Car Seat Headrest at the Rickshaw Stop, by Jon Ching
Car Seat Headrest (photo: Jon Ching)

Maybe it was Will Toledo’s cherubic face, or his band’s roots as a lo-fi recording project, that made me expect a chill, sedate Car Seat Headrest show at the Rickshaw Stop on Thursday night.

Damn, I was wrong.

Toledo and his three accompanying bandmates basically rocked the shit for over an hour at the show, starting loud and only getting louder over their high-energy set. And while Car Seat Headrest’s catalog is an almost-even mix between rock sounds and synthy, electronic pieces, the live setup for Thursday night’s show was strictly traditional: two guitarists (Toledo and Ethan Ives), one bassist (Seth Dalby), and one drummer (Andrew Katz).

The band started the night with a blistering 10-minute rendition of “Unforgiving Girl,” a track off Car Seat Headrest’s upcoming album, Teens of Denial. The dual-guitar attack right off the bat was a little stunning for someone expecting confessional pop, and I forgot just how loud the Rickshaw Stop could get, particularly with a full crowd (the show sold out Thursday night.)

There wasn’t any relenting after that opening number. Toledo and his band members riffed a little on the cost of living in San Francisco and the wisdom of participating in a tour of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, but for the most part they were all business, unleashing their material with little hesitation between songs.

Toledo largely eschewed playing tunes off his highly-acclaimed Teens of Style, omissions that might relate to the fact that his band played in San Francisco just two months ago. Crowd-pleasing cuts like “Something Soon” and “The Drum” were left off the set list, although the band did blast through “Times to Die” and “Maud Gone” from that 2015 LP, his first release for Matador Records.

After closing their set with “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales,” another recording from his upcoming album, Toledo and company came out for a two-song encore, at which time a mosh pit broke out in front of the stage, a development that, again, I didn’t expect (I mean look at this kid — he’s adorable. He’s not supposed to play loud music, is he?)

The show closed with “Stop Smoking,” one of Toledo’s earliest recordings. The band dialed the noise up to 11 one last time for the track, leaving this guy with a slight buzzing in his ear and a newfound respect for the straight-up rawking capabilities of Will Toledo.