Noah and the Whale

This second part from the Coliseum night happened first.
Noah and the Whale opened The Coral gig at the English National Opera theatre. I still cannot think at a better band for such a role.

Before going into their music, I must confess that I have been attracted by this band curious to know the name’s origin. I quickly discovered (magic Google) that Noah comes from Noah Baumback, a NYC film director who made a film, The Squid and the Whale, which gave the name its second half.

The fact that this is a low-fi film shot on a 16mm hand held camera immediately made me fall in love with the whole thing, including the band inspired by it. My next step will be to find and watch it, since the story sounds great too. Anyway, I am not talking about cinema here. Let’s go back to the band.

Formed in 2006 Noah and the Whale are an example of how the English music scene in these recent years is capable of interchanging and generating a flow of inspirations continuously merging one into the other.

Curiously, while the indie-rock bands using the same approach seem to end up copying each other recording a bunch of guitar songs that are very difficult to distinguish one from the next, the “alt(hyphen)folk(slash)rock” scene is a lot more creative and original.

The “Noah collective” has generated interesting spin offs, side projects and interactions since its early days.
Emmy the Great got something to do with them before realising she is cool, nice and funny enough to be truly “great” on her own. I stumbled across her supporting someone and I was impressed by her set.
The hyperactive Laura Marling in a short time managed to get a Mercury Prize nominated solo album, Alas, I Cannot Swim, take part in Noah’s debut, play gigs with them, have a role in a single of the -once psych now pop- Mystery Jets and, not last, appear on TV with Jools Holland. She is just 18!

Noah and the Whale is the band I officially photographed tonight, but they already formed a side project performing a gig as the A Sides. What they do I haven’t got a clue. It is almost impossible to follow any facet of these guys unless you are not within the band yourself.

Charlie (can’t find his surname anywhere) is the leader the singer and the heart of this London “open” quartet.
The album, Peaceful The World Lays Me Down is out now and the title track that is playing in this exact moment I am writing, is a perfect example of how England is getting back to its popular roots.
Over the 11 songs brasses, fiddles, ukulele, acoustic guitars and Laura Marling angelic back vocals draw a line going from the brit-folk roots to the future. I can smell influences from the Pentangle to Isobel Campbell‘s Belle and Sebastian era, but this music today is as fresh as it hasn’t been for ages.

Where many of these rising alt-folk tunes tend to have a gloomy edge, reaching the nadir on the debut album of the Brighton duo Sons of Noel and Adrian not suggested if you are on antidepressants, Noah and The Whale debut has a brighter edge.
Sunny spots open during the listening. Love is the central theme, love observed from many perspectives.

The wonderfully titled 2 atoms in a molecule, (sorry I am sensitive to this, I am a chemist!) uses an upbeat rhythm and tries to be humorous whilst telling of an unrequited love story. It closes with one of the most intelligent questions I have ever been asked through a song “And if love is just a game, Then how come it’s no fun?”

“Last night, I had a dream
We were inseparably entwined
Like a piece of rope made out of two pieces of vine
Held together, holding each other
With no one else in mind
Like two atoms in a molecule
Inseparably combined

But then I woke from the dream
To realise I was alone
A tragic event, I must admit
But let’s not be overblown
I’m gonna try to ride a love song
Just a sad, pathetic moan
And maybe I just need change
Maybe I just need a new cologne

But now I look at love
Like being stabbed in the heart
You torture each other from day to day
And then one day you part
Most of the time it’s misery
But there’s some joy at the start
And for that, I’d say it’s worth it
Just as you play the shortest sharp on me

And if love is just a game
Then how come it’s no fun?
If love is just a game
How come I’ve never won?
I guess maybe it’s possible I might be playing it wrong
And that’s why every time I roll the dice
I always come undone”

[2 Aatoms in a Molecule – Noah and the Whale]

…the catchy “single of the summer” 5 years time plays around being frivolous and have fun on the footpath of what Latin poet Horace was teaching with his “Carpe Diem” a couple of millennium ago.

