Concert Review: Camp Cope

Aussie punks Camp Cope bring confessional feminism to Che Café.

Most punk rock shows are characterized by their high-octane energy and frantic purging of aggressive emotion. They’re cathartic, communal, and anarchic. Che Café was sleepy and somber on May 9 for Australian band Camp Cope. The band’s shows are indeed cathartic, but they maintain a recognition and respect for the personal space of everyone in attendance, especially for women. No flashy gimmicks or fancy getups — the band let the music speak for itself, while also taking time between songs to speak out against pervasive social issues.

On support was grungy Brooklyn three-piece Oceanator, who showcased their compositional capabilities in terms of musical dynamics. Starting off with a fairly stripped-down sound, they finished their set by filling the sonic space to capacity with an overdriven guitar mimicking a stuttering synth sample over crescendoing crash cymbals.

Following Oceanator was the Brisbane duo, An Horse. Lead guitarist and vocalist Kate Cooper showed off her clever lyrical devices while being supported by drummer Damon Cox’s harmonies and diverse repertoire of drumming techniques. For one song he broke out soft stick mallets, to replicate a tympani on the toms. Despite being a feebly populated group, the duo’s sound was full and engaging enough to have a visibly emotional impact on attendees who had never heard of them before.

Che Cafe, a self-designated “safe space” for marginalized groups, was a comely fit for Camp Cope, whose ethos is to combat sexism and promote feminine positivity. After the set, a fan told lead singer Georgia “Maq” McDonald that she was her queen, to which she encouragingly declined, “No, be your own queen! Look up to yourself!”

Having seen Camp Cope at the Ché a year before, they seem to have maintained their identity while also honing in their musical maturity. Each song was played with a deeper understanding of its message. Their opening song, “Keep Growing,” which refrains the line “I’ll keep growing my hair out, but it’s not for you,” was played slower than the recorded version, with a self-assured empowerment. Conversely, “How to Socialize and Make Friends,” the titular track from their last album, was played with an adrenal joviality. The chorus reads about riding a bike with no handlebars through the dark.

Introducing the song, “Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams,” which chronicles the experiences of women navigating the hostilities of a male-dominated world, Maq addressed the men in the room, calling on them to be allies and positive influences in their communities.

“We all have a lot of un-learning to do,” Maq said. “Please use your privileges to help elevate those who don’t have privilege.”

Maq’s vocals sounded clean on the jumps to falsetto in “Done,” the melodic noodling of Kelly-Dawn Kelso’s bass lines were tastefully pronounced just above the guitar in the mix, and Sarah “Tommo” Thompson pounded on her drums while sticking to solid tempos.

The banter was sincere, but at times disquietingly uncomfortable. When Maq wasn’t speaking out against sexual violence or toxic masculinity, she turned more chummy with her bandmates, regaling tour stories and reciting inside jokes onstage. At certain points, she seemed to depend on Kelso and Thompson for a lifeline in the uncertain waters of public speaking, shooting them looks of “help me!”

Camp Cope and An Horse’s Australian backgrounds were somewhat of a novelty at the show, as fans giggled at the drawled aussie slang that decorated their banter. Cooper of An Horse pointed out that the crowd was politely quiet in between sets, but she was used to people in Australian audiences “glassing” one another in between songs.

“I love the eucalyptus trees, they remind us of home,” singer Georgia Maq noted of the UC San Diego campus

Closing the night, Camp Cope brought lead guitarist and singer Alice Suh from Oceanator onstage to help play “The Opener,” the band’s magnum opus against music industry sexism. Camp Cope’s identity is coupled more with their outspokenness for the lack of representation in a predominantly white male industry. The lineup of the show wasn’t just feminine for virtue signaling or SJW brownie points, there was a real sense of camaraderie between the bands. Communal, upliftingly and militantly feminist and open to talking about their feelings, Camp Cope is an important band for the current state of affairs.

Venue: Ché Café
Grade: B
Date: May 9 2019

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