CONCERT REVIEW: Car Seat Headrest
At Brooklyn Magazine Festival (06/17/22)
This past Friday, I attended the first day of the inaugural Brooklyn Magazine Festival or "BKMF." Brooklyn Magazine is a free publication covering local events in and around the borough. The event had six groups scheduled from 4:30 pm-8:30 pm, many of whom were local Brooklyn-based bands and were much smaller than the headliner, Car Seat Headrest, which surprised me that they had agreed to headline at all. Located at the LeFrak Center at Lakeside Prospect Park, an outdoor venue turned ice rink in the winter; the whole thing had a casual feel.
I showed up a little after 5 pm, with doors opening at 3. The second act, Brooklyn-based indie band Gustaf, was in the middle of performing. I had seen them before at a small venue in LA, where they performed for a young crowd around 11 pm and started a pretty sizable mosh pit. The 5 pm BKMF crowd was much more low-energy, and the demographic was vastly different. It was a hot day with a high of around ninety degrees, so many people sat on the circular concrete bench bordering the stage. The first thing I noticed walking up to the small crowd lazily swaying to Gustaf's music was that many attendees were wearing CSH merch. Fans from emo teens to even a few white-haired older men were milling about the venue wearing shirts from the last tour and designs from different albums.
The location in Prospect Park was sweltering during the day. Security was notably strict, even coming up to me while I lay on a cement bench, telling me to sit up. Shortly before CSH was supposed to perform, a large man in the crowd passed out, seemingly from dehydration. This forced the organizers to begin handing out water bottles for free to people (they had confiscated all water bottles at the door, even empty water bottle receptacles), and we're selling them for $5 a bottle in their concessions area. The $9 hot dog I waited in line for 20 minutes was one of the cheaper options in the sea of $17 veggie burgers. Many millennial attendees seemed to care less about the actual music than the extensive beer garden, which featured blow-up tents from alcohol companies like Jim Beam and some natural seltzer brands. The editor of the Brooklyn Magazine came out on stage to thank the festival's sponsors and once again reminded us to drink water, finally introducing the band everyone had been waiting for. Frontman Will Toledo walked onstage in a black acid-washed T-shirt and denim short shorts, and the crowd went wild. Just a month ago, I had seen him perform on the CSH North American Tour, much of which ended up canceled due to Toledo's health issues after contracting Covid. While on the recent tour, he had chosen to wear a light-up mask for all of his performances, his BKMF performance was a much more casual affair. The set list ended up being very similar to the one used at the LA show, with a few minor song changes.
Car Seat Headrest's music has a way of bringing together people from all walks of life. The crowd was an eclectic mix of millennials, high schoolers, middle-aged men, and even furries. I spotted about four people wearing colorful fursuits. A long-time CSH insider joke is that Will Toledo is a furry. Playing into this stereotype, Toledo donned a bunny mascot head to perform his third to the last song. I was close to the front of the stage, but an older man who had to be at least 65 was even closer to the stage in front of me, pressed against the gate. He sang the words to every song. Most of the rest of the audience did as well. Between songs, audience members screamed the names of songs at Will Toledo, trying to get him to play their favorite hit. Many of Toledo's most famous songs like “It's Only Sex”, “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”, “Sober to Death”, and “Bodys” were covered. These hits were accompanied by Toledo's signature stiff but creative dance moves reminiscent of an emo kid at prom. There were many fruity hip-swaying, foot-stomping, and awkward arm movements. At one point, he just touched his toes and hung limply for the 20-second instrumental intro to one of his songs. His performing style is refreshingly low effort and unique. Overall, Will Toledo and the rest of the band's headlining act carried the Brooklyn Magazine Festival and satisfied human and furry audience members alike.