Friday night marked my first visit to Cannery Ballroom in almost two years, since my last stop was a couple months before the midsize club shut its doors in response to COVID-19 in March 2020. Friday's visit was bittersweet, due in part to the owners of Cannery Ballroom and its sister venues Mercy Lounge and The High Watt announcing that they’ll close up shop when their lease is up in May 2022. Though venue owner Todd Olhauser & Co. hope to reopen the venues elsewhere, and property owner Zach Liff announced he’s planning to continue hosting live music on the site, the days are numbered for the current configuration, which has played a big role in the evolution of local music since 2003. But let’s not bury the lede: The show marked a triumphant homecoming for Soccer Mommy, ending the first leg of the rockers’ COVID-delayed tour for their outstanding 2020 album Color Theory. As I walked in, the space was already mostly full of eager young fans ready to hear Soccer Mommy’s much-loved newest record played live on their home turf for the first time.
Within a few minutes, supporting act Squirrel Flower — on the road behind a recent LP called Planet (i) — kicked off their opening set. Ella Williams, the Massachusetts-born singer-songwriter at the core of the band, took the stage solo. A hushed drone of whispery vocals and sparse layers of guitar floated over the anxious chatter rising and falling in the crowd. Soon enough, the rest of Williams’ band came out to amplify the low rumble that she started. Slowcore tempos and melancholy, droning guitar meant the performance set a contemplative mood rather than a hyped-up one. That said, Squirrel Flower’s slightly downtempo cover of Caroline Polachek’s dance-pop gem “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” seemed to be exactly what this audience needed to get its ears perked up and put its phones away.
After a short break, local hero Sophie Allison, who started releasing home recordings as Soccer Mommy in 2015, stormed the stage in a black cloak, brandishing a red lightsaber. Her band — including frequent collaborator Julian Powell on guitar and longtime local MVPs Rollum Haas at the drum throne and Rodrigo Avendano on guitars and synths — soon appeared. She traded the costume weapon for a guitar, and they launched their set with the first three songs from Color Theory: driving opener “Bloodstream,” standout single “Circle the Drain” and the slow-burning “Royal Screw Up.” As the night went on, they brought out older fan favorites like “Last Girl” from 2018’s Fat Possum debut Clean and “Henry” from Allison’s 2016 EP For Young Hearts.
The group’s softly delivered, emotionally charged lyrics about isolation, depression and existential unease seemed to resonate strongly with this near-sold-out crowd. We’ve all had to cope with the stresses of pandemic lockdown, which began roughly two weeks after Color Theory was released, and things are still a long way from what you might call “normal.” Dissonant guitar lines tangled and resolved into dreamy harmonies, complementing Allison’s somber and confessional examinations, which feel easily relatable despite their immensely personal nature.
Just past the show’s midpoint, Allison declared an early start to the Halloween season with “Lucy,” a look at the struggle to make peace with yourself wrapped up in a tale of being seduced by evil. The group’s affection for music that stretches out the sweet-and-sour flavor of power pop is no secret, but Allison’s solo rendition of “Dagger,” from the catalog of shoegaze legends Slowdive, was still a pleasant surprise. The main set closed with “Yellow Is the Color of Her Eyes,” an introspective tune about coping with inevitable loss that Allison quipped was more like two songs given its runtime of more than seven minutes.
Of course, one doesn’t simply roll out when one has a crowd like this one in the palm of one’s hand. Soon, Allison and the band returned to encore with their ominous single “Your Dog” and folk-rocking anthem “Scorpio Rising,” both choice picks from Clean. With the last song’s slow build echoing in our brains, the group left the stage for the last time of the evening — headed for a much-needed break before the tour gets back on the road in a couple of weeks.