By Scott Roberts; photos by Sue Volkert
Philadelphia indie-folk trio Good Old War treated the near-capacity mixed-age crowd at Vinyl to a set of exuberant and melodious acoustic-driven tunes tinged with lyrics leaning toward melancholy, all delivered with glorious two- and three-part harmonies throughout. The band, who got its moniker from parts of the three members’ last names (main vocalist Keith GOODwin, drummer/accordionist/vocalist Tim ArnOLD, and guitarist/vocalist Dan SchWARtz) is touring behind its third album, Come Back as Rain, released just three days before the Vinyl show, the second stop of their tour.
The frenzied and appreciative crowd sang along in unison to every word of opening number “That’s Some Dream,” with its existential chorus of “I’m gonna live I’m alright/I’m gonna die it’s alright, I’m OK/Li di di,” from the band’s 2010 self-titled second album, and the audience singing continued as the band played a 19-song set that was a fairly equal mix of songs from all three releases, including their debut, 2008’s The Only Way to Be Alone. And despite the newness of the latest material, the audience seemed just as familiar with and excited by tracks such as “Calling Me Names,” “Amazing Eyes,” and pre-encore set-ender “Loud Love” with its sing-along chorus of “If you love me, please don’t let me go/If you love me, don’t go, don’t go.”
The band’s voices blended as seamlessly live as they do on record, but their distinct personalities shone through on stage. Guitarist Schwartz jumped up and down and smiled brightly all while handling both acoustic and electric duties, sometimes both within the same song with the aid of a mounted Stratocaster, which he played hero-like during the solos. Lead singer Goodwin was earnestness incarnate and exuded a cool, collected laid-back vibe as he sang and manned the keyboard bass and an occasional guitar part. Drummer Arnold with his long, unkempt hair and Chris Robinson-like frame was a perfect physical foil to the other two and his positioning in between (as opposed to behind) Goodwin and Schwartz added to the effect.
With a little added edginess, Good Old War could conceivably become the next Avett Brothers or Mumford and Sons, but if that happens, you can bet it won’t be a calculated move and will simply happen organically… or not. These guys are the epitome of genuine and if they were to declare war on anything, it would be against insincerity, forced irony, and the fear of wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve.