This was the second time I’ve seen Arrow Beach, first being at The Station in Carrboro opening for the Peter Holsapple Combo. Arrow Beach was then a five piece, Drums, bass, guitar, guitar/keys, and singer. They blew me away that night with their very cool, glammy 70’s sound that was extremely unique. Tonight at Slim’s they were a fighting-fit four piece, with a new bass player and no utility guitar/keys player. The band is even tighter than last time and playing mostly a bunch of new songs.
Singer/frontman John Ensslin (ex-What Peggy Wants) is captivating to watch. He’s magnetic, louche and a very good singer, able to channel Idiot era Iggy on songs like ‘Skywriter’ and upbeat Bowie on ‘Juicy Fruit Castle.’ He can scream with the best, and hit some amazing high notes. His lyrics are a clever, skewed take on traditional rock tropes. The band really got it going with the new ‘Under The Bleachers,’ a sideways power-pop slab served up by powerhouse drummer Amy Hall. This was followed by ‘Cutoffs And Bows,’ a very 70’s Sparks sounding (think Kimono My House - era) slow burner.
Mike Nicholson is the guitarist and the glue of Arrow Beach. Playing a Brian May Red Special (rarely seen on local stages) through a Kustom padded/pleated tube amp, he is the rock master, slashing out chords and riffs and leads, all often at the same time. Adrienne remarked that he generally sounds like two guitars playing at the same time. It’s true; he’s a remarkable player and obviously knows how to write a great song.
The set was way too short (only nine songs), but they ended with the two best songs from their first release, ‘The Lady, Or The Tiger,’ featuring the killer female rhythm section of new bassist Charity Quick on her very cool G& L bass and drummer Amy Hall. Ensslin crooning over some threatening spy chords from Nicholson, it’s super catchy and rocking at the same time. Last song was a reworked version of ‘Lady Of Elsinore,’ a total ‘Rebel Rebel’ style cooker, the band full-on and killing.
Arrow Beach is a great band, referencing without cribbing from the best off-kilter rock of the mid-70’s. Please keep your eye out for them. Go see them...solid gold!