I have a weird relationship with the “DIY” music scene and it’s because of my experiences with the sorts of people this phenomenon attracts. Lots of kids in my college classes were the essence of DIY music – walking around campus in Doc Martens (I can’t be that harsh because I own a pair) and fjallraven backpacks, always staring pensively the rest of us as they smoked cigarettes on the steps of the DePaul SAC building (if you know, you know).
If you’re not familiar, the DIY scene is basically just bands performing house shows without any sort of professional involvement or planning – think of a house party in a basement but with live music. Chicago actually has a very lively DIY music scene and this is probably why I saw so many “DIY esque” people in my college classes. I maybe went to TWO of these sorts of gatherings during my time in school.
Obviously I’m at fault here to an extent because relating an entire music scene to a small number of my college’s student body is just a little ridiculous – and I’ve definitely grown past it since I’ve become more secure with myself and have explored a lot more different kinds of music than I did back in the day. So when I got the opportunity to cover Diet Cig’s show at Lincoln Hall over the weekend, I was absolutely down to go (19-year-old Kristin, maybe not).
I’m leading this post with an anecdote for a reason. Diet Cig band members Alex Luciano (lead vocals, guitar) and Noah Bowman (drums) met at a house show back in 2014 – Luciano had never been in a band before and only knew a few chords on the guitar. Luciano’s band was the one playing the house show. The introduction led them to create their own band (the name “Diet Cig” has no significance). Their first EP, Over Easy, is also about the annoyance of music scenes. Do you get my point?
Over Easy explores themes of “innocence of adolescence and infatuation” – themes that Diet Cig have continued to explore over the course of their band’s career – their latest release, I Swear I’m Good At This – was released in September 2017. I was initially drawn to Diet Cig’s sound because I think there is something to be said about a simplistic style of songwriting – there’s nothing to hide behind. This is how I interpret Alex and Noah’s lyricism – it’s straight to the point. It’s like reading a diary about all of your insecurities and putting them to music.
The 16-long set began with the band’s second-most popular song, “Sixteen” – a song about Luciano’s experience dating as a teenager. But before the show began, Diet Cig made it a point to emphasize that their shows are meant to be safe spaces, and it’s important to have fun as long as you’re not negatively affecting anyone around you.
“Let’s let loosest not at anyone else’s expense. Take care of each other.”
The band had an unexpected sense of energy to them that I wasn’t anticipating, very eager and peppy, despite the fact that their music is, well, not so eager and not so peppy. It was an interesting combination. Lots of high kicks (Luciano tore her ACL at a previous performance and wears a leg brace. She said her doctor would be pissed if he knew she was still doing high kicks). Diet Cig ran through their set with a breeze: the crowd was energetic, the singalong were plentiful, and Luciano truly has a charisma and charm about her onstage that makes her commentary between songs truly hilarious. I really enjoyed that she was expressing her journey as a musician as one that was allowing her to keep growing and getting better at what she wanted to do, making a point that she never thought she would be able to perform full time.
“It feels good to be figuring it out. Your art is valuable and your voice is worth it.”
Something really cool about this show was that I left with a new favorite song. I previously enjoyed “Sixteen” and “Harvard” the most out of Diet Cig’s discography, but after the set I really enjoyed “Link In Bio” – my personal standout performance from the show.
“Link in Bio” explores the ideas of society allowing women to do what they want – but still having to abide by limitations. Don’t be too loud, don’t want too much, etc. I think after seeing the band perform live and understanding their musicianship a bit better, this song encapsulates what they are all about the best.
The show continued with some of the band’s most popular songs, (“Barf Day,” “Tummy Ache”) with a closing performance of “Harvard” – probably the song I relate to the most from their catalog. It was the first song Alex and Noah wrote together for the project.
The show didn’t end there, though – Alex led the audience in a dance to the “Cha-Cha Slide” as she stood tall on a speaker just left to the stage – a nice reminder to ourselves not to take anything too seriously.
I didn’t know what to expect from this show, but I would absolutely recommend seeing a Diet Cig show again in the future. I loved being able to relate to the stories that inspired a lot of the songs and I think that always adds something extra to someone’s listening experience. Authenticity and brutal honesty is hard to maintain in the music industry but I think it’s Diet Cig’s selling point and will continue to be.
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