The crackling sound of a campfire accompanying Summer Salt as the band walked onstage perfectly matched the stage setup — which included fir trees, rustic string lights and a tent. As the band launched straight into “Life Ain’t the Same,” off of its 2018 Happy Camper, lead singer Matt Terry’s genuine smile was returned by the crowd. Basking in the relaxing glow of Summer Salt’s performance, the Berkeley audience was transformed into a group of happy campers gathered around the band’s unique blend of bossa nova and ‘60s oldies pop; the warmth of its self-described “coral reef rock” was a stark difference from the cold, rainy weather in the Bay.
Based out of Austin, Texas, Summer Salt was formed by two high school friends: Eugene Chung (drummer) and Matt Terry (vocals and guitar). The Austinian influence is clear in their music, which is reminiscent of pleasant summer nights spent in Austin with friends and family on Town Lake or in Zilker Park. When Summer Salt began playing “Give My Heart a Little Break” from Driving to Hawaii, Terry shouted an easy, “What’s up Berkeley?” and introduced the band. Its relaxed interaction with the crowd mimicked the friendliness that Austinites are typically known for.
Disco lights lit up the intimate Cornerstone pit for “Heart and My Car,” the opening track on Happy Camper, to create a gorgeous visual that matched the harmonies and layering vocals of the song. The crowd really joined in for “Revvin’ My CJ-7,” singing along with the dreamy melody that describes cruising away from responsibilities and a hectic schedule. The audience members bobbed their heads, seemingly agreeing with Terry’s honeyed croon, “Ain’t that the life.”
Terry took a short musical break to recognize his band members and introduce them to the crowd. The close interaction between Terry and Chung was fun for the audience to watch; it was evident that Summer Salt has very positive energy and that the music it creates is reflected by its dynamic as a group. Terry also took the time to thank openers Kid Bloom and Motel Radio for their fantastic performances, and the audience joined Terry in singing “Happy Birthday” to one of the members of Motel Radio, which was a special moment.
“Happy Birthday” was followed by “Candy Wrappers,” one of the most popular songs off of the So Polite album. The lit-up disco ball during this song displayed dazzling bluish spots around the room, and the bubblegum pink lights behind the band were enough to give the audience a sweet tooth as it sang along, danced and clapped. Summer Salt finished out the night with “Time Away From Home” and “Sweet to Me,” songs from Driving to Hawaii, which left the audience nostalgic for sunny summer days. Before the band members had even walked off stage, the crowd drummed up a loud chant of “one more song,” encouraging the encore it knew was coming
Summer Salt’s encore did not disappoint; the band played three songs, one of which was “Driving to Hawaii,” during part of which Terry handed the mic to the eager audience. When Summer Salt thanked the crowd for the last time, the audience responded enthusiastically, thanking the band for breathing a little bit of summer into the cold and wet Berkeley air.
Summer Salt left the crowd awed by its great instrumentation and vocals and the nostalgic summer, coral reef vibes that lie in its music. The crackling log sounds that preceded the band’s performance alongside the set design painted the picture of a campfire for the audience. But the intimacy of Cornerstone and the warmth of the songs, as well as the band’s ability to make the crowd smile, are what really made the concert seem like a large and happy summer bonfire. As Terry sang in “Driving to Hawaii,” “Babe when we’re together, it’s always such nice weather.” Meanwhile, fans in Berkeley enjoyed a break from the rain, basking in the rays of sunshine that Summer Salt’s performance brought to Cornerstone.