Review: Ethel Cain and Caroline Polachek Treat the Riviera Theatre to Dreamy Soundscapes

It’s with no surprise the beloved Ethel Cain has cultivated a cult-like following recently. Hayden Silas Anhedönia’s (Ethel Cain) music is a reflection inspired by her religious upbringing. Her debut album Preacher’s Daughter is a concept album with dreamy guitars, ambient vocals and an overall haunting undertone; all of which pair beautifully on this record. Fans made sure they arrived promptly to catch her brief yet moving set at the Riviera Theater on Tuesday night. Opening for Caroline Polachek, it definitely felt like a co-headlining show with the amount of anticipation the crowd had for Mother Cain.

Cain delivered nothing short of an intimate set to a packed house. Her gentle, ethereal presence alone drove the crowd wild. She serenaded her crowd of adoring fans instantly; opening with “Family Tree” and then followed by her top song at the moment “American Teenager.” It’s Ethel’s top song for good reason. It brings upon a rush of nostalgia and the angst of adolescence with the help of reverbed instrumentals and lyrics that hit too close to home with my teenage self. This song will go down as her “Summertime Sadness” equivalent. Ethel had a majority of the entire room singing along and feeling her music alongside her. Getting to hear her powerhouse song “Thoroughfare” live transcended me into a headspace of pure bliss. “Gibson Girl” was just as formidable. Cain made her way down to the crowd a few times; holding hands with a fan as she sang to them from the edge of the stage. You can tell her music comes from her heart when she performs. With such passion and the amount of crowd presence accompanying Cain; she truly turned the Riviera into a tiny music hall.

With already one phenomenal and sadly brief set from Ethel Cain that most likely left a lot of fans with runny mascara; we still were in for a treat from Caroline Polachek. She confidently took the stage right after singing her intro offstage to her lush, scene-setting song “Welcome To My Island.” I immediately took note that Caroline is an amazing performer. She danced and was feeling the music while singing; making for impeccable stage presence. It was a pleasure to see Polachek perform her entire latest album, Desire, I Want To Turn Into You. The catchy“Bunny Is A Rider” is another one of her highlights currently trending that had the entire room singing and dancing. Caroline also had a very impressive stage setup; one of my favorite things to analyze at shows. With tiny islands all over the stage and nature-scape visuals; she truly transformed the stage into a dynamic diorama of her universe.

It was a true once in a lifetime opportunity to see two incredibly talented artists with their whole careers still ahead of them on the same night. Ethel Cain already has such a devoted and adoring following she can only go up from here. Her graceful sounds will make any fan of dream pop and alternative music a daughter of Cain.

All photos by Andrew Lagunas

Andrew Lagunas
Andrew Lagunas

Andrew Lagunas is a freelance photographer from Naperville who specializes in portraiture and concert photography. He has an Associate in Arts degree from College of DuPage and is always looking for new creative outlets.