Curse of Lono’s show at The Water Rats was a launch for their anticipated debut album Severed. The venue has a rich history, Marx and Lenin are both reputed to have frequented the place during their respective times in London and Bob Dylan played his first UK show here in 1962. This, coupled with the band sharing their name with a Hunter S Thompson book, led me to wonder whether to expect something unusual, intellectual, dangerous or deranged. What I got was a bit of each from Curse of Lono, a London based five-piece band consisting of Felix Bechtolsheimer and Neil Findlay both from Felix’s former band Hey Negrita, plus Joe Hazell, Charis Anderson and Dani Ruiz Hernadez.
In a small but full venue, Curse of Lono took to the stage and as Bechtolsheimer started singing, ‘It’s hard not to drink like a man, when the ghosts that surround you insist that you can’, the opening lines to the twanging toe tapper that is Just My Head, you felt you were in for a night full of emotional torment, partially excised demons and possible redemption.
Bechtolsheimer told the crowd that before the show had started, a bottle of beer had been spilt on his amp which then had to be replaced and then, during the show, the use of the keyboard was temporarily lost. ‘The Curse of Lono’ quipped Bechtolsheimer. Despite these small technical issues, the band showed their musicianship and the sound in the venue was loud and clear, allowing you to appreciate each member of the band’s contribution to the overall sound. They only formed in 2015 but played tonight with the tightness of a band who had been together much longer and were clearly enjoying making music together.
Thankfully, the keyboard issue was resolved before London Rain as this song would have been nigh impossible to pull off without the keys. Like a cross between Riders on The Storm and LA Woman, the churning, insistent keyboard along with the pulsating throb of the bass and drums at once reminded us of The Doors out for a Tom Waits crawl through a dark night of the city. This made for a song full of brooding intensity and was a highlight of the set. We continued to be put through the emotional wrangler from the musically stripped back rawness of He Takes My Place, a song of yearning and angst, through the hypnotic rhythm and catchy chorus of Send For The Whisky, to the Floydian bleakness of the doom laden Don’t Look Down.
The multi layered sounds and influences continued throughout the set, slipping through your mind almost too subtly and quick with no time to think of what this reminds you of or who influenced this number. With each song a carefully crafted landscape set to varying vistas of sound these are the signs of a musical background filled with multiple music genres. No bad thing when you end up with a sound that is entirely your own even if this sound itself cannot be easily labelled such is the variety of music and musicianship on display.
It was only fitting that after taking us on such an emotional journey over the evening, Curse of Lono’s final song for their encore was Pick Up The Pieces, a redemptive song that was full of joy, hope and warmth that left me smiling and humming this catchy tune all the way home. This was Curse of Lono’s third sold out London show in a row and Bechtolsheimer said this meant a lot to them and this showed in the performance they gave.