Show Review - Kestrels w/ Cursed Arrows




Review by Isaac Thompson

It was a dark and stormy night…

Most of Gus’ usual crowd of local music fans were nowhere to be found (most likely all at Nova Scotia Music Week in Yarmouth). Those who chose to face the wind and rain were rewarded with a fine line-up of talent.

The Vagrant Hearts helped all the rain soaked audience warm up with some raunchy, attitude driven rock and roll. Groove heavy guitar riffs, pounding back beat, growly vocals, rock & roll swagger; Vagrant Hearts had the rock-star checklist covered. They’re a band with a lot of potential, but they still felt like a new band. There wasn’t enough diversity in the songs for Vagrant Hearts to totally work for me, and their set was a little too loose at times, but I think given some time, these guys could be a pretty sweet band.

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Cursed Arrows, a hard rockin’ duo originally from Ontario, played an enjoyable set of 90s style lo-fi rock. Their sound hinted at classic bands like Nirvana, Pavement, Sonic Youth and the White Stripes while managing to stay cohesive with the more contemporary indie rock that is permeating the local scene.

The group consists of husband and wife, Ryan and Jackie Stanely. They are both magnetic performers and their obvious chemistry is, well, obvious. Ryan’s stage presence conjures the ghost of Kurt Cobain transmitted through the spastic fury of Omar Rodríguez-López. His guitar work is just the right kind of rough around the edges. He delivers hard hitting riffs that would make Iommi proud. Jackie lays down a bedrock of tight, thunderous drumming and her angelic yet rocking harmonies compliment Ryan’s unhinged scream beautifully.

Jackie and Ryan switched instruments a few times and even played a vocal-guitar duet to a drum machine. Often, I find a lot of switch-ups damage the flow of a set and I always prefer the sound of a live human being over a drum kit, but Cursed Arrows songs are strong enough to make such indulgences forgivable. The band ended their set with a badass rendition of the White Stripes’ “I’m Slowly Turning Into You”. They were the highlight of the night for me.

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Kestrels played a short set of their trademark shoe-gazer-meets-power-pop music. The crowd had grown to a healthier size by the time Kestrels hit the stage. The band made good use of their time. They showed off some great new tunes and, as always, played with the utmost sincerity and passion, pushing the listener into a jungle of synthesized noise and feedback before reining them back in with clever lyrics, accessible vocal hooks and driving guitars.

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