Camp Cope brought empowerment, encouragement and sheer entertainment to Melbourne’s northside

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Camp Cope brought empowerment, encouragement and sheer entertainment to Melbourne’s northside


The positive atmosphere inside the Thornbury Theatre was almost tangible, even upon early arrival. The venue, which looked better suited to a wedding function or old-school disco, had a distinctly DIY vibe to it at the show on Thursday March 15; blue neon lights shone down, while the stage was barely fitted out with anything aside from the backline. This isn’t a criticism by any means; the room felt more like the site of a massive house party, as opposed to the usual loftiness any gig with a venue ending in ‘Theatre’ generally indicates.

Erica Freas did a stunning job at opening the night, her music navigating the often emotionally unstable terrain of love, life and the challenges that come with both. She drew people in early on with a compelling acoustic set; sometimes you felt like you were being serenaded, other times you felt like this was a person pulling her heart out on stage. As the first of three acts to take the stage, Freas set the bar high early. Emotions needed to be braced from here on in.

Seattle four-piece Chastity Belt were next to impress; their music ticking the boxes of any indie-shoegaze fan. They held a sly grasp on guitar riffs and bass lines, while the vocals exuded a moody charm that was hard to ignore. The crowd had built considerably for the band by the time they hit their stride, and while the headliners were obviously the main drawcard, Chastity Belt left people impressed with a set that was jam-packed with clever lyricism, solid musicianship and a personable stage presence that played into the house party vibe mentioned above.

Camp Cope. The women who make up this band are perhaps some of the most targeted and maligned in Australian music currently, for simply speaking their truth and walking proudly in the light of it. New album How to Socialise & Make Friends is one of the most striking releases this half of 2018 and in overhearing conversations at this show, it was evident that it had struck a nerve with many in the crowd. It’s brutal, evocative and unashamedly unique in its approach, and sees Camp Cope express their anger and disappointment with many elements, whether socially, politically or personally speaking.

Guitar work became more urgent as Georgia Maq’s vocals became more furious (she had tonsillitis too, so big props to her), while drummer Sarah Thompson and bassist Kelly-Dawn Helmrich proved to be a strong and formidable duo, anchoring the set’s rhythmic base excellently throughout. While earlier material, particularly ‘Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams’ and ‘Keep Growing’, earned resounding responses, ‘How to Socialise & Make Friends’ was the main star of the show. Of course, when you have ‘The Opener’ in the mix, you can’t go wrong. The authenticity that backs Camp Cope’s music is going to win out over misogynistic and Neanderthal backlash each time. Thursday’s show proved that; singalongs were loud and impassioned, the delivery of the material heartfelt and confident. Can’t beat it.

Highlight:  A thoroughly mixed demographic of people belting words of empowerment along with the band.

Lowlight: An audience member I reported for rating and making derogatory comments toward women as they walked past. What was he even doing there?

Crowd Favourite: ‘Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams’ doled out early was a proper example of how passionate a CampCope crowd can be from the jump.