Music Review: Soccer Mommy @ Thekla
by Alice Lacey
Take her word for it. Soccer Mommy, aka 21-year-old singer-songwriter Sophie Allison from Nashville, hasn’t had it easy on her first UK Tour to date. “Bristol seems like a cool place”, she says during a pause in her first ever headlining set at Thekla; clearly struggling to hide her delight at playing on a “fucking boat”.
A traumatic tale concerning the previous 48 hours follows. It turns out that Soccer Mommy had missed their ferry from Ireland to Liverpool so turned up late to their own gig, without the all-important sound check (arguably every band’s worst nightmare). Then, to add salt to the proverbial wound, a drunken Liverpudlian had stolen Allison’s post-gig “fries” from her Styrofoam tray whilst it was in her “fucking hands”; a singular moment of comfort from a shitty day snatched without remorse. Consequently, Soccer Mommy “did not like Liverpool at all”. Bristol had been warned, albeit in a charming, idiosyncratic manner.
Chip-theft aside, and riding a tidal wave of accolades that followed her 2018 album Clean, Sophie Allison has established herself as one of this year’s most sought after indie alt-rock stars. Indeed, with a happy knack for writing songs that tap into the heart-wrenching anxiety of adolescence, the trappings of love and the mysteries of infatuation, Soccer Mommy has, in just a few months, amassed an impressive legion of loyal fans - evidenced by the fact that even on a dreary, hum-drum Tuesday night, the Thekla was at maximum capacity.
Defying convention (given the new album’s popularity), Allison commenced proceedings with two “old” numbers: upbeat ‘Henry’ and down beat ‘Try’. Pleasant but not seminal, the shift in gear and focus on the more angst-ridden, acerbic songs of Clean that followed came as a welcome relief. Enthusiastic whoops from the audience, keen to return to the familiar ensued as the adolescent melodramas of ‘Cool’ and ‘Last Girl’ were executed with laconic ease.
By contrast, ‘Your Dog’, arguably the most unguarded track of the album, simmered with unfettered rage - particularly in it’s opening tirade: “I don’t wanna be your fucking dog that you drag around”. Indeed, if there is ever going to be mix-tape for the #MeToo movement, this song needs to be on it.
"Musicians and bands alike should be thinking about quality, not quantity... Soccer Mommy have mastered this art with aplomb."
The highlight of the night comes when Allison, disarming with her shy-girl demeanor, is left alone to perform a trio of solos. The first, was an evocative cover of Springsteen’s ‘I’m on fire’ where Allison’s laid back, pitch-perfect vocals were a perfect fit for the slow-burning Born in the U.S.A track. At the risk of sounding like an X-Factor Judge, there is no doubt she ‘made it her own’ – arguably doing a lot more justice to the song than Lorde did on her 2017 tour.
Gentler, softer versions of album opener ‘Still Clean’ and ‘Allison’ followed. The former, a stripped back version of the album recording, which showcased Allison’s skill at writing lyrics that pull at the heartstrings perfectly: “I guess I’m, only what you wanted for a little while”; words, which we can all relate to at one point or another in our little lives.
The band then returned for a more impassioned delivery of ‘Scorpio Rising’, the center piece of Clean and as recent interviews have revealed, Allison’s personal favorite: “It’s this huge moment where I realize that whilst I’ve been trying to be cool and detached, I’ve become attached – and now I’m about to lose everything...”. Thus ensued three and a half minutes of unabashed indie-emo perfection.
Then, without warning, just as the audience were beginning to get going, the gig ended, just like that. Circa eight songs, forty-five minutes of stage time and done. Off Soccer Mommy went, into the Bristol night, no doubt senses heightened to the omnipresent threat of post-gig snack thieves. They didn’t even play my favorite song ‘Skin’ (awesome track, do try and listen if you can).
Whilst some may feel aggrieved, nay, short-changed from the truncated performance (my fellow gig- goers commented on this quite hotly), in my view, the value of brevity cannot be underplayed. Indeed, I cannot stress strongly enough how little I welcome the prospect of a band clanking through every song they know with tepid fervour – particularly when I have spent a long day at the coal face. Musicians and bands alike should be thinking about quality, not quantity. They need do no more than get up there, play their eight or nine best songs and go away again. In their desire to give value for money, and get those Instagram “likes”, bands have forgotten how to leave a crowd wanting more, but in my (perhaps blinkered) view, Soccer Mommy have mastered this art with aplomb – they made an impact, then disappeared before the audience knew what hit ‘em. That’s entertainment indeed.
For those wanting more, Soccer Mommy are back in Bristol supporting Kacey Musgraves on 23 October 2018 at the Hippodrome. Go, be beguiled, like I was.
Alice is an ardent music lover, piano player, sporadic scribbler and red wine drinker. Having graduated from King's College in London many moons ago with a degree in English Literature, she is now enjoying the delights of Bristol life whilst working full time as a Solicitor.