Sometimes, there’s no real reason for comparison except for time and place. On two sequential show nights earlier this month in Los Angeles, for example, the contrast was dazzling; though the nights have little reason otherwise being mentioned in the same breath.
Ethel Cain is a 24-year-old phenom, critically acclaimed up-and-comer who put on a stunning performance at L.A.’s Fonda Theater on Friday Nov. 4, the second of two sold-out shows. The ardent fandom inspired by her plaintive indie-tinged Americana-ish songs was palpable. On gorgeous renditions of songs like “Crush” and “American Teenager,” this enraptured crowd sang, squealed, even cried – more so when she jumped off the stage and sang into their blissed-out faces. To see that kind of energy for such a young talent was electrifying.
The next night, Nov. 5, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, was spectacular and spectacle. For close to six-hours(!) a maximalist cavalcade of legendary artists performed, paid heartfelt tribute and made acceptance speeches that would seem an impossibility to gather on a single stage or room.
Except they did. This included Dolly Parton, Bruce Springsteen, Eminem, The Eurythmics, Duran Duran, Judas Priest, Lionel Richie, Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo, Janet Jackson, Brandi Carlile, Pink, Sheryl Crow, Ed Sheeran, Olivia Rodrigo, The Edge, Dave Grohl, Steven Tyler, John Mellencamp, Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre, Alice Cooper, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, and Allen Grubman. And good on the Rock Hall for the year’s breadth and quality of inductees.
The performances proved each luminary well worthy of the accolades and enshrinement. The speeches, mini docs, award acceptances and jam sessions, too, were pitch perfect. Together live, however, resulted in a frisson of ceaseless and intense awesomeness that lasted nearly a quarter of a day that by ceremony’s end created a blurring effect. Despite how straight-up genius each artist and industry exec is, the endless smorgasbord of earthly delights felt gluttonous and too much to digest at once.
Perhaps, like the title to one of this year’s best films, it was “Everything Together All At Once” and just too much.
I’d actually seen Ethel Cain before, in late August on the first day of Goldenvoice’s This Ain’t No Picnic at Brookside behind the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. That, too, was its own kind of indie-tastic buffet with LCD Soundsystem, Courtney Barnett, Le Tigre, Yves Tumor, Jorja Smith, Circle Jerks, Honey Dijon, Jungle, Earl Sweatshirt, Mac DeMarco and others. Cain had a late afternoon set on a side stage. She sounded great, but with simultaneous sets on other stages that included Barnett, Sweatshirt and Yves Tumor, it was hard to invest the time and focus her music well deserves. That morsel, however, planted the seed to finally see her again.
Thank goodness she returned to L.A., with help from her team, which includes manager Marlee Kula; TBA Agency’s Josh Mulder, Avery McTaggart and Samantha Tacón, and Judy Miller Silverman at Motormouth PR. The merch line at the Fonda was the longest I’d ever seen winding up the stairs and extending to the second floor. Cain was here doing a fashion shoot, having already done shoots with Calvin Klein and Givenchy. She’ll have bigger festival plays, tours and more music, too, in 2023. It will be fascinating to watch her star ascend.
There were far too many peak moments at the Rock Hall to recount, but some of the most memorable included: Eminem’s take-no-prisoners set – especially with Sheeran doing Dido’s part on “Stan;” Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long (All Night)” prompted the well-heeled crowd to throw down!; thank you almighty for pairing Dolly Parton with Judas Priest’s Rob Halford on the “Jolene” super jam; also, Springsteen and Mellencamp paying tribute to the late Jerry Lee Lewis; and the fandemonium Duran Duran inspired– all sublime moments of performance greatness.
Both nights were awesome but reinforced the same message: sometimes an individual show can be more satisfying and a deeper experience than a mega event.
RIP to Keith Levene of Public Image Ltd whose wildly innovative lacerating guitar, especially on their breakthrough 1978 hit “Public Image,” set a template for subsequent ’80s acts, including U2’s The Edge and Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine. But also check out his incredible playing on more avant garde fare like “Poptones” and “No Birds Do Sing.” Oh, and he also co-founded The Clash(!) and was a roadie for Yes(!). #ballerstatus.