These are serious times for Archway. First Quasar closed down, depriving Londoners of one the few chances to run around shooting your mates on the roof of a Co-op superstore. More importantly Puregroove Records, an institution on Holloway Road for as long as I can remember has announced it’ll be closing its doors at the end of the month and moving to a place where the haircuts are more angular.

As a thank you, Puregroove are holding a final wave goodbye festival in some of the areas less well strummed locations. The glorious Rumble Strips are playing the island in the middle of Archway swimming pool while their fans twirl in formation around them, and saxophonist Tom Gorbutt wistfully dreams of recreating Madness video’s.

For this gig, Noah and The Whale – purveyors of fine uplifting indie folk – have set up stage in the children’s book section of Archway Library. With 15 minutes to go it looks like the kids will be part of the show. One group intently plays a computer game just below the keyboards, others read, some run amok, and one ambles upto Puregroove staff-er Ben to ask if he can look after his Transformers DVD while he gets his mum! Meanwhile I discovered what may just be the best pre-gig entertainment ever. In all seriouslness venues should really think about providing a collection of Asterix books for those awkward lulls between bands!

Dressed in bright primary colours as if ready to look through the round window, they avoided library late fees and kicked off just after 6.30 with a rousing “Give a little love“.

In that perfect moment I nearly ruined it, by saying I love and nearly meaning it
With room for only 50 people there’s a lovely intimacy to the gig, a perfect setting for tracks like “Mary” with its violins and mid west sound, although as it breaks into almost a hoe down at the end attempts to get a library dancing proved tricky.

Former member Laura Marling may be off to solo stardom, but The Slow Club’s Rebecca Taylor stepped in with her own beautiful vocals, working particularly well on the almost obscenely upbeat and joyful last single “5 years time“. It’s mix of whistling, sunshine, ukuleles, violins, zoo’s and even elephants bursting with love is pretty much engineered to put smiles on audiences, and this gig is no exception.

They even segued it into a cover of “Sweets for my Sweet” made famous by The Searchers in the UK (although I have a soft spot for a rough reggae version i’ll post below).

Any disappointment in finding out new single (May 5th) “Shape of my heart” isnt a Backstreet Boys cover is tempered by its fantastic horn sounds, military drum, and perfect bitter sweet chorus.

Ending the short set with “Rocks and Daggers” this is a band on top form in an inspired setting. Stage right of the A-Z of Jamiacan heritage the brass burst forth, by picture books the Harmonium was glorious, in front of “Wibbly Pig’s Silly Big Bear” Rebecca sung her heart out, by a picture history of the 1950’s the violin player excelled, and Winnie the pooh can rarely of witnessed better drumming. In the center of it all lead singer Charlie Fink couldn’t look happier.

Now can anyone tell me what happens at the end of Asterix & Cleopatra, some band interrupted my reading!?

Setlist:
Give a little love
Peaceful/Jocasta?
Mary
Shape of my heart
Five tears time
Rocks and daggers
Panoramic by Ben

Noah & The Whale – Myspace

Listen

Noah & The Whale – 5 Years Time” (MP3)
I can’t find my reggae version of Sweets for my sweets (will continue looking)

Buy

Noah & The Whale – digital download with exclusive track from Puregroove / Recordstore

Watch

PuregrooveTV video of the Archway Library  gig – “5 Years Time + iv” (youtube)
Noah & The Whale – Five Years Time” (Youtube) – excellent super-8 video compliments the song perfectly.
Noah & The Whale – Shape of my heart” (Youtube)

Look

My flickr pics of gig
Ben Puregroove’s pictures