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The Cat Empire’s Felix

SummerSalt Mornington. Sunday February 21. Report and photos by Greg Phillips

Victoria welcomed large live music events back with a  bang on the weekend thanks to Zaccaria Entertainment’s presentation of the fabulous SummerSalt music festival. South Australia tested the new covid-normal back on Valentine’s Day with SummerSalt and passed with flying colours, so the Vics were now clear to gather in large numbers (8,000 strong) and dance (within your one square metre of space in front of your chair).

The Briars in Mornington was a superb location to host two days of quality Australian music featuring Nat Vazer, Montaigne, Boy and Bear, John Butler, The Cat Empire, and The Teskey Brothers. Punters were greeted at the gates with QR code posters, hand sanitiser bottles, social-distancing instructions and a request to wear masks when in close proximity to fellow punters, in a toilet queue for instance.

Nat Vazer

Melbourne-based singer, songwriter, guitarist Nat Vazer opened the show, filling in for Emily Wurramara, who unfortunately had to pull out at the last minute due to personal reasons. Armed with a beautiful ES335 style guitar and looking cool in shades, Nat set about playing tunes from her recently released album ‘Is This Offensive and Loud?’, which has been nominated for the Australian Music Prize. Due to the promoter’s warning of limited parking spaces and their encouragement to car pool, a large portion of the crowd had filed into the venue very early, offering the young artist a unique opportunity to play to thousands of punters.

Montaigne, dressed for the summer, barefoot and in shorts wasted no time in winning over the crowd. Her blend of quirkiness and exuberance, combined with an amazingly powerful voice makes it hard not to be mesmerised by her performance. As she leapt and kicked and twisted and twirled, her cleverly constructed pop tunes, backed by a pumping power pop band, sealed the deal.

Playing a good spread of material from their four album recording career, Boy and Bear seem to get more impressive each time they play. Touring constantly overseas pre-covid, they’ve developed into one of Australia’s finest live acts. Displaying their versatility as musicians, bass player Dave Symes had a turn behind the drum kit, while regular drummer Tim Hart donned a banjo, as the band launched into a spellbinding medley of Crowded House’s Fall at Your Feet and Neil Young’s Heart of Gold. Frontman Dave Hosking reminded the audience how lucky they all were as this was quite possibly the only music festival happening anywhere in the world this weekend. Southern Sun, an early hit for the band had the crowd up on their feet and singing along.

John Butler, sans trio hit the stage next and like Boy and Bear, expressed his gratitude at being able to play music again in front of a big crowd. Butler’s Better Than and Treat Yo Mama continued the good time dancing vibe that preceded him. An extended  version of his instrumental Ocean, in which he shows off his wonderful fingerpicking prowess  left the crowd mesmerised. “Never has so much self-indulgence been indulged,” exclaimed John to the thrilled audience.

The Cat Empire is yet another great Australian band that normally travels the world playing to an ever-increasing international fan-base. The pandemic may have sidelined their travel plans but it hasn’t effected their tightness as a band and their ability to get a crowd onboard with their infectious (poor choice of words we know!) rhythms. With a career spanning two decades and 8 albums, there’s no shortage of material to get a party started and the Mornington throng enthusiastically accepted the band’s invitation to dance. Kicking off with Kila, the 8 piece collective play with the same level of passion and spirit every time they hit a stage but there’s a vibe in the air that today’s going to be something extra special. Amiable frontman Felix Riebl is as ecstatic as anyone at being on stage again and his positive vibes are mirrored straight back from the crowd. The band genre hops on a dime, flipping easily from reggae, ska, world music and Latin-based licks to avant-garde jazz grooves. Riebl moves over to his extensive percussion set up, allowing Harry James Angus to put down his trumpet and come to centre stage for a sing. The Cat Empire deliver such a powerful, full-bodied sound that guarantees a good time and finishing the set with crowd fave The Chariot, the audience couldn’t be happier.

The Teskey Brothers are Australia’s latest successful international export and today proved why so many people around the world have latched onto their slick brand of soul, RnB and blues. The Grammy nominated local legends have earned their spot on the global stage and are a fitting headliner for today’s event, even with such a hugely talented bill such as this. Josh Teskey’s compelling and soulful voice is equally matched by the band’s thoughtful and purposeful note choices. On such a gorgeous humid afternoon, Carry You flowed out over the crowd as they swayed along with the band. Conjuring the spirit of Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and the other soul greats that have gone before, the Teskeys style of roots music is so authentic that it’s hard to believe that their sound has its roots in the leafy suburb of Warrandyte, just down the road from my home. With harp in hand Josh introduces the rockin’ Louisa and there’s barely a body out there not dancing.

With the logistical hurdle of getting eight thousand people out of the venue, the promoters decided to bring opener Nat Vazer back on stage to stagger the exodus of fans. For those in attendance, it was almost like our music lives had returned to normal but deep down we knew that there are no guarantees in this fickle covid world. This weekend’s oasis of world class entertainment was much appreciated, more than any other concert experience in a long time. Check out the remaining dates below and see if Summersalt is coming to your town. If it is then don’t take live music for granted, grab those tickets with open arms and nourish your musical soul.

More photos below after dates


Saturday 27th February, 2021
Featuring: The Teskey Brothers, The Cat Empire, John Butler, Boy & Bear, Montaigne & Emily Wurramara

Saturday 20th March, 2021
Featuring: John Butler, The Teskey Brothers, The Cat Empire and Emily Wurramara

Sunday 21st March, 2021
Featuring: John Butler, The Cat Empire, The Teskey Brothers, Boy & Bear, Montaigne & Emily Wurramara

Saturday 27th March, 2021
Featuring: The Teskey Brothers, The Cat Empire, John Butler, Boy & Bear, Montaigne & Emily Wurramara

Sunday 28th March, 2021
Featuring: The Cat Empire, The Teskey Brothers, John Butler, Boy & Bear, Montaigne & Emily Wurramara

Friday 2nd April, 2021 (gates open 2.00pm)
Featuring: The Teskey Brothers, The Cat Empire, John Butler, Boy & Bear and Emily Wurramara

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