Soccer Mommy heated up the Amsterdam Bar & Hall before a packed house of sweaty fans. This was an 18+ show and heavy on the 18-21 crowd, although it also made a great date night for others. It was a great opportunity to see two impressive young indie musicians play some great live music on a summery Friday night in St. Paul.
Ella Williams, aka Squirrel Flower, opened the show. The recent graduate of Iowa’s Grinnell College walked on stage in a long sleeve dress and brown cowgirl boots, with no band to accompany her. A lone spotlight shined through her curly brown hair as she began to softly strum her electric guitar and sing sweetly over the guitar tones she created. She appeared poised, confident, and stoic as she performed and then faded to quietly end the first song. The audience was unsure if the song had ended, but then applauded once realizing it had. After again featuring her angelic voice in slow, solo songs, a buzz of conversation could be heard with the crowd’s attention waning. At this moment, her supporting band entered the stage and Squirrel Flower reclaimed the listeners. The accompanying bass and drums, along with her now more spirited guitar work, blended with Williams beautiful singing, made this a recipe for success. After concluding one of her most popular songs from her Contact Sports CD, “Conditions”, she told the story of how a Russian rapper, Face, plagiarized that song and how she chuckles when thinking of Russian mobsters listening to her song.
My favorite song was the intense, “Not Your Prey”, another song from Contact Sports. Williams doesn’t mince her words in warning, “If you touch me, I’ll lash out. Don’t f… with me. If I must, you know I will. I’m not your prey, I’m not your kill.” She told the crowd that they have again been opening some shows for Soccer Mommy and it’s been great. She was looking forward to hearing them play tonight, as just like us, she enjoys listening to her favorite bands. Before playing her final two songs, Williams thanked us for listening then finished in impressive fashion, going from loud to soft to loud again. After the show, the elegant young singer explained she had recently moved back home to Boston after finishing school in Grinnell, Iowa. But she was really enjoying being back in the Midwest for this handful of shows supporting Soccer Mommy. She loved playing for a full house tonight and how receptive they were to her music. Next month, Squirrel Flower is touring with Loving.
Similar to the opening act, Soccer Mommy is the alias of its female artist. In this case, its singer/guitarist Sophie Allison. And despite the name, this 22-year old is not a soccer mom. She is instead, a breakthrough indie musician that got her start on Bandcamp and is now selling out venues and soon releasing her fourth album. She wore a black, “X Files: Deny Everything” t-shirt , purple knit skirt, and sparkly sneakers as she readied her similarly sparkly pink and purple guitars during soundcheck. The sold-out crowd drew tighter to the stage in anticipation, as they sang along to the pre-show recording of Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated”.
Space sounds accompanied the entrance of Allison and what is truly the band Soccer Mommy. The lead singer stood front and center, her hair fashioned in bunches with barrettes. The five-piece band played a long instrumental introduction then segued into “Henry” to open the show. The crowd roared as she quickly paused for water. Thanking the crowd, she asked if they were excited and continued, “I’m really excited. You know why? I get to sleep in tomorrow. That’s a big deal on the road. I’m going to take a shower too!” Getting back to business, she said, “We are Soccer Mommy and we are going to play an old song, “Try”.” This song resides on her 2017 album, Collection, and is definitely a spunky, catchy song.
We learned she is a Stardew Valley addict when she jokingly polled the audience to see if they’d watch her play the game if she became a streamer. Back to the task at hand, she spoke about their album, Clean, that they put out about a year-and-a-half ago, and then played one of its songs, “Last Girl”. This song is also a peppy one and reminds me of songs by Alex Lahey, the Aussie who was in town a few weeks ago.
“Wow it’s hot!” exclaimed Allison. “I’ve worn this outfit like four times on tour, and each time I’ve had to change. I keep hoping it’s fall, but not yet.” She’s darn right, as this third week of September was a bonus week of summer temps in the Twin Cities. Unfortunately, it made the packed Amsterdam one sweaty place to be Friday night. Perhaps a bit crabby from the heat, Allison said, “We are now going to play an angry song.” When the crowd cheered, she responded, “You are an angry crowd. It’s called…. I’m not going to tell you what it’s called. You’ll have to figure it out.” The song was her popular tune, “Your Dog”, which gets the point across quickly with the words, “I don’t wanna be your f…ing dog, that you drag around.”
After slowing it down with “Blossom (Wasting All My Time)”, the keyboardist featured on the song had to take off his glasses to towel off and Allison wondered, “Is there A/C?” As the crowd, chanted “A/C, A/C” she concluded, “I think there is A/C, but it’s still hot. Look at the steam coming off you guys. Ok, it’s fog. But still hot.” After introducing her band, she said, “This song goes out to you guys for being such a cool crowd.” Her song, “Cool,” has that Sheryl Crow vibe, especially with its “Youoooooohs” and earned the greatest applause of the evening. After soaking that up, Allison deduced, “That was fun. Sometimes you play a song, and it’s really fun. That was really fun.” “Here’s something special. We spent all March recording a bunch of new songs. The songs aren’t out yet, but this one is. It’s called “Lucy”.” The title is short for Lucifer, which explains the darker sound of her new release. This first taste of the upcoming album whets the appetite for what other flavors it should contain.
“I’m going to play a couple of solo songs,” Allison announced as her bandmates exited. ” First, I’m going to play a cover of a Bruce Springsteen song, “I’m on Fire”. You’ve probably heard it before.” For those who hadn’t heard Soccer Mommy’s version, they were in for a treat as Allison played the familiar song in her own style, rather than trying to duplicate the original. She also played “Still Clean” on her own and talked about their stop for lunch in Clear Lake, Iowa. She was amazed by a huge pep rally going on where they were crowning the Homecoming King, and the cheerleaders announced they were going to nationals in Orlando. The whole scenario sounded so foreign to her.
With the band back by her side, their leader asked everyone to give it up for Squirrel Flower. “They were great. We are very lucky to have them on tour with us. And I’m happy. I was able to take my poll to see if I should be a streamer. We have one more.” That one more was “Scorpio Rising”, which started quietly then the viscous drumming and cymbal crashes along with the energized guitar work and some synthesizer magic built it into the loudest and most powerful song of the night.
There would still be an encore of course. The musicians returned to the stage along with a bottle of wine they passed around while getting set up. A fan commented on Allison’s shoes, and she said, “Oh, you like my shoes. I like sparkle. This one’s called “Wildflowers”. Thank you guys. We’ll see you next time.” After concluding their extra song, the band quickly exited, the house lights came on, and The Cranberries “Linger” signaled that the show was indeed over. While the one hour set didn’t make it a long show, it certainly was a hot one.
Intro / Henry / Try / Last Girl / Your Dog / Blossom (Wasting All My Time) / Cool / Lucy / I’m on Fire / Still Clean / Scorpio Rising. Encore : Wildflowers.