On Thursday night in Orlando, a crowd fought through downtown St. Patrick’s Day traffic to see Soccer Mommy play at The Abbey. The show got off to a rough start. After the opening set by Peel Dream Magazine, there were issues setting up Soccer Mommy’s equipment. Sound techs scrambled and took nearly thirty minutes to diagnose and correct the problem. Soccer Mommy then took the stage a half-hour late, did a quick soundcheck, and started the show.
Singer-songwriter Sophie Allison was backed by a four-piece band — guitarist Julian Powell, bassist Graeme Goetz, drummer Roll Haas, and Rodrigo Avendano on guitar and keyboards.
The band kicked off the show with the first two songs off 2020’s Color Theory, “Bloodstream” and “Circle the Drain.” The songs, like most of the set, were louder and more rocking than the album versions, the band playing with a bit more distortion and a lot more intensity. The distorted power chords contrasted the jangly lead licks, striking a balance between power and melodic pop.
Allison and the band played a 90-minute set of songs from both albums with a couple of surprises thrown in. “Is there anyone here named Henry?” Allison asked. No one responded. “This doesn’t go out to anybody then,” she said. The band then played “Henry,” a little-known track from the For Young Hearts demo album.
Midway through the show, they debuted a new song built around an infectious bass groove. “You’re the first people to hear this,” Allison said. Towards the end of the set, the band played a cover of Slowdive’s “Dagger.”
A gritty rendition of “Cool” showcased Soccer Mommy’s best guitar riff. The band’s greatest moments came in the juxtaposition of the light and dark — breezy music with angry lyrics, crunchy power chords with jangling melodies.
Stage presence wasn’t a strong suit for the band. Allison and her bandmates were mostly stationary on the small stage and did little to interact with the crowd. Space between songs was filled with ambient noise or squealing feedback. But the songs themselves sounded great, from the sing-along choruses to the thumping rhythms. Allison’s gift for catchy melodies and vocal cadences overtop mid-tempo jams shone through.
Near the end of the show, the rest of the band left the stage and Allison performed solo. Her clean guitar drenched in chorus effects, she played a pair of ballads — “Still Clean” and the aforementioned “Dagger — her soft voice and gentle strumming bringing vulnerability to the set.
Soccer Mommy ended the regular set with “Yellow Is the Color of Her Eyes” and left the stage, but then returned for a two-song encore. First came “Your Dog,” the song that had introduced many to Allison’s music. The crowd danced and sang along to every word as the band delivered its best performance of the night. To follow it up, they closed the set with “Scorpio Rising.” The song began soft, Allison lightly strumming a clean guitar, before the band came in and introduced the pounding rhythm.
After tech problems caused the late start, Allison never seemed totally satisfied with the sound, often asking for adjustments between songs. Even so, she and the band worked through the less than perfect conditions and delivered an exciting set of some of Allison’s best work.