LIVE: Diet Cig / The Spook School @ Moth Club, London

By James Davenport

The Moth Club in Hackney is one of the more unsuspecting music venues in London. Its entrance and reception room take the form of a traditional Legion or “working man’s pub” but much like the back of the wardrobe that leads to Narnia, there’s a small door that leads into a unique and almost secret music venue.

The shiny, glittery arched ceilings and brightly coloured, balloon covered dancefloor place this evening’s gig, visually at least, somewhere in the region of American High School prom meets ‘Phoenix Nights’.

Tonight the Moth Club is playing host to two bands that care about creating safe spaces for gig go-ers, so the venue have introduced unisex toilet facilities for the show.

Kicking things off is Scotland’s The Spook School, who introduce themselves as “one of those queer bands you’ve heard about”. Their crossover sound of power pop and emo also channels the catchy 1970’s ‘chart punk’ bands, think Muncie Girls playing Buzzcocks songs.

Lyrically, The Spook School are quite intense, covering very current issues on gender and abuse. Their shared triple vocal duties intensify the gravity and urgency of each topic, whether it’s calling out “fuck you I’m still alive!” in a song about abusive relationships, the self-explanatory “Burn Masculinity” or “I wish I was as strong as my Mother”.

Despite the weight of their lyrical content, The Spook School are still able to bring good vibes and energy to the stage, uniting the crowd and very much living the idea of self-expression.

As New York based duo Diet Cig take to the stage, frontwoman and guitarist Alex Luciano takes a moment to explain that this show and every Diet Cig show is a safe space free from discrimination or prejudice in any form. Luciano’s brief speech is met with hearty applause and cheers of endearment.

With Higgs Boson-like energy, Diet Cig explode into action. For a two piece, their sound is dynamic and fills the room with ease, and as balloons start flying it becomes clear that this isn’t just a gig – this is a party.

Between vocal lines Luciano leaps around care free, on and off of bandmate Noah Bowman’s drum kit. As well as their very relatable songs about coming of age, Diet Cig also take time to address some heavier issues with modern society. And much like The Spook School, they let the songs speak for themselves.

Alex’s performance has an almost child-like freedom to it. She never stops smiling, even while singing songs that must have been written with a heavy heart. Diet Cig soon launch into their single “Tummy Ache” which was released at the start of the year, which hits on the importance of feeling safe and having fun whether you’re gay, straight, bi-sexual, transgender or non-binary. The band are met with an entire room of people who are comfortable in their own skin right now, chanting “it’s hard to be a punk whilst wearing a skirt!” A lyric that has clearly resonated the fans here tonight.

Alex and Noah return to the stage for an encore explaining they want to give the crowd :a proper goodbye” before launching into the title track of their most recent album, ‘Swear I’m Good at This’. In response: yes, yes you are good at this!

Tonight has been all about having fun, having a good time and really driving home the punk ethos that it’s OK to be different or not fit ‘the norm’. Both Diet Cig and The Spook School have shown us that if they continue along the paths currently beneath their feet, they could end up becoming voices of a generation.