All photos by Kaiya Gordon
“Y’all Ohioans know how to do rock bands in a way the rest of the country is trying to catch up to,” said Caleb Cordes of Sinai Vessel on Sunday night at the Ace of Cups. The band was following Columbus’ own Kizzy Hall, who opened the show with a fast-paced set that, yes, did reek of rock-and-roll.
It was clear that the crowd took pride in their Ohioan roots, cheering as Cordes gave his shout-out, and dancing with vigor throughout the night. As the night opened, hometown fans crowded the stage to sing Kizzy Hall’s lyrics back to the band, taking selfies and, later, collecting set-lists.
When headliners Diet Cig finally took the stage, Ace of Cups was vibrating with enthusiasm.
“I feel like Ohio gets a bad rap,” said singer Alex Luciano, as she opened the set. “But every time we’re out here, I [think] this is the best place in the world.” She continued: “We’ve played at the Ace of Cups a few times and each time has been dreamy…y’all are so nice and cool here, and good looking, and punk!”
Diet Cig is notorious for their high-powered live performances, and though Luciano was hindered by a torn ACL, the duo still played with force. On drums, Noah Bowman is unassuming but relentless, driving Luciano’s guitar riffs to their peaks. And Luciano, regardless of dancing ability, is magnetic onstage. As she sways, twists, winks, dips, and–of course–makes her signature high-kick, it’s hard not to look on with glee.
“Raise your hand if your crush is here,” said Alex, at the beginning of “Maid of the Mist.” “During this quiet song you can look at them and wink. Or, if you can’t wink…blink twice.” Later in the set, during what Luciano called the “makeout interlude,” she said: “if you blinked at someone earlier, now is the time to kiss them.”
Though critics of Diet Cig find fault in the band’s saccharine qualities, I found it moving to be in a space where I could trust the musicians onstage to go to bat for each other, and for the crowd.
“A lot of times women, and queer folks, and trans folks, and non-binary folks get told that their voice doesn’t matter,” said Luciano at the end of their performance. “But it does matter. Thank you for coming and for taking up space here.”
Luciano also thanked survivors of sexual assault, saying, “It’s a radical act to be out at a show right now.”
Space, or lack of it, is a constant theme in Diet Cig’s work, and while I think it is all too easy to step on somebody else’s toes in the name of taking space, without considering the ways that one is structurally set-up to inhabit that space already, watching Luciano move freely around the stage is joyful. And I am grateful for the attention that the duo pays to creating a “safer space” at their shows.
Standing in the crowd, relieved to be done with the pressured social niceties that come with Thanksgiving, and thankful to be watching a band that is always so entirely themselves, I felt prepared to take on the world for the first time in a week.