Review: SummerSalt Ocean Alley @ Sandstone Point Hotel (Bribe Island)

Ocean Alley headlined SummerSalt at Sandstone Point Hotel (Bribie Island) on 7 April, 2024 - image © Bill Prendergast
Bill has a love of music (especially Australian), surf, photography, food and family. Favourite countries: Australia, Japan, Italy (in that order!). Favourite music genres: open to everything!

With a huge headline act – Ocean Alley – supported by a range of high-class acts, this promised to be a fantastic SummerSalt event.

The bands were fresh from playing Adelaide the prior day, and the SummerSalt organisers had everything organised perfectly. Nothing could prevent this from being a great concert experience except. . . the weather!

The heavens did open up late in the show, but the rain was a non-event. The vibe at the show was so positive, and the music of such a high standard, that the torrential downpour (and mud!) just became another feature of a highly memorable festival.

Each of the early acts alluded to their excitement playing with Ocean Alley and had the crowd on tenterhooks, yet each band put on a great show with individual and highly differentiated sets.

Velvet Trip
Velvet Trip - image © Bill Prendergast

Sydney's Velvet Trip kicked the show off, fresh from Bluesfest and supporting John Butler at Taronga Zoo. 'Silly Boy' and the harmonious 'Harmony Blooms' (the title track from their recently released first LP) were highlights with the crowd.

The five-piece had an unusual and mixed visual appearance, but they were perfect as an opening act. Zeppelin Hamilton, speaking after the show, was elated to be a part of the gig, and really exuded the infectious, positive, happy vibe that flowed right through the festival to its end nine hours later.

SEASIDE from Byron Bay followed, and were one of my favourite sets of the day. The guys had a more consistent visual appearance, basically black, and ripped straight into 'Sick'.

I immediately had Chrissy Amphlett of the Divinyls come to mind, but also Siouxsie Sioux from Siouxsie and the Bashees. Too long ago for this crowd, and for the band, but a great singer to have as inspiration.

Lead singer Darcy Dexter was amazing, delighted to be playing in front of family and gave it her all. She was constantly on the move, with a silky smooth voice, yet able to screech when required.

SEASIDE - image © Bill Prendergast

'We're On Fire' (a great song) and 'Golden Girl' followed on from 'Sick', retaining the high level of energy, through to 'Anywhere' lifted from the new EP 'Wishbone'. The band worked through 'Sycamore', then further hits, one of which was reminiscent – to me – of the Oils' 'Stand In Line', as the guitar and bass built up the tune, culminating in a creative guitar solo.

A further highlight was 'Housewife' – it was introduced by Darcy as being based around the TV series, particularly Eva Longoria, with the subtle instruction that "if you don't know her, Google her up – she's hot!". I loved the piece, the drummer ended the song by constantly winding his arm up behind his head before each hit.

These guys had the visuals worked out, too. The guys have been together since 2018, with Kento joining in the last two years on guitar, and they have just been booked for seven events in May – check them out!

CLEWS followed, with two sisters (Lily and Grace Richardson) hailing from Sydney and the focus of the act. The group has been playing together since pre-COVID, and we were told at the outset, this set will focus on heartbreak!

'Thinking Of You' was a jangly and poppy song to kick off with, but as the set progressed there was a folk and almost country aspect to their great music. After another heavy heartbreak song, the three girls had fun with the only male band member and his lack of communication. He was asked to say something, and he responded with the riddle about the pirate's favourite letter. The crowd loved his delivery! Lily was delightful as she spoke to me in the crowd about how much they are loving playing this tour.

CLEWS - image © Bill Prendergast

Rum Jungle out of Newcastle was one of the other earlier bands who come with huge raps. After SEASIDE, they were also notable in having a clear fan base in the audience. The crowd was singing in full voice in the early set, and lead singer Benny probably had the line of the gig: "This is our first time at Bribi Island."

At this juncture, we had our first glimpse of light but overall this was a very funky set. Later in their set, one of the pieces was introduced with an unusual strumming of a single string on the guitar, but the crowd was in full voice shortly, as the song was revealed as 'Stay' by Rihanna. It was a heavier version, but again the crowd was in raptures.

The last song, 'Everything Is Easy' is probably their best known song, and consensus of the punters at the event was that this was the highlight. My favourite was the earlier 'Dash Of Speed'. The guys were happy to have a chat after the set, flitting casually between the footy and how much they were enjoying these gigs.

Rum Jungle
Rum Jungle - image © Bill Prendergast

Full Flower Moon Band followed, and it was nice to finally have a non-NSW band on the stage! These guys presented a classic set, and were happy to be a bit rough around the edges – visually speaking – being from Brisbane.

Singer Babyshakes (Kate Dillon) was striking some incredible poses as she belted out the set; I loved 'Trainspotting' early in the set and 'Illegal Things', released only a few days ago.

Babyshakes told the crowd they'd selected their set based on Spotify playlists for the concert: "This is the set list you curated!" This positive feeling best summed up the whole day for me! There were glimpses of Veruca Salt and even a little Hole later in the set.

