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The dark, boxy back room of The Workers Club sat in stark contrast to the unusually bright Melburnian day outside. The girls of Little May grabbed a couple of beers from the bar, distinguishable from the few surrounding punters only in as much as they were banded together in a way that no one else was. They attempted no airs at grace nor assumed any higher dignity to those there to see them. Yet when they stepped upon the stage, the change was palpable. Within moments the near-empty room filled up, and Boardwalks, the group’s first single, rang out.
Hannah Field stared with satisfied intensity as though down the barrel of a gun, her presence commanding continuity while Liz Drummond and Annie Hamilton harmonised on the flanks. Their voices blended in a way that receded the knowledge that you were listening to the sound of three voices and not one.
With Home and Burns, the commonly-made references to Julia Stone were obvious. On the surface these songs seemed to be a celebration of sweetness and nostalgia, the expression of a young heart. Yet the innocence belied by the voice was deceptive–one was given the sense that this voice was that of a child lost in the woods for ten years, and while the thoughts and words expressed by that voice had matured, the voice itself chose not to. The naivety projected thus enabled it to endear an audience who have, retrospectively, been given very little.
You see, Little May are good. They’re good players, their sound on stage is impeccable, the harmonies are tight, and I’m sure you could pick any one of their tracks and spin it on independent radio with endless glee. A recording of their Workers Club set could easily play on repeat for eight hours a day in a café or some trendy vintage clothes store on Brunswick Street. There is nothing not to like about them.
And yet I was still waiting to fall in love. Still waiting for that thing, the spark. The moody Midnight Hour was playing and I found myself scouring the sound desk for a laptop, something to tell me that perhaps the predictability of each track is the result of necessity, that this set is not just being played in the manner of an aged cabaret artist, performing the same shtick night after night on the Vegas Strip, but to no avail.
By the time the group launched into second single, Hide, a decision had been made. Little May, it suddenly seemed, are all about place. “Please, someone get this group out of venues like the Workers and onto a great sweeping festival stage where they belong,” I thought. Suddenly, Little May made sense.