A Live Experience with Little May and E^ST @ The Maxx Watts, Melbourne 13th March

jamesSydney trio Little May have had a remarkable year since the release of their debut For The Company, delivered at the end of last year, earning a modest listing on the Australian Charts but gaining some worthy attention in Europe and the States.  It is an album of considered and mature song writing, a melting pot of folk, rock and pop, fuelled by excellent poetic lyrics.  Tonight they are well supported by the super talented Brisbane songwriter E^ST, a power force of young energy and musical talent.

The warm cavernous attributes of Maxx Watts House of Music isn’t the usual venue for such artists, most commonly showcasing Punk, Heavy Metal and anything with a bit of grit and sweat.  Main support E^ST (Melissa Bester) hasn’t hit 21 years of age and already, judging by her live presence and confident performance on this brightly lit stage, we see yet another Australian female artist who is breaking new ground in musical style and geez, it’s great to see.

With 2 Eps delivered in the last few years, tonight E^ST performs with a very competent band who offered some impressive drumming and sharp electronic glitches.  Besters voice is remarkable, sometimes sultry like Stevie Nick and even moments of FKA Twigs and Marina and the Diamonds, her range is extraordinary. “Your Ghost” and “The Alley”, her two biggest hits are faultless, the crowd are hugely responsive with interesting improvised dance moves for effect.

Bester commanded the stage, stomping back and forth, striking the air with clenched fists, like a barbarian she executed with such conviction, and despite the stage lit ready for the cleaners, the band were still able to create enough atmosphere with their music.  On listening back to Bester’s 2 EPS, her music covers a broad range of genres, inconsistent perhaps but a clear indication of broad musical ability proving that she is not a one trick pony, and a many albums in her.  A great young artist who is inspiring as she is gifted.

Little May, probably aren’t getting the recognition they deserve in Australia, which is a real shame. Their debut is superb and worthy of more than reaching number 40 in the ARIA charts, not that this actually has anything to do with anything. For The Company, is full of hit after hit, from their biggest earner ‘Home’ to ‘Oh My My’ ‘Remind Me’ and ‘Sold’, each of them offered to us in timeless fashion and forceful in sound.  Dire Straits, ‘Money For Nothing’ booms from the speakers, providing the musical introduction to Liz Drummond, Hannah Field & Annie Hamilton as they adorn their guitars and lead microphone, tonight joined by drums, bass and keys.

With no introduction and no interaction Little May rush through a few songs, looking nervous and slightly overwhelmed by the almost capacity turn out.  Lead singer Hannah’s voice is timid but convincing and as things settle, they tell us that they weren’t expecting so many. From here, things start to improve, in fact they rocket to new heights with full confidence, the banter loosens up as we are told the gig will play out like “a bush walk”, starting off in “acoustic valley” through the “peaks of angst” a “storm” and then ending somewhere in a “field of goats”.  Rightfully described, this pretty much sums up the broad scope of the band’s music, their debut crossing borders of melancholy, folk, indie rock and ethereal pop.

‘Chemicals’ sounds beautiful live although we learn that there was a time when the band were not convinced by the song, however Aaron Dessner from The National who produced the album convinced them to see it through and for good reason, the live result is delicate and reflective.  Just a shame that this Friday night crowd chose to talk through most of it, putting a plug in it when Little May announce a cover of Australian 80’s band Icehouses ‘Great Southern Land’, a welcoming way to break things up tonight, always hard to keep the attention of an audience when you have only one album, there are few surprises.

Stand-out track tonight goes to ‘Dust’ delivered from their first EP, this is the storm of the set list tonight, just before we reach the end, the “field of goats”, Hannah’s voice sounded warm and husky, the guitars picked up rhythm, the drum roll sin succession and the roof was finally raised to a wonderful crescendo.  With a well-earned encore, one that felt genuinely unplanned, Little May, show that just one album of diversity can have the hallmarks to set you up for a fruitful future. Let’s hope that Australia can get behind this trio, so we don’t lose them to the mature ears of Europe.  A warming and honest performance.