Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Eartheater’s U.S. ‘Powders’ tour starts off in bold fashion

The Sinclair played host to a bizarre and idiosyncratic performance
Photo courtesy of @eartheater instagram.

Eartheater isn’t concerned with doing things the normal way. The 34-year-old experimental pop artist (also known as Alexandra Drewchin) from Pennsylvania has released six albums, each creating their own universe of sexy electronic fantasy. Just over a month after the release of her latest album, “Powders,” Eartheater has hit the road, taking her unmistakable style to venues around the world. The first show of the east coast leg was held at The Sinclair in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the concert was as odd and unforgettable as the music itself.

The night began with a 40-minute uninterrupted performance by Concrete Husband, a fellow experimentalist whose sound wavers between nightmarish techno overload and new age serenity. The Brooklyn-based DJ and producer hit the stage with only a flute, switching between two microphones, one upstage and the other down. The artist’s expansive sound and shockingly expressive flute made for an oddly moving performance, whose cinematic grandeur felt at home with more dance-forward tracks like “F**k Me in the Club.”

The sold-out venue, populated by avant-garde hats, huge thrifted pants, video game tees and monochromatically dressed retirees alike, gleefully hooted and danced along to the opener. Concrete Husband’s mélange of styles proved to be a perfect complement to the main event.

Following the intermission, the lights dimmed. The opening strings of Eartheater’s “Sugarcane Switch” began in the dark, until the album cover of “Powders” was projected on a screen at the back of the stage. Joined by multi-instrumentalist Pablo and drummer Chloe Saavedra, Eartheater’s vocals translated beautifully from the album’s hyper-produced sound. She slunk around the stage with the same allure that makes her music so irresistible.

As the song ended, Eartheater went away to reveal Alexandra. Lamenting the cold weather, she said she’d planned to wear something much more revealing, a trademark of her femme fatale aesthetic. She has the charm of a girl you knew in high school who did some music on the side; totally genuine and effortlessly funny, if pointedly unpolished. You needn’t look further than the on-stage stool that held only a bottle of water and a sweaty glass of red wine with ice cubes.

The rest of the night was essentially a rundown of “Powders,” a sultry performance of “Crushing” being a major standout. Saavedra’s drums particularly brought the song to life, lending it a rollicking, almost trip-hop beat. Clearly lost in the music, Eartheater even pantomimed the swirling of a wine glass, mirroring one of the motifs from the song’s stunning music video directed by Andrew Thomas Huang.

About halfway through the set, a fan shouted up from the crowd to compliment the artist’s look (she wore quilted black pants and a matching jacket lined with fur). She thanked the fan, asking the audience, “Okay, who thinks these are shoes and who thinks these are pants?” Demanding the respective groups raise their hands, she wryly announced, “Group one wins.” The moment was equal parts bizarre and playful; she even shouted out Telfar for designing the pants.

Taking another puff from her triple berry ice-flavored vape,  the artist slid into a haunting rendition of System Of A Down’s nu-metal classic, “Chop Suey!” encouraging the audience to sing along. The famously dramatic ballad was the ideal showcase for her sharp high notes and mournful whispers.

Mere moments after the conclusion of the song, an unseen audience member yelled, “Henry Kissinger died!” prompting a round of cheers from the venue. The death of the controversial former Secretary of State and diplomat had nothing to do with Eartheater, but in some twisted way, the breaking news felt like a fitting cap to a cover of a nu-metal song. The artist didn’t seem to be familiar, asking a young audience member in the front row to give a brief overview of his legacy.

With that, the siren call that marks the beginning of “Pure Smile Snake Venom” kicked in. And the song kept going, this time without the artist’s lyrics. Eartheater called for the ending of the instrumental, charming the audience with a shared puff with Pablo and heading straight into the song once more, this time nailing the stripper poetry that makes up one of the highlights of “Powders.”

Only half-jokingly bemoaning the end of her time, she exited to massive applause. The call for an encore was answered by Eartheater delivering off-stage Galadriel’s mirror speech from “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.” The crowd’s momentary confusion gave way to another cheer as she giggled her way back to the stage, closing out the night with a couple older favorites: stunning guitar-forward renditions of “Volcano” and “Below the Clavicle,” both from her 2020 album, “Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin.”

Eartheater seems allergic to not being real. At every moment in her set, both the more in-control ones and the more human slip-ups, she had the crowd in the palm of her hand. Listening to any of her albums, you hear the voice of an unwaveringly self-assured woman, as mysterious as she is entertaining. Yet attending one of her shows, you see the reality of this totally unique artist. And it makes the music that much more fascinating.

Thomas Machacz can be reached at [email protected].

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