Teenage Dads are no newcomers to Australia’s live music scene, with a string of solid releases and many tours under their belt since their 2015 formation, but they have certainly found their stride since the release of their newest EP ‘Midnight Driving’. This year has been absolutely huge for the Melbourne Peninsula four-piece- they have played nearly 100 shows, hitting almost every major festival, doing multiple Australia-New Zealand tours and supporting Lime Cordiale across their run of US and Europe shows.
Teenage Dads are doing something really unique in the indie-rock space, and it’s amazing to see it resonate with so many people. Each show of theirs just gets bigger- as it absolutely should, as the band's live performance is second to none. Sonically, Teenage Dad's music is incredibly fun, mixing eclectic synths and rich guitar hooks to create a sound that stays in your head long after you’ve pressed pause on your music, but lyrically, they’re not scared to delve into deeper or more serious subjects on their songs either.
For their 2023 national tour, the band was playing at Newstead’s The Triffid- the largest headline show I’ve seen them at to date. They were joined by dreamy indie rockers The Moving Stills and Sunshine Coast favourites Betty Taylor.
The back of the stage was decked in signage stacked on top of one another- a large ‘Teenage Dads' sign takes up most of the wall, with a slightly smaller ‘The Moving Stills’ banner pinned on top, and a little ‘Betty Taylor’ sign on top of it all.
Betty Taylor took to the stage first. The Sunshine Coast-based band have only been releasing music since November last year when they made their debut with ‘Stallin’’ but are already one of my favourite acts in Australia right now.
From the band's name to its members and music, the themes of female solidarity and friendship are so evident throughout and this is even more apparent when they're on stage. Lead singer Sophie Jackson’s voice is hauntingly beautiful as she sings through their confessional discography- as Sophie talks you through their set and the highs and lows of relationships and breakups that have inspired their music, it feels like you’re at a slumber party or brunch with your besties, revelling in a moment of intimate connection. They played all the singles they’ve treated us to so far- ‘Stallin’’, ‘Glitter’, and ‘Fuck You’, as well as some gorgeous unreleased numbers.
The Moving Stills were on next. This was my first time seeing them (which I was really surprised to realise!) but I’m sure it won’t be the last because they were so much fun, with an incredibly distinctive sound I cannot get enough of. The slightly gritty undertone contrasted with sweet summery lyrics and harmonies made ‘Westside’ an instant standout of the set, as was their Like A Version cover of ‘My Delirium’ and the wistful ‘Volcano’, which featured some ridiculously catchy guitar riffs (as well as some incredible hair flips by the band as they play it).
After a brief interlude, the house music dies down and the band takes to the stage as Ram Jam’s ‘Black Betty’ swells over the speakers.
‘Come on, Cowboy. Fire your Gun!’ is the first song on the set, and such a good choice to get the crowd moving- if The Moving Stills and Betty Taylor haven’t already warmed you up this certainly will, with crowd interaction aplenty as the band gets us all pointing our finger guns up in the air as they sing ‘Bang Bang! / Uh’, until the song crescendos to a glorious, explosive finish.
To the delight of the audience, the opening synth of ‘Cheerleader’, much beloved hit from their 2019 EP Club Echo starts to play next, and the band brings it down a notch- while still cheerful, the song feels a bit softer and more intentional sonically, which makes the emotion in the lyrics even more apparent.
‘Piano Girl’ is another highlight of the early half of the set. Lead guitarist Connor McLaughlin plays through some captivatingly bouncy guitar lines that contrast wonderfully with singer Jordy Finlay’s drawn out plea of ‘Play for me, piano girl, woah’, as the audience is bathed in bright blue light reminiscent of the hazy late night bar where the titular Piano Girl plays drawing you further into the song.
‘Message in the Sand’ is a bit of a departure from the more light-hearted or uplifting tone Teenage Dads music tends to take. Themes of enjoying the present and the ‘good old days’ reminiscent of ‘Cheerleader’ once more make an appearance but now in a slightly darker, grittier way which creates an incredibly powerful moment in the set. Jordy’s voice really shines in this one, giving all the power and emotion the lyrics require, and the atmosphere in the room is incredible- the lighting is incredible, and the crowd gets really into the song.
Newest release ‘I Like It’ is already shaping up to be a crowd favourite, with some super enjoyable riffs and really fun lyrics. ‘3am’ gets an interesting start with Conor starting to play the wrong song and Jordy instructing everyone to laugh at him, but the ‘lovey dovey song’ is absolutely fantastic, as is 'Sunburnt' and 'Midnight Driving'.
They bring out an older one called ‘Felicity’ which Jordy says was highly requested- it’s not often played, and Jordy has a printout of the lyrics with him- the effort is definitely appreciated by the Teen Dads super fans who scream with delight to hear the song.
We get our first cover song for the night with a fantastic rendition of A-Punk by Vampire Weekend. I’m always so impressed with Teenage Dads' cover songs- both this and their Like A Version of ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ are such perfect fits for the band, both showing off their musical ability and perfectly matching the vibe of Teenage Dads own discography. All our opening acts come back onto the stage for this one, dancing and singing along- or, in the case of some of The Moving Stills, playing a game of Connect 4.
The set ‘ends’ on 'Speedracer', which has been a favourite ever since they first introduced it to their live set, and Teenage Dads walk off the stage, the crowd immediately cheering for an encore.
The band oblige, playing three more songs before heading off for real. A phone rings over the speaker signalling the start of their fantastic cover of ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’, which they play flawlessly, before moving into ‘Diego’- with an incredible extended instrumental intro, and then finishing the night off with ‘Teddy’ for one last massive sing-along moment.
Check out the full gallery from the night here, shot by Robi Hume.