The opener of the night at the Croxton Bandroom are Garage Sale, they are a new Melbourne 4-piece whose new release Shimmer, has put them on the radar. Even though they’re a new band – everything about Garage Sale takes me back in time. Their bassist, wearing a white lace dress with gothic accessories, the guitarists and drummer with floppy hair, all of them bathed in red light. The year was 1993. They sound like this glorious mix between Sunnydale Real Estate, if SRE had released Nirvana’s Marigold, and had the sex-appeal of Hole. Maybe grunge isn’t dead after all? It’s been reborn, in the shape of Garage Sale. I felt like I’d heard these songs before, but they were so fresh and punchy – I couldn’t have. I was clearly not the only one excited about the Melbourne foursome’s homage to the Seattle Scene. Dripping with sex appeal, grit and reverb, Garage Sale have already amassed quite a number of fans, many of whom were in the room headbanging, slamming the table or unable to tear their eyes away.
You know the old expression: It was enough to make a grown man cry? Well, Phoebe Go does.
Coming back from smokers, we were met by the smooth voice of Phoebe Go. The band room was suddenly packed – 2 or 3 times the amount of people than were there 20 minutes ago, came out of nowhere. We were all fighting for a view of the stage, and the woman on it. Phoebe Go was desperate to hide behind her fringe, she would shuffle a little self-consciously between songs, but as soon as she started playing, she was someone else. I was almost shocked to hear her say “Thanks for having me, Soccer Mommy. You guys fucking rule.” It seemed so brash and off-kilter for the same person who wrote Hey, the person who made the grown man next to me well up with tears with her emotional closing ballad We Don’t Talk. How could I possibly have missed Go in my endless late-night searches for the Ultimate Sad Girl Ballad? Don’t make the same mistake I did. Go! Listen to (Phoebe) Go!
Sophia Allison is Soccer Mommy, but tonight she had a four-piece backing band. They were a rag-tag crew, from Rodrigo on keys and guitar, wearing a gaudy 80’s ski-jacket to Mick on the bass, his bald head, big-framed glasses, sea-glass bass all something out of a Spike Jonze video. And boy, were they tight. The songs went from soft, sparkly, wonderfully melancholic folk/pop, and turned into harder rock covers, with shredding solos, lots of echo and so much drum and bass I felt it in my feet.
To me, there has always been something so uniquely feminine about Soccer Mommy, but as I looked around the room, I saw so many young men. Her Spotify repertoire seems to be adjacent to similar artists Phoebe Bridgers and Indigo De Souza, but these are guys with shirts half-unbuttoned, beers in hand, I was intrigued: what did they get out of Soccer Mommy?
Her major hit circle the drain was the second song of the night. I listened to the people around me, slurred voices screaming the words back at her: things feel that low sometimes/even when everything is fine. We were entirely hers, the music flowed out of them, into us. When she asked us “How do you guys feel about the Devil down here?”, no one hesitated, no one questioned the absurdity of the question. Instead, they all cheered and threw up rock-and-roll hands or did their very best Devil-call, or they booed. If she had asked us to jump, we would have said “How high?” If she had asked us to bark, we would have scared off the neighbour’s cat. We were at church, and she was our preacher.
I realised that Soccer Mommy doesn’t just write songs about the feminine experience, she makes music about the youthful experience. She writes songs for our generation, all of us who were given unfettered access to the internet, and far too early exposure to Richard Siken poetry. Her music resonated with me, the drunk men going hard in the middle of the room, the quiet girl sitting alone at a table. She has taken our journals, our Tumblr blogs, our deepest fears, and greatest hopes and is performing them with unbelievable lighting, double-vocal reverb and many (many) guitar changes. Winding through two-albums worth of hits, a heartbreaking solo performance of Still Clean, and finishing with Your Dog, everyone who was at the Croxton that night, will leave with a bit of Soccer Mommy’s joyous, cathartic melancholy with them forever.
She understands every heartbreak I’ve ever had. She’s seen the ugliness I see sometimes when I look at myself a-little-too-late-at-night in the mirror. She’s punched that guy in the nose. She’s thrown up in an uber. She’s seen me, seen us. She takes all of those feelings which we think make us wretched, horrible, unseemly, and says “Do you want a backing band with that?” or “Jump on in! The reverb’s the perfect temperature!” And it is the perfect temperature; her music washes over me like waves on the sand, and I am washed ragged to smooth, right there, on the Croxton’s sticky floor. Seeing Soccer Mommy at such an intimate venue reminded me of why I love music, love being a hopeless romantic, love being a woman, love being a little bit ugly and a little bit messy. Soccer Mommy reminds us that total strangers will wrap their arms around each other to cry, and then, not even a song later, to dance and hold each other up.