Mid-way through Good Old War’s set at World Café Live, it was impossible not to feel like the room was gradually getting smaller. Speaking with the crowd in a way that was reminiscent of a friendly chat between neighbors from across the fence, the band graciously responded to every comment, joke and request thrown their way before picking each of them up and tossing them back. Performing for those packed inside the Philadelphia venue last Friday night (06-03-16), Keith Goodwin and Dan Schwartz delivered a set filled with songs that seemed destined to pull even the shyest audience members to their feet, intent on matching every lyric that spilled from their lips. And as vocals from every square foot of space were woven in with the band’s own, a chorus of harmony poured throughout the room, transforming the bustling music hall into a campfire sing-along so vividly that you could practically smell the smoke and ash.
When placed in the right hands, a single guitar can maintain –maybe even eclipse- the capabilities and prowess of a full band. And while many who try to jump that hurdle can end up with scraped knees, Schwartz made sure that the entirely acoustic set didn’t feel like one that was lacking in anything. Dramatically altering his style of playing to fit the punch of “Coney Island” and “Tell Me What You Want From Me,” to the pensive “That’s Some Dream,” and “Don’t Forget,” the guitarist switched back and forth between two acoustics throughout the night, although he managed to make each change in tone feel as if he were stepping between two different worlds. Adding additional layers of springing energy to the arrangements of “Looking For Shelter” and “Better Weather,” it seemed as though anytime Goodwin and Schwartz sang anything it was with a near flawless clarity that demonstrated just how much of their music has hinged on the blend that they share. And although they were a three-piece prior to drummer Tim Arnold’s exit in 2014, the crux of their harmony heavy sound has not been lost with his absence. Setting verses of heart-on-their-sleeve sincerity against colorful melodies that settle under your skin, the indie folk group wields a refined polish that their live show only improves upon.
For their last song, Goodwin and Schwartz decided to get a little bit closer to an audience whose thunderous applause had -only minutes before- made it clear that they were not about to let them leave the premises without an encore. Stepping in front of their microphones at the very foot of the stage, they sang “Not Quite Happiness,” without amplification. And as those who had huddled around them whispered along, the venue itself stood still as movements slowed and conversations trailed off, allowing those who dared to breathe one last the hint of the smoke before it cleared.
Article: Caitlin Phillips