Ethel Cain in DC – May 19th, 2023

Ethel Cain in DC – May 19th, 2023

Alternative singer-songwriter Ethel Cain played a moving set to a sold-out crowd at DC’s The Anthem on May 19th. Supporting Caroline Polachek’s “Spiraling” tour, Cain joined the lineup for DC on one of four exclusive dates that fans would get to see the two rising female stars in Alternative pop.

The 6000 cap venue was packed to capacity with adoring fans, many of which came in support of either of the two opening acts, despite how contrasting their sounds and aesthetics were. First up was True Blue, an ethereal solo act that set a fantastical tone for the night. The singer and producer delivered a visually enchanting performance that mimicked the futuristic, electronic pop she performed. With her flowy, tulle-filled dress and silky golden hair, True Blue looked like something out of a synth-driven fairy tale, her bright and airy vocals helping her play the part.

The excitement amongst the audience swelled as the lights dimmed a second time, signaling the arrival of “Mother” Cain. The audience roared at her arrival, which she responded to with a bright smile and a slightly awkward wave. Her friendly demeanor quickly drew haunting as she began her set with “Family Tree”, a deep, dark ballad inspired by Gregorian chants. Heavy on instrumentals and vocal runs, Cain displayed her rich tones and intense lyricism. It was somewhat of a religious experience as she belted note after note without falter. Likewise, the audience participated in their role as the church choir, raising their arms and singing along.

Her cult-like following further proved their loyalty as she transitioned into her second song, “American Teenager.” Her most popular single to date, even the very first note of the single elicited raucous cheers from a venue where she was not even the headlining act. The coming-of-age anthem that leans more toward alternative pop provided a vibrant, sing-a-long to truly hook the audience in for her set. “That’s the hardest I’ve ever a crowd sing that song,” she remarked at its completion.

Ethel Cain’s music and accompanying visuals curate a dark, witchy energy that surrounds her identity, but, on stage, her character often cracked. Every once in a while, she would flash a warm smile or a wave, and each gesture was met with fanatic applause. One fan even held up a sign and a prosthetic limb, asking Cain to fulfill her dreams and “sign her leg.” Her close relationship with her fans is likely due to the authenticity she exudes on stage. Dressed in her own tour merch, accompanied by a simple lighting set up, and backed only by a 2 piece band, Cain allowed her impressive vocals and dynamic arrangements to be the star of the show. With long instrumentals and contrasting movements, her songs are like that of an orchestrated film score. The vocal prowess and ethereal performance she brought to DC made it clear that Ethel Cain is far past ready to headline her own sold-out tour.

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