REVIEW: Diet Cig's Kanye West Tribute

I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life, and I’ve been frequenting shows at the Bottom Lounge since 2012 when I saw Bowling For Soup perform a really intimate set (on a school night of all nights). I speak for most Chicago concert-goers when I say, no one is really that stoked to see a show at the Bottom Lounge. I mean, it definitely has all the perks of a smaller venue, but there is a built-in discomfort in the anatomy of the building that has always made me feel awkward at shows. However, the Bottom Lounge has never felt less like the Bottom Lounge than last Thursday at the Diet Cig show. I don’t know what kind of pixie magic, lead singer, Alex Luciano was casting, but I found myself in a completely transformed and reinvigorated space. In my head I kept having to ask, “Is this really the Bottom Lounge?”

The room was completely packed with an eclectic assortment of people, ages ranging from 17 to 40. When I first walked in, I was assessing what kinds of assholes I’d be dealing with in the crowd (as one does when they make the initial plunge into the sea of humans surrounding the stage). I was oddly surprised by the polite demeanor of everyone I encountered on my quest for the perfect spot. People were too busy focusing on the stage, in an intense anticipation, to feel anything other than an excited bliss.

The lights flashed purple, the band took the stage, and the crowd went nuts. Alex Luciano practically danced her way onto the stage, wearing a red beanie, and more glitter than I have ever seen on one human in my entire life -- and it was magnificent. Meanwhile, Noah Bowman took his seat at his drum kit, slightly removed from the spectacle that is Alex Luciano. Before even beginning to play music, or any formal introduction, Luciano did not miss a beat and made an announcement about her expectations for how the audience should behave. The ground rules: no touching anyone who does not want to be touched, no invading another person’s space, and above all else, no being a dick. And with that, they broke out into the song “Sixteen.”

Maybe it was the size of the venue, or maybe it was the larger than life presence of Luciano, but the I felt like I was at a house show among great friends. The commentary between songs was absolutely unreal, and definitely contributed to the intimacy of the show.

Luciano’s quips were hilarious, and her interactions with the audience were candid. At one point in the set, Luciano made the classic, “Wow Chicago is my favorite city to play shows in” comment that every visiting artist makes (but doesn’t really mean). But she didn’t stop there! She went on the talk about Kanye West, Kanye’s baby, Space Jam, and most importantly, “Midwest charm with that city slicker booty.”

That moment was a turning point in the evening. It was as if, all of a sudden, the clouds parted ways, the sky opened, and great voice said: “thou shalt dedicate the evening to Kanye West.”

The show was a pop-punk montage of high kicks, Kanye references, shoutouts to “all the shitty dads out there,” something called, “Leo magic,” and tales of 21st birthdays gone wrong. A ceramic penguin hanging out on an amp in the corner watched over it all.

The song “Scene Sick” was introduced as a tune about being “petty.” Noah Bowman, started playing the drums for but a second before Luciano exclaimed: “I know y'all feel petty… Kanye is from here!”

The introduction to the song “Apricots,” from their newest album, Swear I’m Good At This, went similarly. Luciano has the crowd quiet down for a “tender” moment.She let the crowd saturate in introspective silence for a moment before announcing: “This is dedicated to the future Saint West.”

On a more serious note, amidst the playful nature of Diet Cig’s live performance, was an effort to lift up marginalized voices. The culture of seeing a pop-punk concert is very male-centric, and the pop-punk community is pretty exclusionary towards non cisgendered men. Pop-punk shows are typically thought of as a place for violent moshing and crowd surfing; when you are in the pit at a pop-punk show, you are in no-man’s land and it’s very much every man for himself. Diet Cig not only prevented this kind of oppressive violence, but made an active effort to call attention to those who don’t have the privilege to thrash around at shows and still feel safe.

I’m not going to lie, I definitely cried a little bit when Luciano said, “Thank you to all the non-cis white males. You make these spaces so much more special! You don’t take up space!

The night was beautiful. I mean, they closed it out with a cover of the classic Semisonic song “Closing Time.”

Who could ask for anything more?