“Do you believe in ghosts?” Sophie Allison asks her audience, voice soft and lilting.
Fog glides through the room. Chatter from the restaurant and bar seems to die down as she approaches the stage. The lights above shift from scarlet to fuchsia, indigo to amber throughout each song, as if building their own color theory. Each melody brings a new hue to the mix, triads of gold and violet filling the air.
Tonight, she performs at the House of Blues, a smoky, dim-lit venue with a dine-in bar and restaurant and an air of mysticism. Allison, better known by her stage name Soccer Mommy, has captivated the world of indie rock through her vulnerable lyricism and melodic voice strung over pounding guitars and percussion. Tonight concludes her 2022 tour, Touring, Forever.
The opener, TOPS, brings a sunshine charm to the venue, rays streaming from them in the form of bouncing soft rock. The lead singer, Jane Penny, twirls across the stage between the guitarist David Carriere and the keyboardist Marta Cikojevic, with drummer Riley Fleck at the back. Her voice is sirenic in its own right, a zephyr weaving in and out. “Way to be Loved” has Penny’s voice against the ebb and flow of a funk rhythm, swaying in the direction of the wind. “I Feel Alive” has Carriere and Cikojevic sing as backup, creating a soaring set of vocals that illuminates the whole room. “Direct Sunlight” fills the room with promises of eternal love to the tune of bouncing synths and Penny’s flute-playing.
Sparkling violet Gemini guitar in hand, Soccer Mommy enters the stage. A rubber duck sits on her pedal board. The drummer sets a glass of wine next to the snare. Anticipation pulses through the audience. She gently welcomes the audience to the show, with roars of excitement in response.
“Shotgun” is filled with surrender, as she experiences a love without limits and admits she’s at disposal, like “a bullet in a shotgun, waiting to sound”. “Still Clean” has her standing under the clear sapphire lights, the gleaming rays taking the form of a halo above her. She tells the story of a wolf abandoning its prey after it no longer needs it, and the feeling of being abandoned after never being truly loved. All throughout, the audience follows along with their own singing, different painful experiences mixing into the rhythm.
Her band leaves for a moment, as she is left alone under scarlet lighting. She performs an alternate version of “Fire in the Driveway”, the guitar slowing as her voice swells with emotion. It’s incredibly moving, the image of her lamenting someone who destroyed her from the ground up, yet being strung up with guilt over their demise. Her music is rife with this complexity – simultaneous relief and regret. She welcomes interaction with the audience: detailing how her parents met at UT and her family in El Paso, responds to their quips about the backing band, promises a return to Dallas.
As the show comes to a close, the audience chants for an encore. She returns with the band, and the rhythm swells once more. (“The boys are back in town,” an audience member jests.) One last performance of “Your Dog” features the audience singing along, a tune of breaking away from manipulation and control. Her voice is filled with heartbreak and passion, and as the song comes to a close, she once again thanks the audience for their time with warmth.
All throughout the concert, there is an ambiguity – when heartbreak seizes you, why do you feel a pity towards those that hurt you? Her music balances this agony and sympathy – lost love tugging at your heartstrings, a memory haunting despite your efforts to cloud your mind. Ghosts of the past that surround the stage begin to dissipate through song.
Soccer Mommy’s melodies have enraptured her fans, making her a cornerstone of the indie rock scene. Pouring her soul into the violet Gemini, she proves that through heartache or affection, vulnerability seems to stay – sometimes, forever.