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Review. Diet Cig slay The Portland

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Featuring a warm up called The Spook School and bone-rattling punk pop from Diet Cig, this was quite a ghoulish gig. Diet Cig rationalised that October is, after all, the patron month of spookiness (although that didn’t account for the unexplained, red-lit tinsel wrapped mics and amps… the support band theorised it might be Christmas in hell).

The Spook School, as their eccentric Eugene Hutz-styled drummer put it, are a queer band with queer songs. “This is a song about kissing boooooys” he rejoiced before descending directly into a fabulous fill (he was fabulous, through and through). Their fast-paced garagey rock-pop had the audience dancing wildly on invisible pogo sticks to songs about abuse, gender identities and kissing gender identities.

With a brilliantly imperfect, fun live style, their vocals harked a joyous sing/shout-along camaraderie akin to Los Compesinos or Matt & Kim. They were loud (my ears are still ringing), danceable and had an amazing sense of humour. Just ask the “best salesman in the Scotland – nay, the world” (as the drummer introduced him), their guitarist, who reckoned they had “some cool stuff on sale y’know”, “like records n that, which are a decent investment, so yeah”.

Spooky though it was, there was no genuine peril or threat, apart from dancing so enthusiastically that something might break. And that’s thanks to the explicit consideration of both bands and their ability to create a safe, inclusive space for all walks of music fan.

Diet Cig introduced their set with a reminder that any spooks experienced at this event should be purely superficial. It was no place for horrid harassments. They even announced their sound guy Nate was on hand for any problems. (Thanks, Nate! But we do wish you were around for all gigs, it’d be wonderful if you could lend your services to the hip hop or festival sphere…)

Playing through their new album “Swear I’m Good At This”, the guitarist and drummer duo started tenderly with ‘Sixteen’. It was only about 30 seconds before it all exponentially accelerated though. Things soon got way louder and faster, and before long, guitarist Alex Luciano was hopping and twirling around the stage like a graceful, grinning gazelle on a sugar high. Their stamina didn’t let up from there, with most songs transitioning into each other via vigorous drum beats. The best example of that was between ‘Leo’ and ‘Barf Day’ where they each shrugged an exchange of ready looks that silently said ‘I don’t wanna stop rocking, let’s go straight into the next one.’

Where they did take brief, panting breathers, Luciano chatted to the audience with the charisma of a powerpuff girl. She is a powerpuff girl. As kickass as Buttercup (who she visually resembles quite closely too), as adorably cute Bubbles, as morally robust as Blossom, and able to wield her guitar as meanly as they all wield their powerpuffy superpowers. She’s even got her lovable beat professor in drummer Noah Bowman.

At times Luciano’s guitar was louder than her voice (my ears are still ringing), but when she wanted, she could elevate her voice to pierce home its meaning. Some of her lyrics are so culturally important that this is much needed. Words like “My stomach hurts, because it’s hard to be a punk rocker in a skirt” are so elegantly uncomplicated that they perfectly define the type of hopeless anger that makes a young girl genuinely unwell all the way through to womanhood within the realm she adores. When Alex sings those words, they’re so catchy that they offer long lasting respite to let go and rock out with pure freedom. At the end of the day, as one of their brilliant closers “Scene Sick” preached, we all just wanna dance.

Words by Ellie Clarke

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