Little May at Bush Hall
Sydney natives Little May are big enough to be touring Europe, and big enough that their most popular songs have been streamed several million times.
But they’re not too big to admit that they have no idea how to do an encore. They’re not even too big to do their own sound check.
By the time lead singer Hannah Field joins her bandmates on-stage at Bush Hall, they’ve been visible for about 20 minutes, tuning their own instruments and adjusting their own levels. That might just be proof that ten million plays on Spotify don’t pay the bills – but Little May are so endearingly humble that they would probably do their own sound check if they were headlining Wembley.
The band – a week into a two-month tour of Europe and the US – are visibly jet-lagged, but as soon as they start playing, they are captivating. Both Field and Liz Drummond (with whom she shares vocals) are beguiling singers. Field’s voice is warm and effortless; Drummond’s is anguished and penetrative. When the band’s two main singers blend, as on Hide, the songs – which are largely on quite solipsistic topics (abandonment by friends or lovers, loss) – become testaments to friendly solidarity: problems halved and solved.
Little May’s double-guitar, triple-harmony core (rounded out by Annie Hamilton) makes comparison with Warpaint almost inevitable; the bands share a lot of common ground, particularly in terms of vocals. But where Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman sometimes fight for space, Field and Drummond are more restrained. Little May sound like Warpaint, just a little less.
That’s not to say they lack in ability. Every musician on-stage tonight is competent. But one stands out: whenever Cat Hunter – session musician and sometime band member – starts to drum, the band’s spare, simple elegies become fierce.
Hunter’s playing is almost virtuosic. Shoehorned between a keyboard and a stack of amps, so pushed for space that any leg movement threatens to knock her kit apart, she almost steals the show, playing a series of varied and inventive parts. Thunderous mallets lend weight to Home, while skeletal rimshots quietly underpin delicate set highlight Dust. Hunter’s professionalism visibly calms her (half-)bandmates, who smile gratefully at her after each faultless performance.
About half of tonight’s setlist is drawn from forthcoming album For the Company, produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, and at their darkest and most stately, as on menacing lullaby Oh My My, Little May do recall that band. Set-closer and old fan-favourite Boardwalks is just as defiant, but its harmonies are far warmer – a final reminder of the group’s impressive range. When it’s over, Little May shuffle off beaming, presumably catching their breath before packing away their equipment, helping at the cloakroom, and continuing on their world tour.
The editorial unit
Photos: Sophie Bluestone
For further information about Little May and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Dust here: