm guitar) was on spectacular form as always, even getting an “I love you Molly” from the passionate crowd, but Kerri (keyboards), Alec (lead guitar), Brian (bass guitar) and Sheridan (drums) all did a wonderful job in making the transition between record and stage feel utterly seamless.

Throughout last night’s show, there were a few humourous exchanges, such as Molly’s tangents about her mishap with thinking pants meant the same thing here as they did back home and the pronunciation of Sauchiehall street. While this is a staple of nearly every gig, it went a long way to evoke how humble the act really are: touring isn’t a new thing to them and they’d have every right to possess some sort of ego with all the critical acclaim they’ve accumulated but on stage, what we saw were an act who are going with the flow and giving their all every single time.

After all, in their own words, there’s no turning back after what’s transpired.