Music reviews: Taylor Made and Summer Camp Festival, ALWAYS LIVE Festival

As 'Taylor Made' and 'Summer Camp Festival' proves, live music is back.
Always Live. Image is a blue lit stage with a blonde woman in a sleeveless dress singing or speaking into a microphone.

Taylor Made

As host Clementine Ford said in introducing the show, Taylor Made audiences all had one thing in common: they didn’t get Taylor Swift tickets. 

During the Swift tribute show at the Northcote Theatre in the inner northern Melbourne suburb, Ford expertly guided the ‘audience who missed out’ through a curated collection of Swift classics (and some more obscure tracks that, as Clare Bowditch put it, only a true fan would know). A part of ALWAYS LIVE, Taylor Made had a line-up of undeniably powerful Australian performers (Alex the Astronaut, Charley, Bowditch, Ford, Em Rusciano, Emily Wurramara, Lisa Mitchell, Sophia J Smith and Gretta Ray) singing their favourite Swift songs, with some excellent commentary along the way. 

Mitchell opened the show with a soft, acoustic version of ‘Cardigan’, with strings and keys coming in to add beautiful depth. Smith demonstrated her vocal power and range in a duet of ‘Welcome to New York’ with the always exceptional Bowditch. As Ford remarked, if this is what Smith can do at 16 years old, there’s no telling how powerful she’ll be at 26, 36, 46, 56.

Putting on her ‘Taylor Swift blazer’, Ford herself channelled Swift’s power and presence in ‘The Man’. There was perhaps no singer better placed to perform the track, especially with Ford’s focus on uplifting other women and supporting their bright futures through Taylor Made

Em Rusciano and her daughter Marchella (the ‘token musical theatre folk’) performed ‘I Did Something Bad’ like it’s never been done before, with eerie vocal harmonies and violin work – effective and an excellent play on Swift’s lyrics ‘I play ‘em like a violin’.

A surprise appearance from Gretta Ray and an all-artist-in ‘All Too Well (10-minute version)’ made Taylor Made an unforgettable celebration of both the pop icon and the immense talent of Australian artists.

Summer Camp Festival

Created by the queer community for the community and allies, Summer Camp Festival came to Melbourne for ALWAYS LIVE. Despite the cold weather and rain for the Melbourne show, the outdoor festival was full of vibrancy and movement.

Crowds at the Summer Camp Festival. Photo: t15_media.

Imbued with love and energy, headliner Jessie Ware and her Pearlettes (dancers, musicians and vocalists) electrified the night. Her disco-soul set from 2023 album That! Feels Good! was commanding and made it impossible to keep still. 

In a recent article on Ware’s Artist Award for Rolling Stone UK, she shared her apprehension at performing the track ‘Pearls’ live, yet her Summer Camp delivery was faultless. ‘Free Yourself’ ended the set, with punchy choreography and extraordinary vocal power. 

Ware’s energy led seamlessly into Trixie Mattel’s DJ set, celebrating and rounding off the night with a number of other festival performers joining her on stage.

There was no less energy on the smaller stage. Artists including Tom Aspaul, Saint Eve and Tyoow turned a slightly dreary part of the St Kilda Marina into an epic car park party. 

While each act delighted audiences, the festival itself was a performance of its own, with every festival-goer contributing to creating a space of authenticity and acceptance. The result was nine hours of rain-hail-or-shine perseverance where individuals could explore their personal connection to rhythm, culture and creativity. 

Read: Music review: Mushroom 50 Live concert, Rod Laver Arena

If we needed a reminder that live music is back, ALWAYS LIVE is it. The remainder of the 2023 program is sure to remind Victorians that music can make the most unforgettable memories. 

Taylor Made: Taylor Swift Tribute ran for three shows at Northcote Theatre on 24 November and 26 November 2023. Summer Camp Festival was held at the St Kilda Marina on 2 December 2023.

ALWAYS LIVE is running until 10 December 2023.

Savannah Indigo is a researcher and copywriter, trained in publishing, dance, literature and law. Passionate about gender issues and promoting equity through tech design, she has researched Indigenous Data Sovereignty for the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector and is developing a paper about harassment in the Metaverse. She has written for Brow Books, Books+Publishing magazine, The Journal of Supernatural Literature (Deakin University) and the Science and Technology Law Association, and is a 2022 Hot Desk Fellow at The Wheeler Centre.