Photos by M0.
In many ways, this show felt like a showcase of sorts. Emily Yacina, Yohuna, and Soccer Mommy are all solo projects that periodically play with full band setups but showcase the work of one songwriter. They all make or have made music that could be called “Bedroom Pop” though as they get more famous they moved to record in studios, and they are all in one way or another affiliated with bedroom pop royalty label Orchid Tapes. All of the acts could have played together a year ago, but now Soccer Mommy is bigger than ever, with a New York Times feature and an album on Indie giant Fat Possum. Once just another wolf in the pack, at Baby’s All Right she seemed poised to breakout into new territory as her friends and fans cheered her on.
That sense of community was something that Johanne Swanson AKA Yohuna exemplified as she opened the show. Her sense of production brought to mind indie powerhouses like Imogene Heap and best exemplified the sensibility most associated with this bill: unassuming songs that are as pretty as they are humble. She played alongside Warren Hilldebrand, who records under the name Foxes of Fiction and co-founded Orchid Tapes, on guitar and drum loops. During one song she was joined by fellow Orchid Tapes artist Rachel Levy, who records under the name R.L. Kelly. During her set, Yohuna spoke on how powerful the scene made her feel. “I think half the battle in playing music on a stage is believing you deserve to be there. I think that’s why it’s so hard for women to get onstage. That’s why I like playing (shows) with all women: it feels like there’s a space for us” she said in between her drifting pop constructions.
The desire to subvert the norm and take up space continued with Emily Yacina, who boldly spent almost as much time tuning her guitar as playing her indie folk songs. Screwing up her face, almost nasally whining, her set was more jarring then someone who had only heard her new fuzzy album Heart Sky might except. While Yohuna at times offered backing vocals, many times Yacina sang alone, without the layers of harmony and reverb that accompany her on tape.
As Soccer Mommy took the stage with the Avril Lavigne deep cut “Freak Out” playing, it was clear that Sophie Allison was feeling the celebratory mood of the crowd, which included rowdy friends as well as Orchid Tapes devotees. Just like the 2000s pop songstress, Allison fully embraced her power onstage, making the most out of the pedestal. “This is a song called Allison. It’s about me. They’re all about me, just so you know” she joked.
Allison’s songs seem the most polished, positivity danceable in places. Out of all of the acts, she was the one that straight ahead rocked. “Inside Out” has a groove that the recording only hinted at, with Allison’s slightly southern twang giving the “clawing at my insides” line extra grit. On “Outworn” she delivered the line “So sweet when you wanna be/I almost thought you cared ’bout me” with almost a smirk. “Look who’s on top now” she almost seemed to say.
Despite showing more muscle than her peers, her songs have the same knack of deliberately weaving together small details to paint a vivid picture. “Wild flowers don’t grow in the city. my heart feels grey…my feet are cold.” she twangs on a forlorn indie country song about the depressive elements of New York. Despite Allison’s early insistence that her and her band of Nashville natives (two of whom were on their first tour) were all collectively Soccer Mommy, she dismissed them to play a couple of songs just herself. It was a reminder of her past as a solo act, and how she initially connected with the scene that had gathered at Baby’s that night.
What was most exciting was when she brought the band back for their closing song “Cool.” Out sometime next year, the song is a punchy ode to a badass heartbreaker girl. It’s basically the plot of Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl”, but told through the sonic lens of Soccer Mommy. The song’s monster chorus sounds something that would be palpable to NPR listeners as well as scrubby DIY scenesters. “oooOOoOOOOoooOo i wanna be like youuuuUUuuuU…I wanna be that cool” she sings. By the second time the chorus comes around I was singing along.