After coming off of what one review called a low-energy performance at last weekend’s Austin City Limits Music Festival, the Seattle-based garage-rock band, Car Seat Headrest, brought a similar amount of energy to a relatively small crowd at the House of Blues in Houston on Sunday. However, this time the band did not have the excuse of an early set time being the reason for their lackluster performance. Opening for the Austin, Texas psychedelic legends, the Black Angels, CSHR did not even come close to matching the performance of their successors onstage.
I am a fan of CSHR, but with that being said, I was very disappointed in the band’s performance. I should’ve known that it was going to be a lackluster show when the drummer came out and thanked “all nine of you (referring to the audience),” for coming out to the show. Having been at what I would call a small show the night before, this crowd has a decent sized, but I guess coming off of a performance at one of the largest music festivals in the country makes any crowd seem smaller in comparison. The band opened with what seemed like a fifteen minute, tune-up slash improvisational jam, as front man, Will Toledo, had his back to the crowd for the entirety of this portion of the set. Eventually, the band put a little pedal to the metal as they played arguably their most popular song, “Fill in the Blank.”
Car Seat Headrest would end up playing only six songs, one of which was a Neil Young cover of “Powederfinger,” as well as some other fan favorites such as “Destroyed By Hippie Powers,” and personal favorite “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales,” before closing anti-climatically with “Beast Monster Thing (Love Isn’t Enough).” As their final song came to a close, Toledo unexpectedly exited the stage, guitar in hand. Shortly thereafter, he returned without his guitar, and began wrapping up cords as his backing band continued on with the song, and then exited without another word to the audience. Clearly trying to save face, the drummer, who was the only member of the band that even attempted to address the crowd, halfheartedly thanked the crowd before quickly making an exit.
As a fan of CSHR, I was fairly disappointed, besides the drummer and guitarist, I felt as though the band had no desire to play for the crowd. Knowing that I will see these guys again this weekend at the second iteration of Austin City Limits, I’m a little apprehensive about what their set will look like. Although, I will be going in with markedly diminished expectations, I still hope they redeem themselves for this poor performance. If you’re a fan of this band, I would recommend seeing them live, but if you’re just looking for a live band to catch in concert, these are not your guys. Perhaps it has something to do with the apathetic nature of their music, or because of touring fatigue, either way something has to give.
Soon after CSHR left the stage, the Black Angels were onstage and ready to give all of the bands that stood through the opener a delightful psychedelic experience unlike any I have ever seen, and only matched by the likes of Flying Lotus and the Flaming Lips.
I will be honest and say that I knew of the Black Angels prior to seeing them Sunday night, but I had no idea how mesmerizing their performance would be. They are by no means a super energetic group, but what they lack in stage presence they make up in raw musical ability. The band played a 13-song set which stretched across four different albums, relying heavily on their latest full-length release, Death Song.
The visuals that the band performed in front of were spectacular, and I often found my mind wandering as the band jammed, my day dreams only ending when the wall of sound that the band was creating ceased to exist, leaving a deafening silence in it’s wake. The silence was even more deafening as the band closed with “Comanche Moon,” leaving me in particular yearning for more. Hopefully in the near future I will be able to see the Black Angels live, which is highly likely considering the band is based in Austin, and are the masterminds by the increasingly-popular Levitation Festival (F.K.A Austin Psych Fest). I highly recommend this band if you are into any sort of psychedelic-rock, hard-rock, or any other similar sub-genres that you could apply to the band.
Check out the gallery below, all photos by Waylon O’Day