It’s well established that an indie act has officially “made it” when no one in attendance to one of their sold-out shows seems to have ever attended a concert before… This was certainly the case for Soccer Mommy’s September 18th stop at Union Transfer, which had what appeared to be newly-returning-to-the-city Temple and Drexel University sorority girls and frat boys, who clogged the ticketing lines, ID checks, and bar, apparently unfamiliar with… just about anything. The girls, scantily clad in the style of the starlets of TRL, looked as though they easily could have gone to see Harry Styles the night before at the Wells Fargo Center, while the boys appeared to be trying their hand at Tinder Live…
This was all especially weird, considering that the quirkily moody and ineffably self-deprecating singer/songwriter seemed to be entirely unaware that she was a “star” of any sort… Twenty minutes before her set started, the venue lights still up, Sophie Allison, AKA Soccer Mommy, casually wandered onto the stage to help her crew finish setting up her equipment as hundreds of her [mostly sober] fans howled in admiration. There was something charming about the fact that, to her, the 1,300-capacity venue seemed no different from the famous basement of the First Unitarian Church, which she played the last time she was in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, but the fact that so many of those in attendance had likely not even heard of the famous punk venue was surely more than a little disheartening to her long-standing fans in the room.
Soccer Mommy’s brand of lo-fi bedroom pop that bears more than a passing resemblance to Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville is not what makes her unique. What makes her unique is that Clean, her 2018 debut LP, is the best lo-fi bedroom pop debut since (and heir apparent to) Phair’s Guyville… And color theory, her 2020 follow-up, might be even better (than her debut, not Phair’s…) Her 15-song set boasted the vast majority of color theory and half of Clean, in addition to a cover of Slowdive’s “Dagger.” And while the performance did feature the majority of Soccer Mommy’s best and most anthemic expressions of teen angst (“circle the drain,” “royal screw up,” “Last Girl,” etc.), they primarily filled the first half of the set. And the ineffable intimacy of her sound left much of the audience, who seemed to be expecting some sort of a rock set amidst the relatively cavernous Union Transfer, puzzled as to how conduct themselves… Although the setting didn’t exactly do a disservice to Soccer Mommy’s sound, it was not likely the best way for most of the first-time audience to experience it live (But I guess that’s fame for you…)
Opening the evening was indie folk singer/songwriter Squirrel Flower (Ella Williams), who also seems to have taken a page out of Phair’s catalogue (She even does a devastatingly good cover of Guyville track “Explain it to Me.”) The majority of her set came from recently released LP Planet (i), but also featured her surprisingly complimentary, minimalist cover of Caroline Polacheck’s “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” (perhaps a bit of foreshadowing to Polacheck’s upcoming tour, which features a November 29th stop at Union Transfer). Although the venue was also lacking the intimacy deserving to such an artist, fans were surprisingly attentive and the half-hour set worked as a nice preview to Squirrel Flower’s next stop in Eraserhood, which will take place February 12th at the far cozier PhilaMOCA.