REVIEW: Car Seat Headrest at Summerfest

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It was a Sunday night, which was kind of rainy, and a little chillier than most Summerfest dates. None of these things seemed to matter, as the crowd at the Johnson Controls World Sound Stage was receptive to whatever Car Seat Headrest wanted to give them. In some ways a veteran band in terms of their total career, yet some ways still emerging, having only recently signed to a label in 2015, the band proved that they were both, if that’s possible. There wasn’t a lot asked of the band, but they exceeded expectations with a 75 minute set to close out the night.

At times, things felt out of place in general compared to most Summerfest headlining shows. For one, the band did their own soundcheck, with the house lights on, making everything feel, brighter than normal. The crowd sat patiently, and it felt like seeing a vintage photo of a crowd sitting politely at the Milwaukee Auditorium had come to life. During the vocal check, the crowd started to think that the set had actually begun, and immediately rose to standing on the bleachers. The band jokingly said “and that’s the set! Goodnight!” and then walked off. A little unusual, but the house lights evenutally shut off, the band came back out, and we were ready to roll.

In their actual set, Car Seat Headrest could do no wrong with the crowd. The band delivered the majority of tracks from their most recent album, “Teens of Denial”, as well as its predecessor, “Teens of Style”. Recent single, the radio-friendly “Fill in the Blank”, made an early appearance in the show, eliciting one of the bigger reactions from the crowd. Then the show took a bit of a slower pace. Many of the tracks on “Teens of Denial” are lengthier than the conventional four minute single, but they didn’t seem to waver the crowd from staying around. Milwaukee is an indie-friendly town, and that was proven by the response that Car Seat Headrest received on Sunday night.

The band itself matched the energy of their song choices, staying mostly stationary throughout the night. Frontman Will Toledo leaned into his microphone, occasionally breaking to turn around towards the drumset and back. Bassist Seth Dalby held down the group interaction portion of the show, feeding off of drummer Andrew Katz. Guitarist Ethan Ives was the biggest jolt of energy from the band, often shaking his guitar neck and bringing power to his guitar parts. None of that seemed to matter, though. There were no signs of faltering from the band, and the crowd appreciated that.

While it may not have been the most standout performance of Summerfest 50, it was in no way a bad show. In many ways, it didn’t need to be. Given the context, Car Seat Headrest were one of the stronger options for headliners on Sunday night, and they won over their crowd convincingly.

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