The Sydney-based indie/folk trio kicked off their Australian album tour at University of Wollongong’s Uni Bar. For the Company is their debut LP and was released in late October last year. After opening for the likes of Dallas Green of City and Color, they are headlining their own tour with a range of dates across the nation. Liz Drummond, Annie Hamilton and Hannah Field began their musical journey together as a covers band without the Little May title, testing out their original songs on pub crowds as though they were also covers. Drummer Cat Hunter and bassist Mark Harding fill out their sound from quiet folk to a sort of indie rock.
Bec Sandridge kicked off the night with a powerful set. Backed by four new bandmates, her soaring vocals reminded me of Bowie meets the Jezabels. Despite a bit of a kerfuffle with the sound levels, Bec and her band created a nice full sound with upbeat drums and whimsical use of shivering cymbals. There was a cute little joke with the audience about the next two tracks in her set being a bit “emo” but still dance-y enough to have a “sad boogie” to. She debuted a very new track called Uniform to a very receptive crowd, along with You’re A Fucking Joke. A totally playful intro with sassy riffs, it has the makings of an anthem with heads nodding and more than a few people cutting loose. They segued effortlessly into the last track of the set, In the Fog, In the Flame, a strong song to finish on. The new band compliments Bec’s expressive voice and quirky charisma with a full sound and their own little zest.
Australia, “the band, not the country, not the country band,” (as stated on their band tee at the merchandise table) is comprised of six thirty-something-looking Aussie blokes having a crack at the musician thing because, let’s face it, it’s never too late for that. With flavours of Franz Ferdinand in the vocals and a heavy influence from the late 80s, Australia offered thick rolling bass lines and possibly one of the most enthusiastic (or drunk) percussion/keyboardist I’ve ever seen. After a particularly slow song with a bit too much male falsetto for my liking they reignited the flame in the crowd with a rousing cover of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance with a pretty sick guitar solo to finish it up. In their last track, one of the guitarists removed his shirt and pelted it at the bass player. The percussion/keyboardist then pelted the guitarist with his shirt, much to the crowd’s amusement. Despite my initial scepticism, Australia won me over with their awkward and bumbling, beer-soaked charm.
Headliners, Little May got the crowd primed with a recording of Money from Nothing by Dire Straits. From the minute they set foot on stage and began playing, the atmosphere was tangible. Intricate melodies picked out by Annie and Liz on electric and acoustic guitars highlighted the clarity and grace in Hannah’s vocals. They plowed through the first two tracks before stopping to welcome the audience on the first night of their nation-wide tour. Their songs maintain a mellow intensity through rhythm guitar chords and bass before a take-off signalled by jarring keys and powerful, deliberate beats.
Home preserved the atmosphere they worked hard to establish. Uni bar became a place you can relax and let go, suspended in bubble of music just beyond the reach of the real world and its worries. Hannah, Liz and Annie’s harmonies were utterly transfixing. The basslines of Sinks had such grunge and sass – more than a few hips were shaking in approval, including mine. Hannah introduced the next two tracks, Hide and Midnight Hour as an exploration of what it means to feel “angst”. The false starts of the guitar (and tambourine accent) were an impeccable exploration of how anxiety feels. I’m not going to lie, it got my heart rate up even though I eventually figured out when to expect it.
Part-way through the set Annie and Liz traded acoustic and electric guitars, something I haven’t seen before. This was a poignant interplay of lead and rhythm guitar sounds. The girls dedicated a cover of Icehouse’s Great Southern Land to thank the audience for their support of live music and Australian music. The crowd loved every second of the iconic song from the early 80s.
Thanks to Little May for putting on such a poignant show that welcomed the audience to be utterly themselves with no shame. They transformed Uni Bar to an intimate gathering of the friendliest strangers with their ethereal yet sensitive tracks. If the rest of the tour is anything to go by, Australia is in for a real treat with 10 more dates taking them as far as Western Australia and Tasmania.
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Money for Nothing by Dire Straits (from tape)
Bow & Arrow
Great Southern Land (Icehouse cover)
Oh My My