As their set culminated they presented a perfect wall of sound in 'Hurt Nobody'. The last piece is their best known, 'Roadie'. I was watching from right at the back, and literally all I could see and hear was drummer Luke Hanson belting the drums, but the effect was great.

Full Flower Moon Band
Full Flower Moon Band - image © Bill Prendergast

Talking to Luke later (who, by the way, probably has the best mullet – or lion's mane – ever), he noted that his sweat was so thick he could hardly see, and his drumsticks had been almost shredded, such was the force he was using. Babyshakes has been behind the band for ten years, and they have really started to get some well-deserved traction since their second-to-last album 'Diesel Forever'.

Great Gable from Perth followed with another high-quality set. The crowd loved the early 'Dancing Shoes' delivering the requested "max guitar". 'Best Friend' and 'Drift' followed, and the crowd was really building as their show moved into the later stages.

'All My Friends' was followed by the crowd-pleaser 'Fireflies', with its very light instrumentation preceding the crowd joining in for the chorus, where the audience was singing louder than singer Alex Whiteman! Bassist Chris Bye was down on one knee, playing some highly intricate basslines. They played one last piece, had a quick swig of beer, and left the stage.

Great Gable
Great Gable - image © Bill Prendergast

Coterie delivered the next set, bringing the beach and outdoor vibe to life in their sunnies and beach hats. I think these guys have improved even further from when I last saw them six months ago.

The Fisher brothers who live in Perth and hail from NZ, present a very particular look. 'Paradise', the second song of the set, was huge, as it had been the prior time I saw them.

As they moved into Dave Dobbins' hit 'Slice Of Heaven', the rain really started to bucket down! The crowd were completely unfazed by the moisture falling from the sky, loving this hit which would have been released before many of them were born!

As Coterie's set progressed, the constant theme through all the songs was the pumping bass, which really had the whole audience moving as one. Singer Tyler gave a Bob Marley feel, so it was not unexpected that the boys played a great cover of 'Could You Be Loved', which was a highlight for me.

For the second time, the crowd was told "1, 2, 3, say it: Coterie!" to ensure they did not forget this great band, and their high-quality set.

Coterie - image © Bill Prendergast

So we moved into the last two bands. First Hockey Dad; these guys were fantastic! The three-piece came on playing super energetic pieces leading off with huge hits 'I Missed Out', 'So Tired' and 'Base Camp'.

'Keg' was a slightly slower piece, but no less enjoyable – Zach Stephenson was strumming on one string, playing one piece, whilst singing something completely (musically) unrelated, showing his impressive musical skills.

The audience had really hit a maximum now, as it was clear everyone wanted to see Hockey Dad and Ocean Alley (at a minimum). A moment later, Stephenson was asking "ok you guys wanna hear a newy?" and less than half a second later "ok here we go," launching into 'Still Have Room'.

Apologies follow as they launch into another new one, but no apologies are required, the crowd loves this music. The last two songs of their set were massive. The crowd was enraptured, swaying with the music, as the band played through 'Join The Club' and wound up with 'Seaweed'.

The guys were lovey, again so happy to be a part of such a positive event, and put on a great set. I'm left struck just how young they look, and where they have got to in the Australian music scene at such a young age.

Hockey Dad
Hockey Dad - image © Bill Prendergast

We finally hit the one the crowd is waiting for. Ocean Alley. With a #3 placement in last year's Like A Version Hottest 100 ('Baby Come Back'), and a previous #1 Hottest 100 ('Confidence'), these guys are one of the bigger acts on the Australian music scene right now.

What struck me as the band played their set is they broadly stuck to the original music, not deviating too far from the recorded versions, with the possible exception of the lead guitar.

What I love about these guys is they fully display their reverence for the music they have been guided by, despite this being from an earlier era. The three clear influences I take from their music is Pink Floyd, Hendrix and Marley (Player doesn't count!). Hendrix and Marley have not been alive for 40 years, yet Ocean Alley openly display their respect for this music.

The second last piece of their set, 'Partner In Crime', really highlighted a couple of these points; the studio version really takes influence from Hendrix's 'Little Wing' and yet when played live it was the solo that departed from the studio version more than the rest of the accompaniment.

I thought the clear crowd favourite from the set was 'Yellow Mellow', their oldest hit. A close second was 'Confidence' – when the crowd heard the octaves played on the guitar through the wah-wah pedal they knew exactly what was coming and it did not disappoint.

Ocean Alley.2
Ocean Alley - image © Bill Prendergast

Other standouts included my favourite of the evening 'The Comedown', and the final song, the bizarre choice of 'Baby Come Back' from late 1970s one-hit-wonder Player, and yet the song works. It was an excellent song to wind up on, and again shows these boys from Sydney are happy to display their musical heritage.

Really, a brilliant set to wind up the fun evening on. Baden Donegal cut a strong visual target onstage, Tom O'Brien on drums is also quite magnetic, but the guys overall presented a very relaxed presence, exactly what you'd expect from a bunch of surfers, right?

More photos from the festival.

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