With spunk and a jump height possibly comparable to NBA players, Diet Cig brought the Headrow House down last week.
After a few technical difficulties and the kind of crowd you’d see huddled around a collapsed pedestrian before an ambulance arrives gathered around a faulty amp, The Spook School set off the surprisingly brightly-lit show. The four-piece Scottish band sings about the kind of experiences any young person tends to live through, especially as it pertains to “gender, sexuality and queer issues,” according to their Wikipedia page. Personality shines through in their songs: “throw my heart in the bin” is a lyric on a “song about kissing boys.” Another song about being in an abusive relationship is introduced by “fuck abusive people. No, don’t fuck abusive people. That’s a bad idea. Fuck, as in, bad.”
In between songs, there’s the light air common in the enjoyment bands have with interacting with their audience. Drummer Niall McCamley’s laugh is raucous, infectious, and somehow louder than any of their instruments combined (maybe because of the faulty amp) and the attempted impression of Al Pacino garners laughter returned. Guitarist Nye Todd’s deadpan sell of their merch–“normally sold for $200 or $300, we’re giving it away to you for $10 tonight”–is enjoyed as well. “You’ve always been good to us, Leeds,” says Niall, “even though we don’t deserve it.”
Diet Cig starts the night off “tenderly” with the coming-of-age, feminist ballad “Sixteen.” The song starts on a soft note, but builds into more of what the rest of the show is all about: seemingly endless energy abound. Lead singer and guitarist Alex Luciano’s high-kicks, leaps, and dives into the crowd and drummer Noah Bowman’s expert drumming is matched with equal enthusiasm. It’s obvious in only a moment why the stage is empty of any equipment or backing band. It’s music you’re meant to move to–why shouldn’t the band move just as much?
Diet Cig, having toured for seven weeks promoting their new album Swear I’m Good at This, are a band following the “safer spaces” rule at their shows. Detailed by Luciano after the first song or two, and sometimes paired with posters around the venue, it means that no one should be touched who doesn’t first give consent, that others’ bodies and identities should be respected, and overall just to have a good time. It’s things like these that should be unspoken rules, but because of the problems with harassment so common at concerts nowadays and forever in the past, bands have begun taking it upon themselves to outline these rules for a more enjoyable night for all.
The two-piece’s songs talk a lot about these issues in their songs as well; alongside tunes about growing up and dealing with adulthood, perky melodies are paired with discussions about the struggles of being a minority identity in a heavily male-dominated industry (see “Link in Bio”) and being disrespected in a consent-less atmosphere.
Diet Cig’s songs, lyrics and sound alike, are those you needed as a teenager to dance to in your room as a way to shut out the world outside, but who says you can’t use them the same now? Using their older song, “Harvard,” as a close-out, Alex leaping on Noah’s drum set and then collapsing onto the ground to dig into the final riffs, it’s safe to say Diet Cig aren’t a show you’ll want to miss.