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Wet Plate Portraits: Camp Cope At Clwb Ifor Bach

Friday, 20 September 2019 Written by Laura Johnson

Photo: Gareth Jarvis

As Camp Cope rattle towards the end of The Opener, the capper to their set at a packed Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff, vocalist and guitarist Georgia “Maq” McDonald yells into the mic: “Yeah, tell me again how there just aren’t that many girls in the music scene!”

It’s the culmination of a show, the second on the band’s current UK tour, rife with resistance, candid emotion and self-deprecating humour. Replicating their August 2018 gig at the same venue, the Melbourne band kick things off with a rendition of Green Day’s Warning—more for line check purposes than their love of the band, we think, though Maq confesses to being a fan—before delving into their split 7” EP with Cayetana for Keep Growing.

From then on the trio bounce back and forth between cuts from their 2016 self-titled debut and 2018 sophomore album ‘How to Socialise & Make Friends’, with each showcased across four tracks. One of the most moving points of the evening occurs when Mac dedicates The Face of God to the women involved with Solidarity Not Silence: “We stand with you!” 

Maq has an engaging, albeit awkward, stage presence. She gently states that we’ve come to the wrong place if we’re in the market for witty banter, but her unrehearsed, stream of consciousness chat is endearing. “ACAB for life, worldwide,” she says, before delivering a teasing clapback of “sucked in” when grumbles are heard at the set nearly being over. It’s later explained that the phrase is Aussie slang for “too bad”—we’re learning together.

Another musical highlight lands with a cover of Frightened Rabbit’s Heads Roll Off. Lifted from 2008’s ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’, the track was also recently reworked by the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn for ‘Tiny Changes’, a collection of covers that doubled as a 10th anniversary celebration of the LP and tribute to the late Scott Hutchinson. Nervous at having only run through it properly once during soundcheck, Maq said she wanted to ensure they did it justice in the UK. Nailed it.

Following that very same soundcheck the band sat for the latest edition of Gareth Jarvis’s wet plate portrait series, which revives a process that dates back over 150 years. Finally, the photo shoot they deserve, jokes bassist Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich. Having to hold still for five seconds proves challenging for the spirited trio, though, and Maq has mixed feelings about the outcome. 

Although clearly intrigued by the unique process—climbing across a table to watch the photo develop—she thinks the band look both curious and furious. Hellmrich is getting a Children of the Corn vibe, while drummer Sarah "Thomo" Thompson has already left in search of food. Earlier, she joked she was familiar with everything as that’s how photos were taken in her day. As for the end product, we’re leaning more favourably towards simmeringly striking.

Hours later Camp Cope once again prove themselves to be an impressive live force, one lit up in particular by Hellmrich’s melodic basslines, Maq’s impressive vocal range and intonations, and Thomo’s veteran knack of knowing when to pull back or give it the beans.

Witnessing middle-aged men scream along with the empowering words of The Opener, a song meant for their music industry counterparts who perpetuate inequality, not only puts a huge grin on my face but speaks volumes about the strides this band have made and the potency of their message.

So, how do they do it? Unapologetic, out and out indie-punk songs and a no-nonsense attitude towards injustice of any kind. Pushing the sentiment of the ‘90s riot grrrl slogan ‘girls to the front’ forward, however you identify you’re welcome at a Camp Cope show. And make sure to bring your friends, because this band are an underground secret that should not be kept.

Head here to see more from Gareth Jarvis.

Camp Cope Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri September 20 2019 - GLASGOW Slay
Sun September 22 2019 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Mon September 23 2019 - BIRMINGHAM The Hare And Hounds
Tue September 24 2019 - LONDON Islington Assembly Hall
Wed September 25 2019 - MANCHESTER Gorilla
Thu September 26 2019 - NOTTINGHAM Metronome
Sat September 28 2019 - BRIGHTON Chalk
Sun September 29 2019 - SOUTHAMPTON Heartbreakers

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