Instead of standing in a pit of my youthful peers, so close to the stage that I could feel lead singer Will Toledo’s drips of perspiration, I marched up to the Majestic’s balcony and sat in what I usually refer to as the Designated Dad Area. To be fair, after a nonstop 13-hour school/work day, I felt more like a tired dad of seven rowdy rugrats than a spritely 20-year-old. Even though Car Seat Headrest is a rock band I truly love, one of the hottest bands in the indie rock scene at the moment, I was wiped and, what the kids would call, “over it.” That changed pretty rapidly over the course of three sets. I came into the venue an old dad, and left the nimble Teen of Style that I truly am.
Madison local favorites, Trophy Dad, kicked the night off. It’s hard to go very long without seeing Trophy Dad on a Madison bill as of late, and for good reason. Playing some newer music alongside old classics, the college indie rockers were as casually charming and musically tight as ever. Lead singer Abby Sherman joked in between songs, “Overall, playing in front of people is pretty cool.” If their performance is any indication, “playing in front of people” will continue to be in high demand for Trophy Dad in the upcoming months.
I hadn’t listened to the next artist, Lucy Dacus, before she took the stage, but half of a song in, I knew she’d be on repeat in the moody, chilly days to come. She performed her first song “Trust” alone against a background of seafoam-lit fog, before being joined by her band for the rest of her set. While she brought the upbeat pace down a few levels with a slower choice, it was the perfect way to intimately win over the audience before the night picked up and stayed high-energy.
Toledo took the stage alone and began with a new song “Way Down.” Although the 24-year-old lead singer is quite unassuming in nature, the immediate surge was tangible in the packed venue, even way back in the Designated Dad Area. At that point, the DDA was penetrated with the youthful energy of the first two performances, dissolving the imaginary zest divide between the balcony and the rest of the venue. It didn’t matter where you were standing or sitting: Car Seat Headrest was on stage and they were playing out to the back of the venue and beyond.
I had seen Car Seat Headrest once before at a SXSW showcase earlier this year. While they were impressive back then, I was floored by the level of performative polish they brought when given their own full set at an actual theater. This isn’t to say they lost the distinctively DIY, indie-rock-kid aura that they’re known for, but their transitions were flawless, they flourished under skilled professional lighting and everything about their set musically screamed “well-oiled machine.”
Through the process of shedding my college-accumulated dad soul via three electric sets, it became clear to me that it was impossible to be anything less than spry in the presence of such genuine, charged music. While all in different points in their musical careers, the bands displayed a combined amount of skill and promise that was almost unfathomable. I can’t wait to see the heights each of them reach before the day I age into a real dad.