WASHINGTON, November, 12, 2012 —Good Old War is a terribly goofy indie rock band. The weirdness starts with their name, which is a mash-up of the trio’s given names – Keith Goodwin, Tim Arnold, and Dan Schwartz. That’s certainly an interesting way to come up with a band name, and inspires a snickers with its very simplicity. The band’s recent show at DAR Constitution Hall, opening for headliner Dispatch, offered ample evidence as to why they’re a promising, entertaining, and fun group to hear and see live.
In spite of their oddball name, there’s nothing inherently silly about this band’s live set. In fact their music, especially when performed in front of a live audience, is heartfelt and sincere. They very find themselves at the heart of the indie folk subgenre, and this connection enables them to maximize the emotional honesty of their songs. Nearly every song has at least a few lines— sometimes the lyrics of the entire song—that beg to be taken literally. Their songs and lyrics aren’t overly serious. But at the same neither is meant to be taken lightly.
That’s almost become the standard with folksy bands like Good Old War. What tends to separates this band from its peers, though, is how open they are about their emotional honesty and how at times they intentionally avoid any hint of subtlety in their lyrical content. They don’t put a lot in the way of distracting or misleading the listener, and this definitely allows them to make a real connection with their audience.
Even the more melancholy moments are dealt with an up tempo attitude. Clearly, this is a band that never intends to wallow in any of their emotions, even when they tend to pensive. But there’s sense of conviction to the material of each of their songs that gives them an overall earnest undertone you can pick up even when casually listening.
But this is in contrast with how Good Old War plays their set live. Despite the emotional stakes in each of their songs, this is a band that clearly enjoys playing music. In the recent concert we attended, Constitution Hall was just filing up when Good Old War started playing their set. But the chaos didn’t seem to matter to this three piece band that acted and performed like they’d be happy to play in front of everyone under any circumstance.
This seemed especially apparent when front man Keith Goodwin decided to lose himself in the music. Guitarist Dan Schwartz and drummer Tim Arnold are basically locked in their respective positions. Schwartz explores the stage from time to time, but not all that much which serves to emphasize the strange, extraordinary freedom Goodwin gives himself during the set. It’s not that he moves around overly much—he doesn’t—but he certainly does dance a lot. And his dancing is peculiar, with all his appendages remaining in motion while the rest of his body remains still.
That’s a rather odd thing to note for a band like this. Despite performing up tempo up-tempo music for the most part, they’re not the kind of band that would necessarily inspire dancing. Still seeing Goodwin move the way he does on stage adds an extra dimension of fun and is actually infectious—a feeling that finds its perfect culmination when the band caps its set by bringing the members of Dispatch on stage for the final song.
Good Old War is that odd type of band that provides a welcome bit of levity during their live set. They play with earnestness, sincerity, and a sense of fun that often provides a clever smokescreen for the seriousness of their professionalism and intent.
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