Live Review: SummerSalt @ Catani Gardens, St Kilda

18 March 2024 | 10:37 am | Michael Prebeg

SummerSalt is the perfect chance to send off the festival season with an incredible line-up of beloved Aussie artists and a headlining international act to guarantee a good time.

SummerSalt festival

SummerSalt festival (Source: Supplied)

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Mia Wray welcomes punters to the festival as she belts out her powerful vocals with ease. There’s plenty of room for people to set up chairs on the lawn in front of the stage and settle in for the day under the hot sun. Wray’s empowering anthems command the audience to hang on to every note she unleashes with the utmost confidence and control.

Monster Brain is a stand-out raw and personal track that she shares about depression. Wray channels her pure emotion and energy on the track as she continues to showcase her soulful range with beautiful restraint in moments of vulnerability.

Kita Alexander bursts onto the stage in a bright orange dress with frilly sleeves and energises us with instant pop hits to get the crowd up on their feet and dancing. She describes her music as “Sunset driving, windows down, hair blowing in the breeze vibes” before playing her more chilled-out version of a song she features on with DJ Fisher called Atmosphere.

Alexander is about to release her debut album, Young In Love, next week, so she’s excited to play a few new songs from it for us today, including All Night, 7 Minutes In Heaven, and Queen, with an electro-pop production built for the main stage. She admits that she didn’t initially realise why most punters were sitting down on the lawn until a few shows into the tour, so she decided to play some more relaxed songs to suit the vibe.

Thelma Plum gives a charming performance boasting sweet and comforting soulful vocals as she shares her gift of emotional storytelling. Plum feels every note that she sings with passion and vulnerability. From the opening track, The Brown Snake, to old favourite Dollar, she pours her heart out effortlessly, gliding from one to the next with the audience singing along.

We’re treated to a brand-new song called Golden Touch, a powerful piano-driven ballad packed with so much raw emotion it almost brings her and the audience to tears. Her unique wispy vocals and echoing falsetto shine with her indie-pop and folk sensibilities. Clumsy Love and Better in Blak are saved for last, so the audience is primed and ready for a big singalong as the sun beams down.

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“Playing this festival and this little run together with the dearest Thelma Plum, I thought this is an appropriate one to play today,” says Ziggy Alberts before he plays Worn Out, in which he mentions the fellow songstress in his lyrics. It’s clear he loves playing music with an infectious smile and genuine appreciation for the massive crowd that has gathered by the time he hits the stage.

“I have two rules at my shows – one, for everyone to look after each other in the crowd, and two, if you think you know the words, you sing with me. Is that cool by you?” The audience sings along at the top of their voices for the remainder of his set. Moving from guitar to piano, Alberts plays a good mix of songs as he unleashes his powerful vocals and commanding stage presence that exudes positive vibes.

He shares a song from his album searching for freedom called getting low as he lays his guitar flat on his legs, strums along and taps the edge of the guitar in a loop. His connection with the audience is powerful, and he assures us we only need to know five words to sing together for the next song (heartbeat).

“I started as a street busker in Byron Bay, and what was at first free - busking in cafes went to playing big shows, and it’s been a crazy journey doing this all independently,” says Alberts. He dedicates Laps Around The Sun to the women-powered team behind him as he expresses his gratitude to be standing where he is today. He reveals that he just spent a month in the studio working on new music and is excited to show us what he’s been working on, including a new song called New Love, which he reveals is coming out on April 5th.

“It’s so wonderful when we can just write about things the way they are, and I feel like this song was a real breakthrough for me to just write about how my life was exactly. Things can and will change if we make a difference. Until I see you again, let us be stronger when we come back together—more peaceful, happier, healthier,” Alberts says.

Matt Corby is a man of many few words on stage but serious about his vocals on the stage. He gets in the zone, and we get lost in his alluring, soul-soothing performance. As the sun sets over the festival in the golden hour, Corby delivers a truly soulful and inspiring performance that captivates our hearts and minds with his deeply personal storytelling and talented musicianship. We can feel the vocals on Better Than That from the very core of his being as he puts his entire being into each and every note.

He shares his previously released Triple J’s Like A Version entry – an acoustic cover of TLC’s ‘90s hit No Scrubs, which he self-confesses is a childhood favourite. It’s a great addition to change things up throughout his set to get the crowd bopping and singing along. Fan favourites Resolution, Brother and Miracle Love see the crowd erupt in a frenzy of singing.

“Melbourne, it’s so nice to be back! It’s been way too many years,” James Bay exclaims as he returns to Australia after almost six years. He’s back in his signature look: a black outfit, long hair, and a fedora hat, ready to rock out with his collection of guitars.

“We’re gonna play all kinds of different songs, old stuff, new stuff, stuff from in between and maybe even some brand-new stuff that you’ve never heard before. I just need you to do the thing that you did last time, which was to sing so loud. Can you do that?”

He charges onto the stage with Best Fake Smile, but there’s absolutely nothing fake about him or his smile, which can even be heard through his singing. He’s just so happy to be up on the stage doing what he loves. We can feel the joy in his performance as he powers through his electric hits, including some special additions, including a song called Peer Pressure that hasn’t been included in his setlist for a while.

Bay treats his fans to a brand-new song called Hope. The lyrics are even taped to the foot of the stage just in case he forgets them. The emotionally charged song is a surefire hit and a beacon of hope that he’s already working on his next album, which he assures us isn’t too far off. The crowd waves their phone torches along as they soak up the magical moment of hearing this song for the first time.

Bay continues to play a couple of tracks from his third album, Leap, and throws in two surprise covers, including a cover of Alicia KeysIf I Ain’t Got You and ElvisCan’t Help Falling In Love that transitions into his own track Scars.

Hold Back The River is the perfect way to close the festival with one huge singalong to his anthemic powerhouse choruses.