Tag Archives: Noah and the Whale

Year 2012

To be honest, the past year seems a bit flat or grey. It surely hasn’t been a bad year, and when I come to think of it surprisingly many big adventures, including exotic travel and exciting courses, have actually filled the year. Yet I don’t want it as a template for the ones to follow either.

It has also been great to be closer to and have more visits from my family than in recent years (although still a few hours away by car). I’ve also had a good job surrounded by nice colleagues.

The problem, I suspect, is that something has been missing in the everyday life. A mismatch between the surrounding city and me. And a stand still in personal development. This has made for a year of far too many pointless days.

Lesson learned perhaps, that the occasional escapes providing spikes of happiness cannot form a meaningful year unless the days in-between are also good? That unhappy weekdays cannot be compensated for by the occasional adventures, but in fact puts them in the shadows?

Supposedly it has something to do with Paris and wanting something else from life. It also begs the question of whether or not I can lead a happy life without the big adventures? But let’s return to that in a later post when finishing the PhD has left more air for reflection.

Instead, let’s have a summary of the adventures that after all made the year stand out in some ways.

First of all, the year provided several regular appointments to sweeten the everyday, including obtaining a motorcycle license and taking a photography course in darkroom film and print development. As I haven’t bought a motorcycle yet the license so far only represents good memories, but often during autumn have I found happiness in getting into film photography and going to the darkroom.

My bimonthly guitar lessons have been oases of life that each time without exception made me forget whatever troubled me and brought me back to the present. With my teacher we have covered among others songs of Iggy Pop, The Clash, The Thermals, and Surfer Blood. The idea of writing my own songs, or even playing live, is still far away; but the improvements are noticeable and things are coming more easily now.

The year also saw going to the fitness centre replaced by going to the squash centre. I decided back in Paris that I must have some kind of sport in my life (called this a value or axiom), but the former simply became too much of a duty; squash on the other hand is still fresh and motivating.

Moving on to the bigger singular adventures, work took me to Boston, Houston, and New York City in the US; Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, and The Dead Sea in Israel; and Bonaire in the Caribbean. Curiously enough, they all crammed together in the first few months of the year, in one case giving only a few days of rest in-between.

The two weeks at Boston University gave several new inputs academically and I greatly enjoyed the teaching and hospitality of my host. My girlfriend joined me for one of the weeks and together we also saw a fair bit of the city. I think it’s a city that gives a better impression during summer yet we still enjoyed both its atmosphere and its exhibitions. And although it was smaller than I had expected, its skyscrapers and architecture (as always in the US) installed a shock and fascination in my european eyes.

Next up was Israel for the one week winter school on lattice-based crypto held just outside Tel-Aviv. During the week we got to see parts of Tel-Aviv and for the weekend we rented a car to go to Jerusalem and The Dead Sea. My interest in Israel was definitely sparkled by this trip and it’s been put on my list of places to come back to.

Straight after Israel I headed for a week-long conference on Bonaire. My girlfriend joined me again and during the scheduled eight hours overlay in Houston (clever clever) we had a look at the city and found what looked like a proper Texan BBQ restaurant. On Boniare I managed to resist the temptation of skipping out on the conference to go diving (unlike many of my colleagues) and instead went with my girlfriend evenings and after the conference was over — great place for diving, and first time night diving. On the way back we again had a scheduled five hours overlay in New York City (clever clever, although we almost missed the plane) to go for a quick burger and a walk in Central Park.

Continuing in travel, we spent a few weekends in spring following Marguerituren around Denmark (onetwo, three, four, and five). I’m glad we saw the country from this romantic angle, and later during our summer trip to Sweden we did not hesitate to spend the extra time and petrol taking the Swedish equivalent when the opportunity presented itself. An excellent trip by the way, that included tenting (one and two), Stockholm, and a sailing course north of Göteborg. To finish off our nordic summer we also spent a weekend in beautiful Norway visiting old friends.

