Gig Review: Diet Cig, Daddy Issues, Lilith in Boston

Posted: by The Editor

Image may contain: 1 person, on stage, playing a musical instrument and night

(Photo by Leo Burke in Boston)

Newcomers to the indie pop-punk community, Diet Cig is made up of guitarist and singer Alex Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman, they released their debut EP, Over Easy, just over three years ago as a totally off-the-cuff record of the fun the duo were having playing together. The release cemented that not only was this band full of energy and sweet guitar hooks, but that we would be hearing from them again soon. They signed to Father/Daughter Records and toured for the better part of two years on nothing but that EP and two singles, proof that an extensive catalog is not required to gain a devoted following. After a full US run supporting The Front Bottoms in the spring of 2016, they took some time to write a debut LP. 2017’s Swear I’m Good At This is a burst of exuberance, and in 29 minutes, encapsulates everything Luciano and Bowman have made clear that they stand for: having fun, self-confidence, diverse representation in punk music, feminism, truth, and vulnerability.

They’re touring for the album now with Daddy Issues, and came to Allston, Massachusetts’ Brighton Music Hall on April 8th as their fifth show in four days. Despite their packed schedule, Diet Cig brought positivity and energy to Boston and got everyone in the audience as excited as they were. Diet Cig shows have a reputation of bounding vibrance and high-energy dancing; yet the show left me not worn out, but excited. The show was a perfect balance of fun and appreciation of the amazing things women can do in punk.

Luciano is clearly passionate about creating spaces for femme people in music, and as her band grows in size, that opportunity becomes more and more available. Lilith, a local indie pop rock outfit fronted by two women, opened the night. They performed with confidence and graciousness, mentioning that the stage was “much higher up than they normally are.” Vocalist/guitarist Hannah Liuzzo and vocalist/bassist Kelsey Rose Francis had a small crowd of people who were mostly there for the main act nodding their heads to slow, driven pop rock tunes, along similar lines as Tigers Jaw, Hodera, Microwave, and Cayetana. They asserted their space with tunes from their new EP Apology Plant. At one point, Alex from Diet Cig came down from the greenroom to jam along with the crowd and take videos, a testament to her genuine enjoyment of Lilith. Though at times slightly monotonous, Lilith was an awesome choice for a local opener. Local bands are notorious for being substandard introductions to touring headliners, but Lilith was a great example of why I love to arrive at gigs early.

Nashville’s grunge-y punk Daddy Issues came on next. Their songs are largely full of punk feminist sentiments, unashamedly self-confident and not hesitant to delve into ideas of sexuality and other often taboo topics. Live, it was incredibly powerful. The great vibe of Daddy Issues just cannot be captured in digital recordings of their music. I was floored every minute of their set because of how invested they were in playing. Even when playing new tunes from their upcoming album, Deep Dream, which hadn’t been practiced as much as others, they looked like they were having a ton of fun. This time, both Alex and Noah from Diet Cig came down to cheer them on, take videos, and listen along. Guitarist and vocalist Jenna Moynihan reciprocated the love when playing highlight “Creepy Girl:” she congratulated Diet Cig on their album release, then introduced the song with “this song actually is about loving someone, so if you have someone you love, now’s the time to think about them. I’m thinking about Diet Cig.” While their recorded music isn’t as energetic in recordings, Daddy Issues had serious power live and shredded every song they played, resulting in the perfect choice to open before Diet Cig.

Luciano and Bowman of Diet Cig met only three years ago, but a new fan would have never guessed this based on their onstage bond. The stage was stripped of everything but Bowman’s drum set, topped with a rubber ducky, and Luciano’s guitar and pedal board, leaving it looking a little stark. But as soon as they danced onstage to the fanfare of Cher’s “Believe,” they filled it up as much as 4 people could have. Similarly, Luciano’s bouncy guitar and careful riffs created the sound of multiple instruments. They started off slow with “Sixteen,” the opener to their new album. Diet Cig have been playing this song live for a while, but it’s taken on a new life since being recorded in the studio. Many of the lyrics from their new songs are more vulnerable than their past material, and Luciano pulls it off perfectly in songs like this: “When I was sixteen / I dated a boy with my own name / It was weird in the back of his truck / moaning my own name while trying to fuck.” After the first song, Luciano established that the show was a safer space. This was confirmed by the next song, the well-received hit and first single from the album, “Tummy Ache,” an echo-y and guitar-heavy number about existing as a femme person in the music community.

The new album had only come out the day before the show, so few audience members knew enough of the songs to sing along to every word. But when they played their older singles and songs from the Over Easy EP, playful lyrics like “I can’t play instruments very well / and I’ll eat all of your cereal” from “Sleep Talk” there was animated assistance from the entire audience. They played a good balance of older material with the new, playing songs like like “Breathless,” “Pool Boyz,” and “Dinner Date.” The song “Scene Sick” spoke to the way Diet Cig simultaneously distinguishes themselves from other boring, run-of-the-mill, indie bands while still involving themselves to make the community better. “I just wanna dance,” sang Luciano with her trademark effervescence, and so she did! Luciano and Bowman concerned themselves less with perfection and more with enjoying themselves, ensuring a good time for everyone.

Songs from the new album like “Maid of the Mist,” “Blob Zombie,” and “Leo” were highlights from the set. The layering of melodies throughout “Maid of the Mist” makes it one of their more complex pieces, and that complexity was well executed onstage. Bowman’s spirited drumming perfectly complemented Luciano’s shreddy guitar jam before “Barf Day,” and a slow intro to “Bath Bomb” thoughtfully projected her deftly crooning voice. “Leo” was accompanied by a story of how Luciano learned her correct birth time – 6:18 am, rather than 6:18 pm, a large difference for astrology and birth chart aficionados – and how the realization has affected her identity. “This song is for people who don’t know who they are,” she said as they launched into the whimsical refrain. In a lot of ways, Diet Cig is still finding themselves as a band: are they punk? Are they pop rock? Are they indie? But by embracing that journey in front of an audience, Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman find themselves relating to young and old fans alike. Part of what makes DIY intriguing to me is how it creates role models out of artists who really are “just like everybody else.” Luciano and Bowman are genuine in both their successes and their struggles.

The set ended with “Harvard,” a song they were especially excited to play in Boston. It rocks possibly the hardest of any of their music, and was the perfect closer. It is both angry, cathartic, and satisfying; a huge middle finger to elitist intellectuals trying to make music into something it isn’t – and doesn’t need to be. Sometimes lyrics are just lyrics. Sometimes (ideally all of the time), activism is done with genuinely benevolent intentions, and demonstrates that  everyone can get involved in some way and take action. Seamlessly and with real authenticity, Bowman and Luciano have melded a social purpose with great music.

Diet Cig’s songs may seem simpler than other current groups, but the energy behind them is what distinguishes this band from the rest. Diet Cig is a hugely inspirational to me and other femmes I know, and the way they curated a feeling of ‘self-power’ made for an incredible show. It didn’t fall flat. It wasn’t overplayed. It wasn’t too self-concerned. It was just a great gig, complete with safe space for feminism, sexuality, rubber ducks, imperfection, emotion, and even just eating ice cream alone. As Luciano sings in “Link in Bio,” Diet Cig is “trying to take over the world,” and at this rate, they will very soon.

-Lucy Danger