This Saturday, a sold-out crowd filtered in to the Church basement, where three killer bands belted out sets to warm the chilly audience. Soccer Mommy headlined, the Nashville-based project of Sophie Allison, backed by four musicians, giving them the biggest sound I’ve heard them at yet. With three guitars and the addition of keys, they updated their glittery punk jams to create a set of grungy rock and slow burns. Soccer Mommy have been one of the rising stars of 2018, and in their performance at First Unitarian, they showed why.
Harmony Woods opened for the night, the Drexel-based four-piece led by Sofia Verbilla. Already one can see the parallels between her music and Soccer Mommy’s, with each basing their songs around melancholy moods and prismatic guitar riffs. Harmony Woods’ songs are emo-adjacent, with crescendos and on-a-dime dynamics that defy common structure. Verbilla herself has a charming presence, polling the crowd for a Wawa v. Sheetz consensus (Wawa by a landslide) after their first song. Though Harmony Woods was only the first in a night of stellar artists, they captured the crowd’s interest like a headliner.
Ratboys followed shortly after, the Chicago band led by Julia Steiner & Dave Sagan, who rocked through technical difficulties with the power of positive thinking. Their brand of rock evokes jam band and power punk, with killer solos and guitar effects that create a hint of midwestern howl. Steiner introduced each song with a quick explanation, which showed off their idiosyncratic songwriting style and mix of inspiration. With Steiners entrancing voice and the band’s frenetic energy, Ratboys performed a set of riotous punk rock that brought the heat to the growing crowd.
By the time Soccer Mommy took the stage, the basement of the Church was packed to burst. The now five-piece band began with “Henry,” the intro off of their debut album For Young Hearts. The band then switched to their newer songs from their breakout album Clean, such as the killer track “Your Dog” and “Cool,” both of which could be tied for best bass line of 2018. With the addition of keys and an extra guitar, the group could explore the sound of Soccer Mommy with fuzzy, blissed out guitar sounds, shiny effects, and raging solos.
During a solo portion where Allison performed with her electric, she gave a taste of her steady voice, low-key guitar skills, and puncturing songwriting. Her cover of Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” even seemed more pointed, taking its originally somber tone and expanding it into an examination of pain and desire. The band returned for a couple more songs, including the anthemic “Scorpio Rising” to close. They were quickly brought back for an encore, and performed the despondently strange “Wildflowers” to close out the night.
The show was a perfect winter mood, with the heat of the Church basement combating the outside winds. Similarly, the glow from the crowd was equally comforting, each of the bands clearly garnering a devoted following within Philadelphia. Never failing to bring a sense of swagger with each Philly show, Soccer Mommy is a voice I can’t wait to hear more of in 2019.
Photo courtesy of Natalia Mantini.