An Evening With Camp Cope, Australia's Most Important Band

It wasn't hard to see vindication and triumph on their faces.

Camp Cope don't make their music for people like me.

Around the release of the Melbourne trio's album How To Socialise And Make Friends -- a heart-on-sleeve, tender and at times uncomfortably raw work that deep-dive into sexism, sexual assault and toxic relationships -- frontwoman Georgia Maq tweeted:

Before their landmark Sydney Opera House gig, I thought about that a lot. I wondered whether I was the right person to tell you about their performance. I almost didn't go, but I'm supremely glad I did. Not only did I see one of the most interesting, important bands in Australia -- I also learned a lot.

They may not make their music for people like me, but there's a lot in their music for people like me.

(Photo: Daniel Boud)

An unexpected cover of Green Day's "Warning" kickstarted the set, before the trio launched the evening's biggest emotional gut punch just minutes in.

"This is a thinking song," leader Georgia said quietly. She spoke softly, barely muttering, but you could hear a pin drop as she introduced a song that has become the biggest talking point of their album.

It's called "Face Of God", and it's about sexual assault:

"I had to say 'no' and 'stop' more than once... Could it be true? You don't seem like that kind of guy".

Georgia gave a stirring speech about men present needing to talk about sexual assault, about not murdering women or queer people. Every soul was transfixed by the small woman on stage, nearly whispering in a quiet rage, all raw fury and disappointment and desperate plea for change.

(Photo: Daniel Boud)

The speech wasn't an abstract concept -- the same week, a young woman was stabbed to death in Melbourne; the body of missing woman Qi Yu was found; and a man was sentenced to nine years jail for soliciting the murder of his wife.

A quick look around at the men in the audience looking slightly uncomfortable, shifting in their seats, confirmed that the message hit home.

Many critics -- of which there are some, largely the anonymous online troll kind -- say Camp Cope is all message and no music, all gimmick and no skill. They're wrong.

Granted, the music is simple, no-frills; one guitar, one bass, one drumset and one voice. There's even a line in big track "The Opener" about a man saying they're "missing a frequency". But those components have carried them on world tours and to some of the biggest festival stages in Australia.

It's a simple, jangling guitar and splashy drums that underpin much of their work, the curious arrangement of bass guitar as often their lead instrument. The bass is the shuffling driver on heartbreaking "West Side Story", the jaunty backbone of more upbeat "Done", the bouncy lead on alt-rock-leaning "Stove Lighter", and it's what propels the stunning "UFO Lighter" set highlight.

(Photo: Daniel Boud)

"This is so special," Georgia said more than once.

Then a curious thing happened.

The stage had been kept unadorned all night, no backdrop and little illumination besides mood lighting. As they started fan favourite "The Opener", all the venue lights blazed into life. The crowd, seated for 90 minutes, gradually stood up to dance.

Like a slow wave, the whole room rose; dancing, singing, women embracing to shout along the frustration in Georgia's lyrics:

It's another man telling us to book a smaller venue 'Nah, hey, c'mon girls we're only thinking about you' Well, see how far we've come not listening to you

As the lights illuminated a packed room in one of the world's most famous venues, it wasn't hard to see the wry pleasure Camp Cope get from singing lyrics like this every night.

It wasn't hard to see vindication and triumph on their faces.