*Pictures by Valerie Kraucunas*
Who: Good Old War
Where: Bluebird Theater
Opener: The Belle Brigade & Family of the Year
The stage: Bare, except for instruments and band members. And guess what? It didn’t matter. They didn’t need an elaborate backdrop, laser lights or anything else to put on one of the best shows I’ve seen. The only item of interest would probably be Dan Schwartz’ electric guitar that he played in addition to the one he was wearing.
The crowd: Dare I say that it was sing-along? It was obvious that everyone there was a fan and had spent some time listening to all three of Good Old War’s albums, as that the guys played a few from each and everyone was singing. There was plenty of dancing room in the Bluebird and I think everyone there was glad for it. Crowd participation was encouraged from the band mates in the form of clapping and waving our hands “Eminem style.”
The band: Lead vocalist Keith Goodwin, who bares a striking resemblance to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Charlie, was grooving through the whole set with enviable dance moves. Guitarist Dan Schwartz was doing his own thing on the right side of the stage, skillfully providing the acoustic guitar melody for some songs. Drummer Tim Arnold stole my heart leading a cover of Harry Belafonte’s “Day O,” and who could not adore a boy who sings well AND plays drums, keys and accordion? Not to mention out-of-control hair.
In my opinion: It seems more often than not anymore that the stage is filled with people, each contributing a somewhat small piece of the sound, which is fine. This is a three-man folk-rock group that doesn’t use pre-recorded anything and still manages to produce a full sound. Each member plays multiple instruments, sometimes at the same time; for example, Tim Arnold played the accordion, tapped out a gentle beat and provided solid harmonies for “My Own Sinking Ship” during the encore. I appreciate that these are three talented guys doing what they love, cracking jokes and having fun while doing it.
Truthfully: I grew up listening to oldies, which are characterized as being clean, easy to understand lyrics and danceable rhythms. Add my love for folk music, and obviously Good Old War is going to be a winner in my book. I first saw these guys in 2010 when they were opening for Joshua Radin, and I’m so glad they’re now headlining shows. Saturday night’s show is in my top three now with The Temper Trap and The Head and the Heart.