Thekla | 11th September
Photos by Jessica Bartolini
“I don’t know any of you; what are you doing here?” Sophie Allison of Soccer Mommy exclaims, half-jokingly and half with humble sincerity. Sold-out shows of packed crowds in cities the band has never visited before is becoming the norm for Allison even if it still stuns her. Clean, her first proper record for Fat Possum, garnered high acclaim and many new fans for its honest and direct lyricism, weaved within poppy yet vulnerable musicianship. Stopping at the boat tonight, Allison and her band evoke the poppier elements of their sound for a cathartically joyous set.
A stunning and powerful croon hovers over sparse lingering guitar as Brooke Bentham opens the show. Playing solo this evening, it’s a completely different atmosphere to her recordings, stripping everything back to the bare vulnerability of just a voice and a reverberating guitar. It’s a captivating example of Bentham’s songwriting ability; the rollercoaster of emotions that she explores within her songs is gritty, dark, hopeful and downright direct in equal measure. Her words, while vulnerable, are forthright and unflinching, painting a scarred yet still-fighting picture.
“This song’s about my relationship with sadness and depression, as was that last song, if you couldn’t tell.” Her songs power through the melancholy, embracing a sharper tongue and being more arresting for it, displaying a well-worn wisdom that lingers amongst her songs. Coming onto the stage to the sickly-honeyed sounds of ‘Sweet Escape’, Sophie Allison and her band jovially bounce on, singing along with the crowd, as both unite for a liberating moment. Allison’s own music has this power, and as made evident from their consistent engagement tonight, the crowd think so too.
Kicking off with early cuts from Allison’s pre-label releases, it’s immediately evident how having the full band allows the songs to explore a more poppy form. ‘Try’ is effervescent as sleepy, yearning guitar coils itself around Sophie’s drawl, the jaunty nature of this version a more engaging variation. Allison is charismatic and direct, her words not losing any of the cutting wit within the fuller live atmosphere, her voice only enhanced by its maximalism. ‘Your Dog’ bounds exuberantly, rattling with a gritty energy as Allison enunciates, “I don’t wanna be your little pet, at the edge of every bed you sleep in.”
She is bubbly and engaging throughout the set, quick to remember stories of a poor crowd in Houston, “I hate that place” and remarking on just how much better this show has been than their one in Liverpool, if only due to a man unforgivably stealing one of Allison’s chips that night. It just adds to the character of her songs, the personality she invokes within them evidently coming from the human being on the stage right in this moment.
The band leave Sophie to play utterly arresting versions of Springsteen’s ‘I’m On Fire’ and album centre-point ‘Still Clean’, with added reverb on her her voice as she gently coos amongst the airy space. It’s stunning, and cements Allison as one of the most unmistakable in what she does.