Photo of Diet Cig by Brian Benavente
On Monday, February 12th, 2018, Diet Cig brought an energy of pure exuberant joy with them to the Aladdin Theatre in Portland, OR. I was ecstatic to see an all-ages Diet Cig show announced since they generally end up in 21+ venues in the Pacific Northwest. With The Spook School and Great Grandpa as support, it was sure to be a night of whole-hearted inclusivity.
All the way from Scotland, The Spook School acquired the stage in cheesy grins and one-liners which opened the show with such radiant fervor. Having just released their third album Could It Be Different?, The Spook School covers the life and trials of being transgender in the modern world. I always take note of bands that capture my attention when that first note hums and nothing can take you out of the experience until the stage is empty. The eclectic reminiscence of the group’s power-pop melodies and punk-rooted grit are sure to leave you bobbing your head in elated retrospect. With bitter gems such as “Burn Masculinity” and “Still Alive,” the crowd was jumping about, catching onto each word with every chorus. I love when you can feel the crowds enjoyment of a previously unfamiliar band on the lineup all summed up into one look to a friend, bob of the head, freedom to dance along without knowing the words, and trying to sing them anyway because it’s just too catchy.
Now that the crowd was a bit warmer and a whole lot more ready to dance, Great Grandpa waltzed onto the stage. This was my second time getting to witness Great Grandpa, but only the first I could actually see the performance due to previously being a little too far back at a ground-level staged venue. Being able to connect the anxious screams of vocalist Alex Dunne to the enchanting dissonance of the band this time around was wondrous. Great Grandpa tackles chaos so gently with only split second distresses in otherwise centered vulnerability. Supporting their 2017 release, Plastic Cough, the Seattle group are rapidly growing a familiarity across the DIY scene and this tour is perfect for them. Having too much energy to stay in one spot seems to be the theme of the night. During one of the final songs, the lavender-haired singer made their way into the crowd and jumped around cheerily shrieking the words. The crowd involvement left everyone beaming.
After the charming contention of Great Grandpa’s set, the stage had been cleared, throwback jams were playing over the speakers, and the theatre lights lowered as the anticipation to see the long-awaited duo was rising. I’ve been vibing off Diet Cig’s debut album, Swear I’m Good At This, since its release last year, and just now have I gotten the chance to see them perform. I find myself constantly in awe at how adorable the duo are in all their endeavors as a band. They seem to always be having more fun than anyone else and that always brings a smile to my face. Soon enough, singer and lyricist Alex Luciano was on stage soundchecking as casual as ever. Leading effortlessly into first track and album opener “Sixteen” accompanied by Noah Bowman’s buoyant cadence. I’ve never seen anyone so enthusiastically immersed in song while still reeling from sickness and dancing through injury. She isn’t kidding when she repeatedly sings, ‘I just wanna dance.’
Diet Cig really shine in their simplistic candid phrases of personal hardships. Whether or not you can relate to the situation, they make you feel included nonetheless. One of my favorite moments of this was in heartsick track “Bath Bomb” when the entire crowd cried out, ‘I’m sorry!’ and the emotion in the room was palpable. There was an undeniable consciousness in the theatre that enveloped everyone into a safe space filled only with dancing, jumping, singing, and smiling widely. The crowd was so respectful of the artist’s personal space as well as everyone around each other which Luciano highlighted at one point. Knowing when you’re having fun and when your fun is hindering someone else’s is important. Luckily, this wasn’t an issue at the Portland date and was only mentioned as a precaution and reminder to be aware which I appreciated.
Despite being the cause of injury and against doctors orders to take it easy, Luciano still managed to make her way over to the side of the stage and climb on top of the tall speakers. Her excited energy can’t be contained and is the most punk thing I’ve seen in a long time which reminds me that injury, illness, and any other hindrance can also be applied to the line, ‘It’s hard to be a punk while wearing a skirt.’
There are still a handful of dates left on this enchanting tour and I highly recommended coming out to support good music and good people. Find dates at dietcig.com/tour.