Self-proclaimed “slop pop” duo Diet Cig graced Reno with their presence at the Holland Project on May 1, 2017- a Monday night, meaning that the crowd was criminally thin for such a great band, but the energy from those who were able to attend rivaled that of much larger crowds I’ve seen. The crowd was mostly made up of girls and femmes, which, speaking as a queer woman of color, was a frankly refreshing change. There were a couple of cuties with glitter highlighter and others wearing Diet Cig merch. I was also dressed (somewhat) for the occasion, wearing a skirt in preparation for hearing “Tummy Ache.”

Reno’s own Just Guys Being Dudes began the night with some playful, surfy pop indie tunes featuring a ukulele all three members (who are not actually guys, despite the misleading band name) on vocals. To borrow a phrase from another band, “island pop” is a fairly accurate description of the band- but with more than a slight hint of bitter relationship angst, evident in songs like “B4 I Punch U in Urs.” I had never heard of Just Guys Being Dudes before that night, let alone seen them play, but by the end of the night I had resolved to see them more often.

34028267810_d36ce87ff9_oJust Guys Being Dudes on behalf of Bridget Conway for the Holland Project.

Next up was Seattle-based, one-woman band Lisa Prank, who was accompanying Diet Cig on this tour. Lisa Prank is the epitome of DIY: sole member Robin Edwards sings and plays guitar, with the rest of the music being provided by a drum machine. Clad in a velvet cheetah print robe, sunflower shorts, and sparkly crown with “PRANK” on it, Edwards was met with plenty of cheers after just one song. And for good reason: Lisa Prank’s style of  90s-esque, slightly bratty girl punk is hard not to at least bob your head to. The set featured songs of off Lisa Prank’s Adult Teen record, released last summer, including “Starting Again,” which is ridiculously and somewhat depressingly relatable.

33592663694_9da3ae6d7f_oLisa Prank on behalf of Heather Hawke for the Holland Project.

Prior to their set, Diet Cig members Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman could be seen “warming up”: doing stretches, dancing, and jumping jacks. I had never seen Diet Cig before, and as soon as I walked into the Holland Project I was shocked at just how short Luciano was. She stood next to me during Lisa Prank’s set and with myself standing at 5’5, I was at least 4 inches taller than her (also, yes, I did revert back to my 16 year old fangirl self when she stood next to me).

What Luciano lacks in size, however, she more than makes up for in passion and enthusiasm. Before launching into “Sixteen,” Luciano established a “safe set,” explicitly asking the crowd to be respectful to each other. As a result, people weren’t crushed up against the stage (or each other), unlike during any headlining set I’d seen before, but it was refreshing to have a band be so open and caring about their audience. Plus, it meant that I easily scored a front row spot to Diet Cig.

34303804131_1d2a203c7d_oDiet Cig on behalf of Heather Hawke for the Holland Project. 

The musical and friend chemistry between Luciano and Bowman is so strong that Diet Cig’s lack of a bassist is negligible. During their set, which consisted of older songs and tunes off of their freshly-released debut LP, Swear I’m Good At This, the two were constantly trading glances and grins. NPR’s Mike Kantzif description of Luciano as a “guitar-slinging human tornado on a Pixy Stix bender” is entirely accurate; Luciano barely stood still throughout the entire set, dancing around unabashedly and jumping off of Bowman’s drums. Luciano is just as charming when speaking: in her, small, high voice, she reminded the audience that “We’re all nuanced love beams of light” and repeatedly encouraged the crowd to “stay hydrated.”

33624498953_293249ed35_oDiet Cig on behalf of Heather Hawke for the Holland Project.

If you weren’t able to make it out to Holland that night, you may have just missed the absolute cutest show the venue has ever hosted. You also missed out on the opportunity to talk to and take dorky selfies with Lisa Prank and Diet Cig, the members of whom are all incredibly sweet and friendly. Hopefully they’ll be back again soon- and if they are, be sure to come through!

(Cover photo on behalf of Heather Hawke for the Holland Project. Check out all of Conway and Hawke’s photos on the Holland Project’s Flickr.)