The sleepy town of Denmark had the pleasure of Abbe May’s presence on Friday at the Denmark Arts Centre. An intimate yet excited crowd gathered around to watch Abbe’s solo performance, as she enticed them with witty, honest lyrics; soul-bearing vocals; and pared-back acoustic rhythm and blues.
She began her set by apologising for rocking up late (she was on time, albeit a little flustered). Abbe let it be known she didn’t kill anything on her drive down from Perth and was a tad hungover after one too many tequilas. She asserts she rarely drinks nowadays and that her night on the tequila had her wondering the morning after, “was there a murder?” when she discovered her bloody sheets. Thankfully it was far less dramatic – her cut foot being the cause.
Abbe reflected with the audience the impact of her niece’s birth, the moment which led to Abbe “becoming less of a narcissistic arsehole” and toning down the party animal persona often attributed to those in the industry. Abbe first played 17, an ode to youth’s mistakes and tests. Next up was Muriel a song reminiscent of a 1940’s siren, about Abbe’s “best friend” – her late grand mother Muriel. The singer said she is still comforted by the voice of her Grandmother speaking to her, as perhaps many who have lost a loved one are – “or maybe I’m bat-shit crazy!”. She drew the crowd into an autobiographical journey through her songs, making us laugh with her stories of heartache, love and trial. She affirmed, “Love is the most powerful experience in life.”
Suddenly the lights went out and Abbe’s song, aptly titled Blackout began. Rain began to fall outside – as if conjured by the blues. Clearly this woman has no qualms dropping the C-bomb, as she indulged the audience with her song about a narcissistic ex who continually faked illness to get out of responsibilities… “but she was so hot!”. The song was simply titled Fuck You. Abbe paused in between: “Yes, I referred to her as malignant.” Thanks to an enthusiastic fan mentioning boobs, Abbe revealed she neglected to put on a bra “so if one of my tits pops out… you’re welcome.”
She declared Fruit to be her openly coming-out album, previously titled Bitchcraft. She released the album with a young boy in mind, who killed himself after being bullied for coming out as gay. Abbe felt it part of her duty as a gay woman to help represent the LGBTQI community through her art.
Abbe swung into a sultry acoustic version of the 90’s R&B track Pony, making me want to dirty dance and made many, Abbe included, laugh hysterically throughout. An older song, the psychedelic Mammalian Locomotion was written as a screw you to a very famous musician who suggested she change her style and become more “feminine” to gain popularity.
Abbe cites Howling Wolf as one of her idols in addition to Willy Dickson who wrote most of Howling Wolf’s songs. Spoonful beautifully, howlingly ended the set, her strong vocals on full display. Like most musicians who have been around the block (I use the term as a compliment, of course!), Abbe’s music does not restrict itself to a particular style, rather, it takes aspects of blues, soul, R&B and pop and turns it into something powerful and personal.
Far from a “diva” (although she insisted she brush her hair on stage before she began!) Abbe presents herself as a fantastically self-deprecating, yet self-aware, eloquent dag. With talent to boot and rad glittery boots.