Car Seat Headrest takes indie rock sound to new heights at sold-out Wiltern

Car Seat Headrest Wiltern 2022 mainbar

Car Seat Headrest is one of those bands with a huge cult following that rarely produces new music, let alone tours or plays big festivals. Formally just one man, Will Toledo (vocals, guitar, piano, synthesizers), who recorded his first EP in his car in 2010, Car Seat Headrest has now grown into a group consisting of talented bandmates such as Ethan Ives (guitar, bass, backing vocals), Seth Dalby (bass), and Andrew Katz (drums, percussion, backing vocals). On Saturday, that project headlined at The Wiltern.

Car Seat Headrest started developing their loyal following when they released the first versions of their first two albums Teens of Denial and Twin Fantasy on Bandcamp with other smaller albums, but it wasn’t until they joined Matador Records in 2015 that they were able to reproduce these same two albums, first Teens of Denial in 2016 and then Twin Fantasy in 2018, with professional studio production that elevated their lyrics and music to a whole new level. 

Thus a new wave of fans was born, and Car Seat Headrest gained more followers during the tours for both albums, including a Coachella appearance back in 2016 for Teens of Denial. But since then, all was quiet until the first singles off Making a Door Less Open were released in February of 2020, giving fans completely new songs since Teens of Denial. Once fully released during the pandemic in May of 2020, fans avidly listened to the new album top to bottom, waiting for the day that Car Seat Headrest would go on tour once again to promote their new album.

Once the tour dates were announced for Car Seat Headrest’s Making a Door Less Open tour, many of the shows sold out right away, one of these being Los Angeles at the Wiltern. With only one night in one of the largest cities in America, it was no surprise that long-time fans would potentially be driving from all over for a chance to see Will Toledo and the whole band perform their brand new indie rock electronica album that gave everyone something to hold onto during the bleakest parts of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. 

Arriving early to the Wiltern last Saturday for the Car Seat Headrest show to catch Bartees Strange open, I saw the building wrapped around with a huge crowd, most likely to get into the Wiltern in time to get a good spot and some band merch before it all sells out. First up though was Bartees Strange, and he was so expressive and energetic that it seemed like he was ready to headline his own tour soon enough. With powerful vocals, virtuoso guitar lines, and a talented band backing him, he seemed unstoppable on the Wiltern stage. He also treated the crowd to a cover of “Lemonworld” by The National which was a completely new version of the song but still had the sentimental lyricism that the band is famous for. If you see Bartees Strange on any festival or concert lineups in the future, I highly recommend you check him out – he was a truly great opener for such a legendary band.

Car Seat Headrest soon came out to the great applause of the whole sold-out venue. One by one, the band came onto the stage with Will Toledo last, outfitted in a hazmat suit and custom gas mask. They kicked the set off with an old favorite “Crows” for Toledo’s Bandcamp cult followers, followed by “Weightlifters” and “Hymn” off their newest album ‘Making a Door Less Open.’ Throughout the whole show, their set was filled with bright laser lighting that made the historic venue feel like a rave in a local warehouse. Osculating between new songs, ‘Twin Fantasy’ favorites, and ‘Teens of Denial’ staples, Will Toledo and the rest of Car Seat Headrest gave an incredible performance that everyone will remember, featuring live remixes of songs such as “Deadlines (Hostile),” deep cuts only performed a handful of times such as “It’s Only Sex,” and Andrew Katz painting in real-time while Will Toledo sang with the crowd during “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales.” As a group that rarely tours and performs live, it was such a joy to be able to experience their live set at one of the most famous venues in Los Angeles.

Words and photos by Sarah Woods