LIVE REVIEW: SummerSalt 2017 @ Margaret River
On a steamy south west afternoon, the gorgeous 3 Oceans Winery in the Margaret River region became home to SummerSalt 2017. Headlined by two legendary Australian performers, the concert saw the fun-loving, genre-blending party ensemble The Cat Empire and the impassioned, Indigenous-inspired, multi-instrumentalist Xavier Rudd playing their hearts out.
Kicking off the day were two terrific support acts. Local rising indie folk artist Lucy Peach was first up, with the talented singer-songwriter delivering a delightful set, blending heartfelt storytelling with her bubbly melodies.
Following up next was the the dynamic and inspiring international hip hop artist Emmanuel Jal. A former child soldier in South Sudan, Emmanuel Jal draws from his troubling experiences, channelling his emotion into social justice advocacy to inspire hope, peace and unity through his music.
He was the perfect precursor to the one and only Xavier Rudd, as they both share the common goal of using music as a message of global togetherness, compassion, acceptance and respect. As the weather cooled and the crowd expanded, the dimming light was met with Xavier Rudd’s unparalleled ability to connect with his audience shining right through.
Mixing guitars, didgeridoos, percussion, harmonica and blue harp (to name a few) with his own unmistakable voice, and drawing from the spirit of his Indigenous ancestors, Xavier Rudd’s music is unique and incredibly resonating. An international sensation, particularly in Australia and the Netherlands, Rudd’s powerful themes add extra meaning to his already gorgeous sound.
But as loving and moving as his vibes are, the real party awaited. After waiting in excruciating anticipation for the ska jazz brilliance to come, The Cat Empire finally entered the stage. Melbourne based and internationally admired, The Cat Empire can be difficult to describe. They’re just so unique but above all, incredibly fun! And if there is one way to describe their inimitable and colourful sound, there’s only one truly accurate response; it’s for dancing to.
The eccentric ensemble that “tricked pop radio into playing jazz” brought their trademark chaotic and joyful dancing vibes, to deliver a fiercely uplifting performance. Over the course of their phenomenal 75 minute set, the magnificent band played a variety of their amazing songs, such as more recent material like the Afro-Caribbean influenced dance anthem with a hint of disco, 'Wolves'.
But to our relief and unrivalled delight, they didn’t just stick to newer material. From our days lounging in hammocks in the South Cambodian island paradise and listening to their self-titled first album, the one thing missing from their incredible performance at Southbound in 2016 was some of their early classics.
This time round, with a longer set and an older crowd, we were treated to more of their earlier creations, with my two personal favourites being performed; the energising fun and humour of The Car Song, and chaotic musical journey The Wine Song, were both sung with Harry’s unmistakable rapid and raspy brilliance.
The SummerSalt evening came to an end with another older classic, The Chariot, concluding a lovely night under a glowing moon. There were a few annoying characters around, but it certainly wasn’t enough to detract from the inspiringly good vibes of Xavier Rudd and the ska-jazz dance tunes of the circus-esque Cat Empire.
It was also intriguing to get an insight into a festival targeted at a somewhat older crowd. It was certainly a different vibe to our usual scene!