Summer School of Rock: Noah & the Whale

You are about to embark on one of the most epic anecdotes of all time. Feel free to go grab some popcorn and get comfortable. Don’t forget the butter.

I live in a land of woods. I mean, Pennsylvania, Penn’s Woods, hello. Yes, I paid attention in 3rd grade history class.

So naturally, anytime my friends and I are all home together, the avid outdoorsman in each of us straps on his hiking boots, packs a Nalgene water bottle and an old-fashioned camera, and embarks for the nearest mountain.

The last time we had done this, there was snow on the ground. In conclusion, these inner outsdoorsmen had been crying from neglect for the past seven months. So we scheduled a hike for Tuesday night so that we could watch the sun set over the Cumberland Valley, which is about as majestic as you can get when you’re in college and can’t afford to fly out to the Grand Canyon.

There are two very important back stories that you need to understand first:

Where I could've been if it weren't for Dopey.

Where I could've been if it weren't for Dopey.

1)      I had hiked this exact same trail, Pole’s Steeple, two days before with my two best girlfriends. Pole’s Steeple is the go-to, “I’ve been hiking this since I could walk” trail in our area, so we assumed that we would remember how to get there. WRONG. We ended up parking about three miles down the road from the trail head, which amounted to an extra 40 minute walk and getting caught in a thunderstorm on the way back. I wasn’t about to chance the embarrassing experience of getting lost on the way to Pole’s Steeple again, so I put all my faith in technology and used the old reliable GPS.

2)      I had a 7v7 rec league soccer game at 6 and my plan was to meet everyone at the Steeple.

gavel3-300x300How’s our team, you ask? Oh, we’ve got LOADS of potential (like US National Team potential), we play really well together, we’re hyper competitive… What? Yeah, we’re 1-4. We lost our game 6-2. I might have taken to the road a little sweaty, tired and pissed off. But I didn’t care! I was unleashing the ‘man! The sun was shining! Nothing could ruin my day! (Insert foreshadowing here.)

Now back to my story.  It was 7:30 on Tuesday, July 9, 2013, a terribly dark and stormy night…psych. It wasn't stormy. But it was starting to get dark, as you would usually expect at nighttime, as I hopped on I-81 South toward Pine Grove Furnace State Park. I may or may not have been speeding – so sue me. Just kidding, don’t sue me.

The landmarks all looked familiar – exit at Newville, left at the light, straight through the signs for Pine Grove Furnace and Michaux Forest. GPS be killin’ it. Or so I thought.

As soon as Jodie (as was her name at the time) had me turn onto a road with no markings that wound up the mountain, I knew it was wrong wrong wrong. Alas, four miles up and down a mountain later, I was lost beyond all recognition.

My view for four days aka 20 minutes. Not pretty.

My view for four days aka 20 minutes. Not pretty.

Civilization was nowhere in sight. Naked children were running in a field nearby, candles were being lit in farmhouses, and my 2000 Dodge Caravan was the most advanced piece of machinery around. The fact that I was driving on Coon Road should paint enough of a picture for you. This was very Twilight Zone, even for central PA.

Hungry, frustrated and terrified of the ravaging savages swarming around my car as I pulled over on the side of the road dirt path, I set my GPS (forever known as Dopey) for home. My outdoorsman threw a temper tantrum. Long story short (but not really), I had a bowl of ice cream when I got home. Or three.

What does this have to do with music? And what kept me from punching through the windshield with my steel knuckles like any normal person would’ve done in that situation? Funny you should ask, cause HERE COMES THE LESSON.

Lesson #7: Understand the value of your driving playlist.

You never know what’s going to happen when you’re driving. Sure, it might be your run-of-the-mill 10 minute drive to get ice cream (can you tell that I’m still recovering from last night?), but there will always be that one time that it’s not so run-of-the-mill. Maybe your car breaks down. Maybe your dog sitting in the front seat falls out of the window. Maybe you lose all feeling in your foot, try to pull the e-brake, but end up crashing through the front window of the ice cream store, breaking the freezer and depriving your entire town of their favorite dairy treat for the next month. Talk about tragic.

There are just too many chances for disaster when it comes to driving, so make sure when you step into your car that you put on music that will make you happy in case of said disasters. Driving is not the time to listen to that recording of your ten-year-old sister playing Beethoven’s fifth symphony on violin.

Screenshot by Mary Yuengert/Gavel Media.

Screenshot by Mary Yuengert/Gavel Media.

I was saved by the music that I chose to play on my iPod that day. I would’ve been a goner if it weren’t for the happenstance of me picking possibly the most optimistic and hopeful band that exists in my music library. Meet the saviors of my sanity, Noah & the Whale.

Consisting of Charlie Fink, Tom Hobden, Matt Owens, Fred Abbott, and Michael Petulla, NATW hails from London and has been churning out indie rock hits since 2006. Over the course of four studio albums, the band has stuck to its orchestral roots despite several stylistic transformations. A man that doesn’t shy away from combining his personal life with his professional life, Charlie Fink’s songs are chock full of advice, insightful realizations, optimistic choruses and cliché, tweet-able verses.

Don't mind if I do.

Don't mind if I do.

Complemented by the whimsical sounds of the violin and brass, many of NATW’s tracks are delightfully upbeat, while some play into the more somber sounds of familiar folk bands such as The Lumineers with the use of the deeper strings such as the bass and cello. The group even dabbled in some electronic stylings on their third album, Last Night on Earth.

Despite criticisms for being trite and contrived, I find that NATW’s music is just plain fun, and was exactly what I needed when I was tempted to drive my van through the walls of one of the barns on Coon Road. Among the many tracks that saved me, here are my favorites:

Oh and also this:

Gotta love a literary shout out. Thanks for being educated Charlie.

Screenshots by Mary Yuengert/Gavel Media

Gavel ad

Comments