Sunday, March 18, 2012

Show Review: Good Old War w/ The Belle Brigade, Family of the Year

Keith Goodwin of Good Old War
As terrible as it sounds, it's rare these days that you can go to a show and be blown away by every act.  Whether it be atmosphere, live abilities, or just straight out talent, it's hard sometimes to find a puzzle in which all of the pieces fit.  Last Saturday was that perfect puzzle.  A fantastic show at The Cat's Cradle from Good Old War, The Belle Brigade, and Family of the Year has become my standout show of the year so far.

The pacing of each band was perfect, from the pseudo poppy folk music from Family of the Year to the seemingly intimate set from Belle Brigade (I say seemingly because The Cradle was getting quite the crowd around this set, however the band still kept their stage banter to that of which you'd expect in a tiny bar room) to the euphoric sounds of Good Old War, it was just an all around phenomenal show.

After eating far too much of my chorizo burrito from Carburrito, I got to the Cat's Cradle a few songs into Family of the Year's set.  Walking into a show being completely oblivious of a band is something I like to dabble in from time to time because the excitement of experiencing a new band for the first time live is something that doesn't happen enough.  Family of the Year didn't disappoint, their set seemed concise but conveyed their energetic pop-folk in the perfect light.  While some of their lyrics were borderline generic ("You bring the ocean, I'll bring the motion/Together we'll make a love potion"), their melodies and instrumentation was enough to keep their songs stuck firmly in your mind.

The Belle Brigade
The Belle Brigade was up next, a band I'd checked out in 2011 after hearing their phenomenal song, "Loser" and they absolutely slayed.  If anyone other than Good Old War was headlining it would have been tough to follow their oftentimes raucous set which included in a fancy tambourine dance and a slew of new songs being debuted.  The chemistry that the band displayed can only be expressed as inviting.  The brother-sister duo played well off of each other, sharing stories from their past and making for a much more personal set than one can usually find at a crowded Cat's Cradle show.  They closed with their massive anthemic jam, "Loser", a song that left crowd members rustling around towards the merch table with the phrase "Damn, they're good" being uttered way more than once.  Sharing stories of "playing Michael Jackson in the car and fake-flirting with [her] younger brother", Barbara Gruska and her brother Ethan are the firm anchors behind this band and there's no wonder why...I mean the legendary John Williams is their grandfather.  Music is in this bands blood and it pours from their souls, it's personal but broad enough for everyone to be able to identify with the subject matter.  Also, dem harmonies.

Speaking of harmonies, Good Old War, Good Old War, Good Old War.  I'm a sucker for harmonies and I make no attempts at hiding this, but these three men vocally play off of each other better than any band I've ever seen live.  They produce studio quality sounds live, they're pitch perfect but with enough of a unique live-spin to their shows to make it much more than just sitting down and listening to their album.  The bands set spanned most of their three album catalogue, which is stellar when a band has just put out an album as close to a show as Good Old War did and continues to play older songs.  Opening with standouts like "Some Dream", they wasted no time in getting the crowd moving, swaying, and singing along to these tunes.  An interactive set to say the least, the band encouraged the crowd to sing along and most importantly get involved.  We all "8-Mile style" swayed our arms back and forth throughout the length of an entire song, much to the delight of Keith Goodwin (the Charlie Kelly look-a-like of the band, sorry it had to be said), it's the little things like this that make certain live shows more memorable than others.  Their new songs were just as solid and tight as their old ones, the band was seamlessly throwing them in amongst old favorites and surprisingly enough they were greeted with sing-a-longs to these brand new songs for much of the crowd.  It's fantastic to feel such a strong sense of community in a show such as this, as the band closed out their encore with their most popular track, "Coney Island" it was nothing short of magical to hear the entire crowd singing along.  Good Old War put on one of the best shows I've seen in recent memory, from their infectious good vibes being emanated on-stage to their sheer talent, it was an all-around incredible set.  Not to mention Dan played sick electric guitar solos while he STILL HAD HIS ACOUSTIC STRAPPED AROUND HIS SHOULDERS!  Stunning.

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