How to socialise and make friends: Camp Cope live at the Opera House

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Words || Amber Loomis

Content Note / Trigger Warning: This article discusses themes related to sexual assault

I left my first Camp Cope show feeling like I could take on the world. As a concertgoers poured out of the venue, I turned to my friend, eager to talk about the electric feeling flowing through my body. Before I could get a word out she excitedly announced, “I feel invincible!” I took a deep breath of fresh air and admitted that I did too. Honestly, I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so confident and ready to take on the world. Was this what straight, white, cis men felt like all the time? If so, that shit is potent and it explains a lot.

For those of you who have not been blessed with the magic of Camp Cope, let me catch you up. Camp Cope is a kick-ass trio of Melbourne-based women shaking up the music industry in ways that are desperately needed. They’ve been instrumental in speaking out against rife misogyny in the music industry, including calling out festival organisers for a lack of gender diversity in lineups and taking a stand against the deeply problematic band Sticky Fingers. As of late, the musical goddesses have released two albums, a self-titled debut and follow-up How to Socialise & Make Friends, both of which have landed on the ARIA charts (for you non-musical pals out there the ARIA charts are the official record of highest selling singles and albums in the Australian Music Industry). In short, if the words ‘feminist powerhouse’ scare you in any way, this band is not for you.

I most recently saw Camp Cope play at the Opera House. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this show. Most of my concert experiences have been in grungy venues with who-knows-what on the floors or outdoor summer festivals in blistering heat. As per my norm, I arrived early. Luckily for me, it was a mild evening – just right for standing outside on the balcony. Looking out to the water and over to that iconic coat hanger bridge, I chugged my overpriced beer and headed inside to find my seat just in time.
Like the first time I saw the band, the show kicked off with an Acknowledgement of Country. Note for all you musicians out there: if you aren’t already doing this, you should. An Acknowledgement (or Welcome to Country, if appropriate) recognises the place of First Nations people as the custodians of this land and promotes awareness of the history and culture of Indigenous people. Sovereignty was never ceded and its crucial to recognise this in our day-to-day lives.

Despite being jet-lagged from their recent American tour, vocalist/guitarist Georgia Maq, bassist Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich, and drummer Sarah Thompson still crushed it on every single track. The band started with banging cover of Green Day’s ‘Warning’ – which truthfully was a song that had never really stood out to me before that night. The rest of the setlist was a brilliant showcase of both of their albums. As it turned out, the vibe in the room was not unlike when I saw them last. Sure, the floors weren’t so sticky and I wasn’t elbow to elbow with my neighbours but the band was still as captivating as ever, telling their truths through music and capturing what it is like to be vulnerable, honest, and real.

No matter how many times I hear the song “The Face of God”, I feel something in the pit of my stomach and that’s exactly what happened when I heard the beginning notes of the song at this gig. Part of it is a raw reminder of what I’ve experienced but part of it is also a sense of safety that I often find hard to come by – a reminder that I am not alone. This past year, I’ve done a lot to grapple with being sexually assaulted years back and this song has been a huge part of my healing process. The lines: “Now you’ve got me questioning everything I did / Or what would’ve happened if I’d done one thing different…That somehow what happened to me was my fault” have brought tears to my eyes and I’m not ashamed to admit that I felt a familiar lump in my throat as the song resonated throughout the Concert Hall. Though the song recounts personal experience, the feelings it conveys are relatable for many – it so perfectly encapsulates the dynamic of power and discourse related to sexual violence.

The show wrapped up with the ever-popular track “The Opener” which is a searing condemnation of misogyny within the music industry. The song is chock-full of actual quotes that have been said to the band, highlighting just how condescending and entitled men can be. Case in point: “It’s another man telling us we can’t fill up the room/It’s another man telling us to book a smaller venue”. As Georgia Maq belted the lyrics, the audience, who had mostly been jamming out in their seats throughout the show began to stand, dance, and sing-shout along. It was nothing short of electric,

[Side note: Once I listened to “The Opener” on a loop at work and it made me feel so empowered to take down the patriarchy that I tweeted about it. Sarah Thompson liked my tweet and I’m pretty sure that was my peak.]

I left the show feeling a similar sense of invincibility as before. It’s evident, not only through Camp Cope’s song, but in interviews, tweets, and actions that these three are a powerful voice to be reckoned with. Cheers to you Camp Cope. Thanks for being you, for standing up and sharing your stories and fighting for representation. If you are looking for some new tunes I’d highly recommend giving the band a go.