Good Old War shows fighter strength on touring spree

The folk trio from Bucks and Montgomery counties is embarking on yet another extensive tour by opening for Dispatch.

Good Old War will play at Tower Theatre today, Oct. 9, with Dispatch. The band has completed fived tours in North America in 2012 alone. ( COURTESY ANDY PATCH )
Good Old War will play at Tower Theatre today, Oct. 9, with Dispatch. The band has completed fived tours in North America in 2012 alone. ( COURTESY ANDY PATCH )

Some bands go on tour. Good Old War goes on performing marathons.

The three-part harmony folk group from the Philadelphia area tours 300 days out of the year. The band has completed five North American tours in 2012 alone.

The group, which performed at Union Transfer in late August, will be returning to Philly to perform with Dispatch at the Tower Theatre tonight, Oct. 9. The performance will be one of the first of the band’s two-month tour.

The August show at Union Transfer was originally scheduled for last May, but was postponed for a medical emergency, which drummer and vocalist Tim Arnold said was for keyboardist and vocalist Keith Goodwin.

“[Goodwin] had some medical back problems or something,” Arnold said. “He was in severe pain at the end of that tour. We had to cancel like three shows.”

Arnold assured that Goodwin is back to his normal self.

“He’s back on his feet, dancing,” Arnold said.

The musicians of Good Old War, comprised of Arnold, Goodwin, and guitarist and vocalist Dan Schwartz, try to take care of themselves while on tour to maintain stamina, Arnold said. However, such extensive touring seemed to take a toll on all the members, as evident by a series of unfortunate events before a television performance this past year.

“There’s lots of crazy nights that happened, but nothing too wild,” Arnold said.  “I got really sick and we had to do Conan O’Brien. I had like f—ing bronchitis or something. [Goodwin’s] back went out — some bumps in the road, but nothing too crazy. We try to keep it chill when we’re on the road.”

Although it may seem as if frequent touring would tire a band of its own songs, Arnold revels in becoming more familiar with his band’s music while maintaining some variety in live performances.

“We try to add little things into some songs live that are a bit different, like some guitar solos here, some jamming there — not too much,” Arnold said. “But it’s good to play a song that I know really well. Once you know a song that well you can kind of relax with it and enjoy it live. Maybe in a year or two I’ll get sick of some songs, but as of right now, I’m having a great time.”

Arnold said he is particularly excited to hear the live performance of  “Not Quite Happiness” come together — a delicate ballad from the band’s newest album, “Come Back As Rain.”

“We’re just figuring out how to do it live,” Arnold said. “We’ve been doing it with just three vocals and a guitar. We’ve tried it with the whole band, so we’re just trying to figure it out. Once that one’s ready to go, it’s going to be really sweet.”

The constant performing during a tour is also beneficial to the band’s already tight three-part harmonies — a staple characteristic of Good Old War’s music.

“I think it makes them tighter,” Arnold said. “We’ll rehearse before shows too. That only keeps us in shape.”

The back-to-basics nature of their harmony rehearsing makes it convenient for the band.

“We’ll pretty much do it wherever we can fit three people and a guitar,” Arnold said.

Arnold, charismatic on stage and frequently spewing stage banter, keeps the live show interesting for audiences. At Union Transfer in August, he performed a cover of “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).” The now-crowd-favorite began by Arnold messing around during a sound check.

“We were sound checking one day, and Jason, our sound guy, was like, ‘Let me hear your vocals,’ and I started singing that,” Arnold said. “[Goodwin] kind of called me out one day on it and was like ‘Yo, let’s do it,’ and I was like, ‘All right, let’s try it.’ And we ended up doing it a lot actually.”

Good Old War is known for its three-part harmonies, which are enhanced from the constant performances touring provides the band. ( COURTESY ANDY PATCH )
Good Old War is known for its three-part harmonies, which are enhanced from the constant performances touring provides the band. ( COURTESY ANDY PATCH )

Despite all of the fun that comes about from constant touring, Good Old War is always happy to return home to the Philadelphia area, Arnold said. Arnold and Goodwin are from Bucks County, Pa., and Schwartz is from Montgomery County, Pa.

“About Langhorne — I like all of the land. I don’t like all of the traffic,” Arnold said. “It’s a nice place. It’s not too shabby. And Philly — it’s wild. It’s a wild town. And I love that. It’s great.”

Live performances in Philly are particularly exciting for Arnold.

“That’s the real deal right there,” Arnold said. “You guys are the genuine article, you know? It feels like home.”

Even with a handful of tours under his belt and having self-proclaimed being nearly everywhere in the U.S., Arnold still has a few locations on his tour-stop wish list — including Europe and South America.

Aside from dreaming of international tours, Arnold and Good Old War have already begun work on another album.

“We’ve talked about the idea of the record and how we’re going to maybe approach it, but it’s just songs right now,” Arnold said.

The band took a “team effort” approach on “Come Back As Rain,” proudly stating how equal the contributions were from each member — from the songwriting process to the final recordings, as Arnold noted in a previous interview with The Temple News. Arnold said the band plans to continue to trend with the new album.

“It’ll just grow,” Arnold said.  “I’m very sure that we will all be working on this album [and be] very committed to each other’s well being.”

When asked if Good Old War’s fellow Philadelphia area native, Doylestown musician Anthony Green of Saosin, Circa Survive and The Sounds of Animals Fighting fame, would make an appearance on the upcoming record, Arnold said it is a possibility.

“That’d be cool,” Arnold said. “We’ll see. I’ll ask him. He might deny me, but that’s cool.”

Regardless of what the next album brings, Arnold said that, for now, Good Old War is going to give each performance the utmost energy.

“I feel like, even if I am exhausted or something, I just have to put that in the back of my mind and play the show and have the most fun I possibly can,” Arnold said. “You just have to go for it. Sink or swim.”

Jenelle Janci can be reached at

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