Rosalind Knight reports on Noah and the Whale - Cambridge Folk Festival, 3 Aug 2008

noah and the whale
44th Cambridge Folk Festival

Noah and the Whale describe themselves as folk indie-rock. The term 'folk' seemed to be stretching it a bit at the festival, as their music bore little resemblance to that of many other artists who were there - and even the band admitted that they were nervous about playing because they were worried they weren’t folk enough. But the audience on Sunday didn’t seem to mind. Noah and the Whale won the crowd over with their catchy tunes and general enthusiasm. The brass section in particular looked so chuffed to be on stage, with a real audience, that it was hard not to feel endeared by them as they grinned all the way through their set, dressed in baby blue, frilly suits with huge sunglasses. It was ridiculous, but it worked.

You might think you haven’t heard of them, but their current single, Five Years' Time has already been played on BBC Radio One and Two. As soon as they started playing, I recognised the tune and was singing along. It’s easy to remember, good to bop to and generally a feelgood piece of music.

The lead singer and songwriter, Charlie Fink, had a brilliant voice which reminded me of Lou Reed. His lyrics were surprisingly worldly considering the band is so young and – well – dressed in baby blue. A large number of their songs are about death. The song Jocasta was particularly disturbing, with the lyrics 'when the baby’s born, let’s turn it to the snow, so that ice will surely grow, over weak and brittle bones, let’s leave it to the wolves'.

Fink was supported by Urby Whale on the bass, Tom Fiddle on the violin (it’s nearly folk!) and Doug Fink (Charlie’s brother), on percussion. Doug played the drums with real flair and talent, putting every last ounce of energy into keeping each tune bouncing along; by the end he was drenched in sweat.

The title of their album also refers to death: Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down. This sounds so miserable, and yet their tunes and the joy they exude live is the complete opposite. Buy the album or go and see them when they come to the Junction in November – it’ll make you happier than you think.

Writer: Rosalind Knight