“Oh well in five years time we could be walking round a zoo
With the sun shining down over me and you
And there’ll be love in the bodies of the elephants too
And I’ll put my hands over your eyes, but you’ll peep through

And there’ll be sun sun sun
All over our bodies
And sun sun sun
All down our necks
And sun sun sun
All over our faces
And sun sun sun

So what the heck

Cos I’ll be laughing at all your silly little jokes
And we’ll be laughing about how we used to smoke
All those stupid little cigarettes
And drink stupid wine
Cos it’s what we needed to have a good time

And it was fun fun fun
When we were drinking
It was fun fun fun
When we were drunk
And it was fun fun fun
When we were laughing
It was fun fun fun
Oh it was fun

Oh well I look at you and say
It’s the happiest that I’ve ever been
And I’ll say I no longer feel I have to be James Dean
And she’ll say
Yeah well I feel all pretty happy too
And I’m always pretty happy when I’m just kicking back with you

And it’ll be
Love love love
All through our bodies
And love love love
All through our minds
And it be Love love love
All over her face
And Love love love
All over mine

Although maybe all these moments are just in my head
I’ll be thinking ‘bout them as I’m lying in bed
And all that I believe might never really come true
But in my mind I’m havin’ a pretty good time with you

Five years time
I might not know you
Five years time
We might not speak
In five years time
We might not get along
In five years time
You might just prove me wrong

Oh there’ll be love love love
Wherever you go there’ll be love”

[5 Years Time – Noah and the Whale]

When Noah and the Whale entered the Coliseum stage, I still haven’t listened more than their myspace tracks. I could audibly realize that live their track are quite different from the studio versions.
Probably, with the help of such a perfect acoustic, it has been enough to be aware of which instruments produce their sounds to feel instantly part of a popular fair. Fact is that the melodies of the songs where so essential and natural that I have been wondering if they were really playing original compositions or simply rearranging forgotten traditionals.

Pride of playing the first ukulele song in the home of London opera, these guys were clearly enjoying the place as well.
When the last song was announced and the drummer had to take his brushes and leave the stage to the technicians ready to dismount his drum kit, he looked like he wanted more. I did too.

Listen to Noah and the Whale music on their [myspace]  [website]

Photo tip

When I arrived to the Coliseum, after a 2 hours train journey from Cambridge, to discover that my name was not on the guest list, my only aim was to get in for The Coral gig. I didn’t even know Noah and the Whale were supporting.
I sorted out (again) the photo pass with a band manager and I entered the theatre just in time for the start of Noah set. Well you can see!

This is to tell you that even if asking for a photopass with the band PRs is theoretically intended just for that band, in practice you can go to shoot the support as well.

If not differently stated, the endless list of e-mail, phone calls (and e-mail again!) throughout a multitude of managers, PRs and similar figures guarantees the access to the first 3 songs (no flash!) of the headliner.

The support, even if it is from the same label, for mysterious reasons always has a different set of agencies and managers that you have to go through if you want to follow the “official” procedure. This is the theory.

You don’t want to repeat the same endless, boring procedure twice, do you?
Well don’t, because it is worthless!
Better you don’t even ask if you are allowed to the support because to avoid misunderstanding they’ll simply answer “No, you have to contact their label”.

In fact once you have a photopass rarely someone prevents you from shooting the opening bands. If you are lucky you may even stay in the pit for the entire set which means plenty of time to study the stage and to try those tricks you always had in mind but didn’t want to risk on a key act. Supports are eager of any kind of coverage they can have and more than happy to pose for you.

The only exception is for outstanding concerts when the opening is a big name too. In that case if you are really after it it is worth asking and eventualy doing everything twice.
Few years ago I went to shoot The Hives mainly because I am a fan of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, who was supporting. I secured myself asking for a double pass. Tedious but worthwhile.

