ahab @ The Toff In Town
Port Fairy might sound like a quiet hamlet of elderlies, but a few weekends ago, more than 150,000 folk fans spilled through the little town for the annual Port Fairy Folk Music Festival. And it would seem, from the turnout on Thursday March 15, that a large portion of them were floored by London four-piece ahab. Hailing from the borough of Hackney, ahab’s sound is straight from the American south, filled with mandolin, guitar and cantering soft-stick drums.
From the very first song, these lads wrapped tendrils around the large crowd gathered at the Toff In Town. “Were you at Port Fairy?” and “did you go to Port Fairy?” were incessantly whispered by rapt young women throughout the room, but once the boys began to hit their straps there was no time for pleasantries – only for some serious dancing to done get danced.
Only two out of the five on stage were sporting flannelette shirts, which ain't bad for an alt-country band. With lead singer Dave Burn looking like a young Peter Andre and bassist Callam Anderson channelling James Franco circa Freaks And Geeks, it’s no wonder the boys’ elfin banter was punctuated by excited giggles from the crowd. Not that it was an especially young group: A number of middle-aged fans pressed right up to the stage’s edge and even instructed the youth to shut it on a couple of occasions.
Lightnin’ Bug and Call A Waiter rocked out early on and showcased the boys’ ability to enmesh their voices into a sort of harmonised caramel. Love Is Hell, sung by Anderson (who at this point was playing a guitar – there was so much instrument-swapping it was staggering) was magical: “My, my, my, love is hell” delicately rumbled across the room, the heartbreak tangible in the air. The tenderness gave way to a foot-stomping rabble when Joanna and Million Reasons led the last part of the set.
The most warm and raw voice of the four is Burn’s, whose tone sounded like something simmering or growing in slow motion, particularly in the stand-out track Soho. However, it is clear that ahab are so attuned to one another that their voices work wonderfully in harmony as well as each on their own.
During their encore (and a quick WC break for their drummer), the four fellows stood close together to deliver an acoustic Father’s Eyes, which lit up the room. Everybody crunched in and stamped, clapped, sang along like a commune after a long day picking cotton and fighting off wild animals with rakes. The set was rounded out with the debut single Rosebud, and there wasn’t a dry armpit in the house after the dancing frenzy. Everyone retreated to the tiny balcony to breathe some cool air and let the rain wash off the red dust.
BY ZOË RADAS
LOVED: Luke Price’s curly mandolin.
HATED: Fringe sticking to my forehead.
DRANK: James Squire Orchard Crush.