Soccer Mommy has just started to ride the wave of her success, and while listening to her records proves she’s extremely worthy of the hype, experiencing it live makes you ask yourself how you’d been living without her music for so long.
The sign on the door outside Johnny Brenda’s reads: “Tonight Soccer Mommy. This show is sold out”. You walk up the stairs to the venue, and here it is again: “The show tonight is sold out, there are no tickets at the door”. And even though there was fair warning about this beforehand, it is hard to believe just how many people are packed in and around Johnny Brenda’s tall corner stage. Even the balcony is lacking space to move. The venue is overflowing with people eager to see one of 2018’s breakout stars, Soccer Mommy.
Soccer Mommy’s album Clean, released on Fat Possum on March 2nd, is a raw, delicate, and unashamedly honest body of work. Sophie Allison, the girl behind the moniker, fills every song with an overwhelming emotion, be that jealousy, insecurity, sadness, longing, or a cocktail of rage, frustration, and acceptance. The album consolidated her as one of indie’s biggest names today, and so Soccer Mommy’s first US headline tour after Clean was unsurprisingly filled with new fans who were craving to see her new material live firsthand.
The night starts with “Henry”, the opener of Allison’s first release For Young Hearts. Next up is another old one, “Try”, from Collection. This small gesture shows Allison isn’t resting comfortably on the fact that her latest release was a hit, opening with songs that might be strange to most in the crowd. Well, if you’re getting acquainted with Soccer Mommy, here are Soccer Mommy classic for you to learn the words to, and if you’re diehard Soccer Mommy fan, here’s a treat for you.
Sophie Allison’s onstage banter is spot on. Addressing the audience frequently, she engages in conversation with those who respond: a girl excitedly and repeatedly requested she play “Skin”, to which Allison grinned and responded “I’m not telling you the setlist! Wait and see”. Around two songs in, Allison tells the Philly crowd that she had a cheesesteak earlier in the day, and they cheer. But she breaks the ice, “It’s been four hours and I’m still sweating” and proceeds to tell us exactly how many bottles of water she’s emptied trying to water the food down. This casual and genuine coolness gives the audience the feeling that they’re being treated like an old friend, something most artists desperately search for and can’t achieve. In a sweaty and packed concert venue, everyone suddenly is comfortable and feels like they are being addressed.
The setlist is mostly extracted from Clean, “Last Girl”, “Your Dog”, and “Cool” are the more upbeat moments in the set, making the crowd sway and sing along to every word. But the night’s most special moment was just around the corner. The band leaves the stage and Allison is left to her own devices. By herself, the atmosphere in the room changes, and everyone focuses on her intently. It’s quiet and intimate as Allison tackles a subdued cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire”, delivers it effortlessly, and everyone is still transfixed. Then she plays “Still Clean”, her recent album’s opener, and builds up momentum in the room – though still soft-sounding, the song’s lyrics express hurt and disappointment, and when Allison is alone onstage these feelings are clearly heard and reach every single one in the room. She’s building up to something.
Her band return, and play what Allison deems as the album’s climax, “Scorpio Rising”. The momentum from “Still Clean” is tripled during the start of the next song, and as the song builds up, so do the feelings of everyone who’s watching her: people are unsure whether to indulge and give in to the song’s sadness or to admire the beauty of it all playing out. The song fills the room, and as soon as she says “I’m just a victim of changing planets/ My Scorpio rising and my parents”, the audience reaches catharsis.
Soccer Mommy has only just started to ride the wave of her success, and while listening to her records proves she’s extremely worthy of the hype, experiencing it live makes you ask yourself how you’d been living without her music for so long. With no extremely loud or uptempo moments in the set, Soccer Mommy keeps you hypnotised for the whole hour, and crawls under your skin in the best way.
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📸 © Nicole Almeida