Sydney Opera House, 26/05/17
Photos by Daniel Boud
Having played sell out shows across Australia within relatively small venues, it was about time Melbourne’s Camp Cope received the recognition they deserve as they graced the Sydney Opera House for Vivid Live with a dose of authentic, impassioned punk rock. Creeping across stage in disbelief, Georgia Maq solely opened up the night with an acknowledgement of the traditional custodians of the land we gathered on, applauded in solidarity by the audience before strumming her way into a somber, silence-inducing eulogy ‘Song For Charlie’. Joined after by band members Sarah “Thommo” Thompson and Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich, the crowd erupted with the breath of new music. This tune lyrically tore strips off the current music industry, Georgia belting out one liners “Just book a female opener, that will fill the quota” that were met with a roar of cheers from the audience.
Their set list melded the perfect balance of true Camp Cope; politically charged social commentaries and heart aching experiences. Georgia Maq goes beyond your typical singer-songwriter, opening up her world of experiences, thoughts and intimacies to share in what we all too often regard as deeply lonely and solitary moments in life. In this respect, this show was a deeply cathartic experience we not too often find within all artists we come across. Imperative as storytellers of modern day young adult Australians, the night goes on to perfectly encapsulate one’s early 20’s crippling heartbreak in ‘Lost: Season One’ and pair it with the consistent presence of victim blaming and toxicity of idealizing masculinity in ‘Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams’.
Selling out both Vivid shows, the room was packed wall to wall with die hard Camp Cope fans, some too participatory than others (I’m talking to you, guy who wanted to talk to Georgia between every song, pipe down please). We had listened to the songs before, memorized everything from bass line to lyric. I knew every spot where Georgia’s voice merged song and scream into one. Anticipating Kelly’s opening bass line in ‘Keep Growing’ and all chuckling to ourselves about Thommo’s disinterested drum face; it was all there. Yet there was something inherently distinct about this performance that did not transfer from record to real time or even festival performance to solo performance. Yes you can absorb the lyrics and memorise the guitar riffs but emotional transparency lives exclusively on stage. It was, at the core, unapologetically Camp Cope; three girls playing some really great punk rock songs. Georgia’s voice is in a realm of its own where every high is reached and surpassed with this effortless power, not once faulting, cracking or missing the mark. Closing out their set with crowd favourite ‘Lost: Season One’ they were met with a standing ovation they clearly were not expecting. Sharing an intimidated look of disbelief as they left the stage, there was no shock amongst the audience, only that sheer joy and elation that comes from seeing your favourite band absolutely nail it.
When I read Carrie Brownstein’s ‘Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl’ I clung onto to what she wrote about being a music fan. Weaving through the crowds of Vivid, leaving the Opera House on that post gig high, it holistically captured what we as music fans constantly chase and now what I am left feeling every time I come across Camp Cope:
“My favourite kind of musical experience is to feel afterwards that your heart is filled up and transformed, like it is pumping a whole new kind of blood into your veins. This is what it is to be a fan: curious, open, desiring for connection, to like art has chosen you, claimed you as its witness.”