GIG REVIEW: Camp Cope with Alex Lahey and RVG @ The Old Bar

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Recently, the Melbourne music scene has seen an outrageously productive surge in brilliant, unique talent. Venues within the city’s varying suburbs have inspired and have encouraged many world-renowned acts such as Crowded House, Hunters & Collectors, The Avalanches and The Cat Empire. In more recent time and even within 2016, a handful of talented Melbournian bands emerged onto the scene bringing with them inventive new ways to hear and look at music. Alex Lahey and Camp Cope are no exception to this. Both bands have a refreshing and energetic sound on record, and their live sound is another thing altogether. The two female-fronted bands banded together last Sunday on the 16th of January at the Old Bar returning to where their stardom began.

The line out of the front of The Old Bar stretched expansively down Johnston Street as hundreds of fans queued eagerly for the upcoming show. Music lovers sat under the beating mid-January sun as fans slowly inched towards the venue. The cute, and charming Old Bar welcomed patrons in slowly but surely. As the afternoon continued, the support band the Romy Vager Group began their set.

The female-fronted band clad in black turtlenecks and Eraserhead T-shirts played a woozy yet vicious set of colourful and vibrant, lazy-Sunday tunes. An already filled out Old Bar happily swayed to the beat of the band’s slow burning anthems. The band’s lead singer, Romy, owned her place on the stage as it seemed every lyric of her music pained her and the grief on her showed a true dedication to her music. Her backing band see-sawed from one foot to the other as their lively guitar chords or jogging bass lines sat under Romy’s soaring, and floating guitar solos. The band should be commended on having found their sound and sticking to it so quickly. Although this feat for a band is commendable, an irking homogeneity throughout the set made some songs indistinguishable. Despite this, Romy’s gravelly, grainy, almost strained vocals complimented well with the animated music accompanying it which would sometimes explode into lovely, intense crescendos.

As their serene set, a fantastic compliment to the warm, humid summer afternoon, drew to a close, the crowd shuffled in anticipation for Alex Lahey. As some people grabbed another beer and others inched closer to the stage, Lahey’s band sound checked and prepared to rock the Old Bar to its core. With Lahey’s devout fans right down the front of the boundary-less and cramped Old Bar stage shouting for the show to start, fans parted like the Red Sea to let Lahey on stage.

Alex Lahey, with far too many accolades to count, only recently released her debut EP, ‘B Grade University’, with a new single ‘Ivy League’ just being released as well. With astounding music put to record, it’s no wonder Lahey’s live show is just as mesmerizingly fun. Lahey seemed to be queen of the stage, with her accompanying band playing the backdrop for her playful, and dynamic singing and stage presence. Songs like ‘L-L-L-Leave Me Alone’ and ‘Perth Traumatic Stress Disorder’ are observational, and snide snapshots of a broken-hearted Lahey’s young life. These are complimented hilariously by Lahey’s truthful and comedic interjections between songs which gave her set meaningful context, and also had the audience in stitches. Other audience favourites like ‘Let’s Go Out’ and ‘Ivy League’ had Lahey lifting her guitar above her head in a sign of pure passion. A hypnotised audience bopped along to the chugging bass lines, the spirited guitar riffs and the punchy drums throughout the set filled with ‘B-Grade University’ cuts as well as tracks soon to be put on an album (exciting!). Having watched her set, it’s no surprise that Lahey is on her way to greatness touring as a support for Tegan and Sara and of course her own US/UK tour. Her charisma on stage can only be described as infectiously jolly and must be seen to be believed.

The smokescreen of energy faded from the air as Lahey’s set concluded, and the Camp Cope fans clad in their pink merchandise rushed forward and eagerly anticipated the band’s set. Having heard only good things about the band only formed in 2015, I was also eager to see what the trio could do live. As they begun their set, the audience was instantly mesmerised, and it was clear to see why hundreds of people lined up early in the heat to see the band perform.

Camp Cope’s debut self-titled album, having only just been released in 2016, swept triple J fans and even made it into the station’s ‘Australian Album of the Year’ shortlist. The band’s fan base has an expansive age range, with both older and young fans that had their eyes firmly glued to the trio swaying on stage. Anthems like ‘Lost: Season One’ and ‘Done’ started audience sing-alongs that had one adorable moment where Maq squealed in utter delight as the audience knew all the lyrics to their opening song. If there was a pattern between all three bands, it was that they all care about music. Maq’s shouts and shrieks over the band’s simple and straightforward song structures reflect the deep, dark emotional mindset shown through the lyrics that is heartbreaking to hear in person. The almost spoken-word vocal lines, do sound similar, as everyone seems to say, to Courtney Barnett, but this comparison seems lazy and unfair. Maq’s lyricism and vocal performance are much more sinister and painful than Barnett’s which make it clear as to why Cope’s youthful and growing audience base love their relatable and authentic music. Maq’s raw and tender solo closing rendition of ‘Charlie’ was moving to experience which is the best way to summarise the band’s appeal, it’s gut-wrenchingly painful to hear which is why it’s so great.

If there’s one thing that can be taken away from RVG, Alex Lahey and Camp Cope is that these three bands are honest and enthusiastic. Loving music, and showing it through song writing and stage performance seems to be the new black, and these three bands optimise being passionate about music and its performance. It’s incredibly inspiring to see bands who just play music for the sake of performing and it’s bands like these three that will contribute to Melbourne’s music scene and inspire future musicians. I couldn’t be more excited to see these bands explode around the world and know I was there when they all started.

Paul Waxman

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