Soccer Mommy, the musical personality of singer-songwriter Sophie Allison, gave a vulnerable, visceral performance at the Town Ballroom last Friday. Her first-ever gig in Buffalo, Allison captivated the audience with a dynamic and heavy night of music.
Allison started her musical career in high school, posting DIY home recordings on her Bandcamp page. Her earliest releases, like the aptly-titled “songs from my bedroom,” are stripped back and intimate, the sort of lo-fi indie that anyone with a laptop and a guitar can make. But her performance on Friday couldn’t be further from those humble beginnings.
Allison pulled much of the setlist from “Sometimes, Forever,” her most recent album. Produced by Oneohtrix Point Never (an experimental electronic music producer whose recent credits include The Weeknd’s “After Hours” and “Dawn FM”), the album was a vast departure from Allison’s work as a minimalist solo artist. With help from her touring band, she was able to bring the heavy, textured songs to life on stage.
The night kicked off with a set from Lightning Bug, a New York-based indie rock band. They performed folksy, dreamy songs like “The Right Thing Is Hard to Do” with a quiet confidence.
“As a child, I used to hide in the nooks of playground slides,” Audrey Kang, the band’s frontwoman, sang. To the audience’s delight, Kang divulged that the line was inspired by her childhood in Buffalo — the playground slides in question are at a local daycare.
After Lightning Bug left the stage, fans were left buzzing with excitement for Soccer Mommy’s set. The ballroom was filled with fans of all ages, from groups of teenagers to hip middle-aged dads.
Allison soon took the stage with a glittery purple guitar in tow, the words “Gemini Bitch” emblazoned across the fretboard. The band launched right into “Bones,” the opener from “Sometimes, Forever.” The song — an exploration of self-doubt in a relationship — set a vulnerable tone for the rest of the night.
Before playing what is arguably her biggest hit, “Circle the Drain,” Allison shared a quick moment of banter with the audience — about wings, of course.
“We went on a wings tour through the town,” Allison said. “That’s a lot of chicken.”
She gave a shout out to local favorite Gabriel’s Gate and the crowd replied with deafening cheers before the words had even fully left her mouth.
One of the noisiest moments of the night was “Crawling in My Skin,” the first song that really allowed the band to show off their chops. The grunge-inspired, slow-burning track built up to a cacophony of cymbal crashing and guitar shredding that left the audience stunned.
The stage backdrop, with its colorful, inflatable clouds and trippy projected graphics, glitched and pulsated during “Unholy Affliction,” an eerie song about the hardships of success and perfectionism. Lead guitarist Rodrigo Avendano hopped onto a synthesizer for the dark, electronic track reminiscent of a late ‘90s Radiohead outtake.
“I’m tired of the money and all of the talking at me,” Allison sang. “I’m barely a person, mechanically working.”
In a night full of deeply personal music, the most intimate moment came during Allison’s performance of “Still Clean,” a cut from much earlier in her career.
The rest of the band left Allison alone on stage with her guitar, illuminated by a single blue spotlight, as she sang the lovesick ballad. Silence fell over the audience, who swayed to the song with their phone flashlights in the air.
The band returned to the stage for a few more songs, closing with one the audience had been waiting for all night: the fan-favorite “Yellow is the Color of Her Eyes.” The memorable sound of the opening guitar riff roused the audience immediately, as Allison grinned at their enthusiasm.
When Allison and company walked off stage, the crowd erupted into applause and cheered for an encore. The band happily obliged, and returned for “Don’t Ask Me” and “Your Dog,” another fan favorite.
“Your Dog” may have been the perfect note to end the night on. It’s possibly the quintessential Soccer Mommy song, a bitingly cathartic track about being walked all over by a loved one.
If the fans repeatedly screaming “I love you, Sophie” at the top of their lungs is any indication, Soccer Mommy’s first gig in Buffalo was a hit with the audience. The performance truly encapsulated the unique energy of her music: confessional and angry in equal measure, with plenty of room for dancing.
Meret Kelsey is the senior arts editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Meret Kelsey is an assistant arts editor at The Spectrum.