I’ve also attended a lot of great concerts during the year. The Thermals played in Paris during spring. The Northside Festival featured both Noah and the WhaleThe Asteroids Galaxy Tour, and Kashmir. We finally managed to catch The Buzzcocks, and could throw in Rancid and Cock Sparrer at the same time. Certainly also worth mentioning is Daniel Norgren whom we first caught a bit unexpected at a blues concert at Tobakken in Esbjerg but ended up also booking tickets for at Atlas in Aarhus.

Naturally I’ve also spent some time in France, of which a long walk I in the streets of beautiful Paris with a camera in my hand stands out most memorable — fortunately this is still a guarantee of happiness.

And last, but not least, a weekend in London cemented the belief that big cities are the next step.

Northside Festival, Day 1: Noah and the Whale

Here, on its first day, we caught the Northside festival just as Noah and the Whale (NATW) where starting. After Mumford & Sons, who cancelled just a few days ago, NATW were among the high priorities (I’d be surprised if there hasn’t been a bit of rivalling between these two bands – not least if the rumour that Marcus Mumford “stole” the girlfriend of Charlie Fink is true). Since the Mumfords cancelled (maybe the claimed broken arm is due to Fink; or maybe self-inflicted by a fear of running into him at the festival?) only NATW were left standing on the stage of new British folk music.

During the concert it occurred to me that it’s the first time I’ve “followed” a band for a while and noticed a development – I’ve seen other bands several times as well, but never noticed a change like this. I caught them first time at The Roundhouse in London some years back after they had just released their second album, The First Days of Spring. Coming to the gig with an expectation of another album along the lines of Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down, we experienced a moody concert to say the least (this was just after the girlfriend had left). Not a bad concert, but definitely not bursting with happiness. It took me a while to like this second album but it was since grown on me: as an exploration of the emotions following a breakup they certainly produced an album with good lyrics and mood, and tracks bound together in a way I doubt many of the current mainstream albums are.

The second time I saw them was last year at Cafe de la Dance in Paris where they had just released their third album, Last Night On Earth. I remember being a bit disappointed. Maybe it just didn’t evoke that much in me that particular day, but I also recall a feeling of indifference on their part. For this reason I did not have my hopes up too high for their performance at Northside.

Today, however, they did a good concert at Northside. I’m starting to doubt if they’ll ever put on a huge stage performance, but there was a blink in their eyes today, not least in Fink who jumped and danced around the stage a few times in his suit. Maybe, and this is solely my impression, The First Days of Spring have now completely passed and he is back enjoying the summer. Although they all (except that one old guy) look young, they certainly do a great job – I keep being surprised by how great a voice Fink has! As far as I could tell they only played a few songs from the back catalogue and otherwise stayed mostly at the third album. Maybe this helped form my impression that the past is behind them.

Oh, and I noticed that they play the telecaster – always a good sign.

Northside Festival, Day 1

I’ve decided, even though I’m writing this in retrospect, to make entry for each day instead of one for the entire festival. After all, I’d normally write an entry for one concert and here we had 10 a day! :)

After the great lineup last year (including Elbow, Editors, Interpol, Suede) we bought tickets for this years Northside Festival when they came on sale – and it definitely didn’t hurt that Mumford & Sons were in the programme. For this reason it was with a sadness that I learn a few days ago that they had cancelled because of a broke arm; this was my top priority. VETO was called in as a replacement, but to be honest they could just have well put on the radio during that one hour, I wouldn’t have cared differently.

I’ll go through the bands of today below, and post a few photos along the way. Apologise for the poor quality of some of them – as usual we could only look in envy with our small pocket cameras while the official photographers were running around in front of the stage with their proper SLRs. Maybe I should look into getting whatever magic ticket whey have?

Noah and the Whale
I’ve written more details here, but in summary: still not a huge show but good music and Fink certainly has a great voice. I do like the fact that they dress up in suits. They seemed to have moved on a bit, leaving the old music (and feelings) behind: as far as I could tell they played mostly from the latest album.

The Gaslight Anthem
Also for these guys did I end up writing more than seem fit here in the summary. Played an ok concert, but I must admit that they’ve grow a bit weary on me. Seem to have grow older more mature compare to a few years ago at Hyde Park Calling.

