Stepping into The Forum Theatre, Melbourne, it wasn’t hard to tell that we were a long way from Northcote Social or Wrangler Studios. In August, Trophy Eyes released The American Dream. It was a more melodic take of the Newcastle band’s sound, while still retaining the impactful punch of vivid storytelling and real emotion. This next chapter of Trophy Eyes’ sonic evolution has captured hearts, as well as seeing the band angle themselves differently. Appreciation and curiosity drew Melbourne aficionados to the stunning and starry skyed Forum Theatre, which surely has to be one of the most beautiful venues that our city has to offer.
Trophy Eyes’ Chemical Miracle tour is still fresh in my mind, which saw the band play along with Columbus, Our Past Days, and Ambleside. I lost a shoe in my efforts to stay upright at that gig, so it felt so very different watching gig openers STUMPS and the distinct difference in territory we were clearly in. Bringing feelgood vibes, the happy band brought the fun to The Forum, with sweet harmonic melodies and dreamy vocals. The Sydney rockers were relatively stationary on stage, and there were no shouts for us to ‘wake the fuck up’ – just easy and grooving vibes floating out into the illustrious venue. These sweet and chilled love songs seemed purpose built for swaying along to, with emotive choruses as a stand out. The four piece finished their set with their most recently released single, the upbeat “Conversation, Conversations”. [Listen to STUMPS]
Tasmanian singer/songwriter Maddy Jane followed, heralding her presence on stage with a stunning long held note. Though Maddy has a beautiful voice and the set was offering soothing melodic slices of sound, I was feeling like a fish out of water at a Trophy Eyes gig trying to put into words something so calming as these two sets so far. It is surprising to me that Trophy Eyes fans would gel with this indie pop/rock flavour, with the Novocastrians seeming to come from a far grittier place by way of sound and emotion. Regardless, a proportion of the crowd were swaying along/singing along with the set and Maddy’s stage presence was a peaceful one. To me it all vibed like hanging out on the front porch on a summer morning, and then chasing that chilled vibe through to the sky turning dark, before sitting in contemplation. (Needless to say, I did not lose a shoe during this set. 😉 ) [Listen to Maddy Jane]
Sydneysiders Dear Seattle were up next, powerfully bridging the gap between ‘Triple J Land’ and ‘Formerly Melodic Hardcore City’. With bangers like “The Meadows” and “Maybe”, Dear Seattle are one of those bands everyone loves to love, and the vibes were fittingly easy and joytastic. With enticing singalongs and good times crafted by sweet and heartfelt riffs, the mood was palpably lifted with this set. The Forum finally saw some crowd surfing and a fuller crowd had a lot of love for their band.
The easy vibes continued throughout, where a bouncing crowd got loudly and happily into these reality-bomb anthems; finger pointing and joining in with vocalist Brae Fisher and the entire band rocking out. The true-to-the-recording sound was easy to soak up, as the four piece shared tracks from their self-titled EP. Standing beside Jimmy Kleiner, he described the set as a “continuous blast of nostalgic grunge, jam packed with Aussie charm”. I couldn’t agree more. [Listen to Dear Seattle]
It was finally Trophy Eyes time! Opening with “Lavender Bay”, it was instantly a party vibe in The Forum, with an undercurrent of emotion for how significant the moment was for John Floreani, Jeremy Winchester, Kevin Cross, Andrew Hallet, and Blake Caruso. Using platforms as well as the full space of the stage, it was the most full of life I’ve seen the band in terms of stage presence, and it was easy to join in with these amazing (and sad) songs of The American Dream. “More Like You” had our loud voices join in, with beats rattling through our bodies, and arms swaying along like a tribal collective. John and Blake worked really well together vocally, and musically it was a flawless set.
After the handclapping feels fest of “Broken”, John opened up about the importance of all of us in the crowd for Trophy Eyes as a band, who were once “just a little band in Newcastle” and struggling to get anyone watching them. Embracing the obvious ‘glow-up’, John pointed out the monstrous banner hanging behind them, acknowledging “the size of this fucking thing”. That same “holy shit” factor leaked out through the set, when you could see John in particular just taking it all in, smiling and laughing, as well as his signature dance moves. Earlier I had run into the band’s manager, Eddie Deal, who was understandably buzzing like a kid-on-Christmas-Eve and oozing gratitude for all of the work that had gone into getting the band to this point.
They continued with “Something Bigger Than This” and “Hurt”, and a really great interconnected vibe was clearly apparent with all of us joining in; whether dancing or crowdsurfing, or singing. To me, it was clear that Trophy Eyes have found their groove by way of performing, and were definitely not taking it lightly, nor phoning it in. The band weren’t content with us in the crowd being passive either, with John verbally demanding more from us at several points; to be louder, more emphatic, to move more: “Let’s make it fucking worth it, alright?”
Sharing some tracks from Chemical Miracle (including one “about who you are as a human down to a fucking cellular level”: “Heaven Sent”, and “Breathe You In”) the set flowed easily from end to end. I was stoked to catch “Suicide Pact” (a favourite of mine) live again, and John threw himself into the pit with this, as well as sharing some stunning vocal experimentation.
More openly emotional than I remember ever seeing before from this band, we heard from John about the heartbreak that comes (from both sides) from leaving loved ones for touring with music. And that “Nights like tonight with faces smiling at me make it worth it. So thank you so fucking much”. It was a subdued moment, with just John and guitar for “Tiptoe” and “A Symphony of Crickets”, with great use of the video screens on stage to give an effect of lightning bugs at night.
Lifting the energy back up into full band action until the end, Trophy Eyes launched into “Chlorine”. If you think too much about it, you’ll wonder how the hell we can be so energised, bouncing, and offering our happy voices to a song about suicide and existential confusion. It works regardless and was a very good time! As was “Friday Forever”, really hitting home just how different this evolution of Trophy Eyes is by looking at a mostly bouncing pit as opposed to a thoroughly aggressively frustrated one.
Smashing it out of the park was the close with “You Can Count On Me” and “I Can Feel It Calling”. As well as skillfully scene-setting with gentle storytelling and dynamically expansive sound, Trophy Eyes created a really emotionally hooking atmosphere of celebration. Like a lamb to the slaughter I let my feels be ripped at during the tender “Think of me, when you’re alone and you can’t sleep / I’m on the other side of the world doing the same thing”, and then the majestic and orchestral ending. Does it get any better?! This is a band in their prime, as well as with a wide landscape of possibility in front of them. Kevin destroyed his guitar before the band members united for a bow. What a night! [Listen to Trophy Eyes]