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Some musicians are rock stars and let the lights separate them from the crowd. A number are inverted cabin dwellers, too timid to engage with the crowd. Others are worried about their future and plan every sentence they will say onstage. But folk band Good Old War is none of these; they’re a family with open invitations. The Philadelphia trio formed in 2008 and have released three albums full of feel-good tracks. Fans are never disappointed by Good Old War’s live shows since they offer their optimism and love for the crowd to enjoy. The best part is that what winds up happening is a complete reciprocation: everyone gets adoration.
The night began with openers Family of the Year playing music to have a good time, not for profit or fame. They tossed around jokes about Pitchfork and dancing patterns at their four microphones lining the front. Just like Family of the Year, other openers The Belle Brigade focused on vocals and an overall sound instead of a dazzling performance or flashy visuals. With flaring vocals and simple guitar work, they jumped and shook to their own sounds, much to the delight of the audience. Both groups got the crowd to loosen their limbs in preparation for the open kindness Keith Goodwin, Daniel Schwartz, and Tim Arnold would soon bring.
“What’s up, party people,” asked singer and keyboardist Goodwin. “We’re about to rock out,” he said as they launched into “Window,” “Just Another Day,” and “Better Weather”. The crowd sang along to each song, never shouting but still making sure to voice the words loud enough so they rang like back-up vocals. It was as if Arnold’s bass drum turned each song into a dance folk tune and Goodwin’s hunched-over dancing encouraged everyone to feel at home.
If Good Old War is known for one more thing in addition to their loving nature, it’s their happiness. With infectious tracks and cheek-to-cheek smiling, the band brings heaps of glee to every show they play. Boston was no exception. Schwartz’s backup vocals were clear and loud live as he explodes with smiles halfway through the rainy tone of “Weak Man”. The song then grew quieter as they stripped away instrument after instrument before Schwartz smashed in with a classic guitar solo that could be taken from any Stevie Ray Vaughan song.
The band didn’t hold back from tender moments like Goodwin’s explanation of “Amazing Eyes,” a track that is written about past relationships (“even people I love I’ve been mad at,” he admitted) and how important it is to come to an understanding. He sang from so much breath from his throat that not only were his hands shaking at his sides from exhausted energy, but his entire arms quaked and he stiffly stood on his tip toes.
Things livened up even more when they covered the popular song “Day O” featuring drummer Arnold on lead vocals. He powerfully yelped out the Jamaican folk song in a remarkable way that cause the crowd to sing along in disbelief of what was occurring. If nothing else, the cover served as an example of how sturdy their harmonies are; from folk tunes to older work songs, they have a firm grounding in pitch and tone.
The African drumming continued on through into “Looking For Shelter” where the crowd clapped out the drum beat like it was a group of friends supporting their pals onstage at an outdoor summer show. Everyone there was making friends, even if they didn’t come with them. Thanks to the band, people young and old were talking to one another between songs and sharing both smiles and hugs. Goodwin asked the crowd to turn and hug the person next to them. “I feel like we’re pouring our hearts out through music. Now how about you guys do, too,” he said. “Don’t let a single person go un-hugged!”
Things wrapped up with another great electric guitar solo by Schwartz in “Can’t Go Home” and a powerful buildup of harmonies in “Loud Love”. As they performed at the front of the stage, close to the audience, they grew more and more connected with the audience. “You guys are the best,” Goodwin said. “I don’t even feel bad saying that.”
Everyone in the crowd became part of Good Old War’s extended family that night. Their open sound and open outlook let everyone come together to form a reunion of sorts. The band’s name implies a sense of unity, too, with each word being taken from a part of each member’s last name. Good Old War joined forces with every person at the Paradise to create a huge family that would dance their way out of the venue together, long after the band stopped playing.