Miles Kane
Evidently the worse half of The Last Shadow Puppets, which he sounded too much like. It was not bad as such but in no way remarkable. We ended up watching from a distance since it quickly got a bit flat (too similar) and we needed a sit and beer after two gigs already. Maybe Alex Turner was the talent of their earlier experiment. Official website.

Marina and the Diamonds
Awful, from every spot at the festival! But she couldn’t sing..! Official website.

Oh Land
Still recovering from Marina and the Diamonds (and finishing another beer) we watched from a distance. There’s been quite a hype about her – at least here in Denmark – but it really isn’t my kind of music. Official website.

The Kooks
I remember when these guys had they success with Inside In/Inside Out some years ago, in particular She Moves In Her Own Way and Naive. I liked the songs but also had a suspicion that his was not necessarily a band that would last that long – too much teenager-get-together perhaps. The fact that they played at Northside, and even have a few more albums out now, surprised me a bit. As far as I could tell they haven’t invented anything new but still gathered a big crowd of people younger than me singing along to the newer songs – I guess that means they’re still somewhat successful. We stayed for a few songs then went for food. Official website.

VETO
Called in to replace Mumford & Sons I’m afraid they were a poor substitute. First off, it’s a different kind of music. Secondly, from last years Northside I knew that I don’t really care for the music to the extend of it just being uninspiring and a bit overrated. Official website.

D-A-D
Not much changed since their concert at Aarhus University a year ago: still fire, still silly bass guitars (one with only two strings), still drummer on a vertical ramp! :) I expected a show and they delivered. I’m not surprised that they’re not too well-known outside Denmark (I seem to remember that they had some success in the US in 80s), but here we all know it and joyfully sing along! They played two songs I hadn’t heard before but otherwise stayed with the old stuff. You can’t help but wonder if they ever get fed up about playing the same sets all the time. Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way, and in fact they’re happy that people still come and sing along after all these years? Official website.

The xx
The album has its good tracks so we got somewhat up front for this one. They managed to create quite a captivating atmosphere with their slow songs and sincere voices. But it became a bit boring though half way through the set. Maybe it would have helped if I could have stayed in their universe. At one point during I was thinking of Youth Lagoon in a sad (lesser) version.

Justice
It was becoming a long day when these went on stage so we only stayed for a few songs. Didn’t know them beforehand but positively surprised. I also like this interview with one of them; reminds me of one of the guys from the university in Paris and really like the French sense of humour.

Concert: Noah and the Whale

When I saw them one year ago in London, folky Noah and the Whale had just released their second album The First Days of Spring. As far as I understand, the lead singer and main songwriter was basically dumped by his girlfriend in favour of the lead singer of Mumford & Sons, became quite miffed about this, and dedicated their entire second album to the break-up. Naturally this created a sentimental and reflexive album. It’s definitely not a bad album, but not first choice if you need to put yourself in a happy mood. Anyway, when they played at The Roundhouse last year they had just released this album and hence it should of course take up a big part of the act. But in my opinion they made the mistake of playing more or less the entire album in a row, separating their first and cheerful album Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down with a long session of heavy and sad music. I left the concert a bit disappointed as I had mostly expected a concert matching the fun and silly 5 Years Time.

Last night we went to see them playing in Paris at Café de la Danse. My expectations were lower but this time they lived up to them, and even a bit more. Like the ex-girlfriend I’m still a much bigger fan of Mumford & Sons but this time around they had the songs arranged in a good order, even drawing me to a more positive view on the sad songs; I’ve been playing the second album quite a few times since (especially Love of an Orchestra, Stranger, and Blue Skies).

In summary a good concert that I wouldn’t mind repeating. They seem shy and sticking to a simple (and at times a bit boring) show. Our angle on the upper right balcony wasn’t good for this but I did not really feel that touched nor captivated. (A fun angle though, like a fly on the wall watching a show and its audience.) Oh yeah, like in London they played 5 Years Time on the guitar instead of on the ukelele as they do on the album. This song brought the ukelele to my attention; can’t help but being slightly disappointed when they just abandon it like that.

Oh, they played some songs off they new album Last Night On Earth. It seemed interesting, yet more rock and mainstream than folk and indie. I want to give it a listen, but haven’t yet gotten around.