The days leading up to Summer Salt’s arrival in Madison were rainy and dreary, but their concert at the Majestic Friday night made it clear that summer isn’t over yet.
This was my first time at an indoor concert since the pandemic started. The Majestic staff was efficient and thorough at checking vaccine cards at the door. I wasn’t used to people brushing up against me, but I quickly got into the groove of swaying to Summer Salt’s beachy tunes.
Summer Salt had two openers, both of which matched their indie-rock vibe perfectly but also broached some heavier subjects.
The Breakup Shoes rocked the crowd into life. Their energy was incredible, with guitarist Jake Peña traveling up into the balcony at one point. The Majestic was perfect for moments like this; All of the music felt so close to the audience.
I saw multiple people pulling out their phones during the Breakup Shoes’ set to look them up on Spotify. Their merch table was pretty crowded after the show. It seemed like a lot of people — including me — wanted to hear a lot more from them.
Covey took the stage next, which had a bit of a harder rock edge with a level of angst and heaviness that doesn’t typically show up in Summer Salt’s music. Their frontman, Tom Freeman, took a few minutes to tell the story behind “Sam Jam.” I can’t explain that song in the space I have here, but it’s definitely worth a listen to understand why we all chanted the last verse over and over.
Both openers were great companions to Summer Salt, and I’m sure I’ll check out more of their music. However, they played for about two hours, which was slightly too long, and I could feel my anticipation for the main act fading away bit by bit.
The openers’ harder rock elements were evened out perfectly when Summer Salt took the stage. They settled into some slower tempos but still charmed the crowd. Everything was pure happiness, from Eugene Chung’s smiles to Matthew Terry’s dance moves to all the guitar riffs and flourishes.
Summer Salt’s discography has evolved over the years, but they still hold on to their breezy, calming, beach rock roots even on October-themed songs like “Hocus Pocus.”
There were some classic songs, like “Revvin’ my Cj7” and “Driving to Hawaii,” that the whole crowd swayed back and forth to. When the crowd sang along to “Driving to Hawaii,” Terry subbed in “driving to Wisconsin,” which everyone screamed in approval of. I forgot how much I enjoy it when bands show love for Wisconsin, even though they tell all the cities that. They asked the crowd what Wisconsin is famous for and we shouted cheese, which made me proud.
There was a great balance between the contemplative songs and the ones that are just pure fun. There was also a good mix between tracks from their latest album and their old discography. The contrast between these times for the band was really meaningful.
They ended their set with “Time Away from Home,” a track I would listen to in the summer before going back to college. That song is all about exploration and restlessness, a sentiment they always portrayed in their earlier work.
Compare that with the slowed-down “Lewa Lani” from their new record Sequoia Moon. It has a lovely line: “you know it feels quite nice to be back home.” That line hit me so hard, like I was growing and realizing things right alongside the band.
Watching live music again felt like being back home, and that was echoed by all the performers Friday night. I know the audience felt it too. The concert felt like a large cloud lifted up, and Summer Salt showered down sunshine and happiness.
Hope Karnopp is the news manager at The Daily Cardinal. She also hosts the Cardinal Call for WORT-FM. She also writes about music and previously covered state politics.