If you haven’t sorted out a double pass, you can always try to enter the pit once at the venue. If someone tells you not to, you can always answer that no one ever told you differently. Consider to be there with enough time to go through this dispute if you don’t want to find yourself arguing with the band on stage! The “on duty” manager of the night is not the same person you e-mailed for days. He doesn’t know anything of your correspondence but if he is a nice guy you’ll be in the pit with your camera.

~ by Valerio on August 17, 2008.

13 Responses to “Noah and the Whale”

  1. Love your pictures and love your blog…

    Great job! I’m adding it to my blog roll…was wondering if you could add My Crazy Music Blog to yours as well!

    Also dugg your article.

    Look forward to more awesome pictures.

  2. Pork dog! Ok that was a mistake, I got the wrong Noa(h). I can’t listen to things from here, but my Noa(h) is an israeli female singer who brings no whale along.

  3. I think your review of the Stereophonics is very shallow.
    Sorry mate.
    You’re just another Mr Writer.
    Not even a single word about the singer’s voice?
    Ask the males who were there.
    There are not anly girls droling over him.
    I love his voice and his being sincere and polite. He’s not just a rocker on leather jackets.
    That’s is just an outfit.
    If you don’t like the genre it’s ok, i understand, but having a camera doesn’t allow you to say that they are crap without explaning professionally what doesn’t go with their music.
    Have you heard the last OAsis album?
    Well…that is far away your loved Definitely maybe. And that was their first album.
    It’s normal it was good. If you ask the critic, stereophonics at their first two albums were like GOD. Afterwards everythings fade away and what remains is just the real fans.
    But you can’t say Phonics fan are blinded by Jones.
    It’s insulting.
    Have a nice day.

  4. Hey Alex,

    thanks for the comment but my review of the Stereophonics is somewhere else is in Italian and the Stereophonics will appear here in a couple of weeks with a full English review.

    You may have noticed that this post is about Noah and the Whale! Chill out and come back to say whatever you think about the Stereophonics in the appropriate place. This doesn’t mean I have to think the same of what you do.

    If you don’t mind I’ll move your comment to the appropriate place as soon as the Stereophonics article will appear on liveon35mm.

  5. do whatever you want.
    I wrote it here just coz there was the appropriate space.
    Anyway, don’t think I would read anything more though.
    Much better you “review” your review before showing it on a international page. At least do not say Stereophonics’ fans are just “nice face” Jones ‘ fans. Coz it’s not true.
    At all. It’s just your own and not even professionally wrote , point of view.

  6. Don’t manipulate my words Alex, I have never said that and I won’t. By the way, the day that someone will tell me what to say or to say not is quite far. Open your blog, it is free, and express yourself but don’t tell other people what they should say. Just a suggestion.

  7. Say this! Don’t say that!
    (you see the day has arrived)

  8. Again…whatever.
    Oh..and Oasis…sound like Beatles. Copycat.

  9. Alex, you keep writing nonsense, not me.

  10. Hey valério, I swear i didn’t mean to come back here, i was looking for reviews of a us gig and google brought me to this page, but i agree with Alex. And i would in no way consider comparing the quality, political messages, or plastic value of different photographers and their respected work. Or calling them blabla wannabes. It’s not nice and irrespectable of the actual hard work (much less actually CREATE something that a lot of people like and perform). There are actually a lot of easy clichés in your reviews rather than in depth musical knowledge, but that’s ok, it’s your blog (how do you like my play on words, lol!) Kelly Jones should dedicate Moviestar to all the journalists and bloggers : “Moviestar, don’t know who you are, you make my mundane life all worthwhile. You’re such a staaaar.” ;)

    No bad feelings. By the way, when Ross Halfin takes a stab at artists or people on his blog they are either friends and it’s a joke, or they are not people he photographs… or are just anecdotes…
    PS, Congratulations on your wedding. :)

  11. If you LOVE Noah and the Whale and want to see them live you can go see them this September 25th and 26th at the Av-aerie in Chicago!!

    Get your tickets here:

  12. His surname is Fink, by the way !

  13. great photo-shots and a really nice review – Thanks ! (found via twitter)

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