Two prevailing thoughts from attending this gig at the Hare and Hounds were: 1) those anointing Curse of Lono as lauded pioneers of UK generated Americana rock are pretty smart and, 2) isn't it about time John Murry shifted from being an artist known to one actually listened to. The first needed no further action as this show confirmed what had been briefly considered when seeing them play an opening set for Chuck Prophet back in 2017. The second rectified within 24 hours of the gig by listening intently to John Murry's most recent album. You can debate streaming all day long, but its propensity to unlock easy access and enable widespread availability moves the world forward in a positive way.
There was an element of military precision about this show, which acted as the opening night of Curse of Lono's latest UK tour. John Murry on at 8, finishes 30 minutes later. Main band enter stage dead on 9, then depart for merch stand/bar not a minute either side of half ten. Great for us punctuality sticklers. Aside from the impeccable timekeeping, the music also did its job immaculately. His name may have already appeared in this review, but there is no holding back on the acute observation of John Murry coming across as the dark side of Chuck Prophet. His opening set rolled out as a fabulous drift into the rambling world of imperfection when a glimpse of masked genius pokes its head above the malaise. Whether plucking some aura inducing tunes independently on acoustic or gently strumming electric while temporarily backed by Curse of Lono (minus Felix), he cut through the haze of the fuzzy Hare and Hounds lighting to bring a mesmeric slice of Americana's alternative underbelly.
John Murry and Curse of Lono were good for each other tonight. We saw our esteemed opener join the band for a couple of tracks deep into the main set. 'Dead Flowers' may have been covered a million times, but budge up a little for one more.
Felix Bechtolshheimer may have a wry smile when he gazes upon his Emerging Artist award bestowed on the band earlier this year. Fair enough, Curse of Lono only formed in 2015, but there are a few more miles on the personal clock. Anyhow, such recognition opens doors and the band have gone from strength to strength releasing two full length albums and a re-conditioned third in the legendary Toe Rag studios as well as recently representing the UK in formal US Americana circles.
This evening saw the band on apparent top form, (if they weren't they are better than I thought) slaying an array of tracks ranging from some out and out folk rockers to ones of a more sensitive persuasion. They operate as a tight knit five-piece outfit, with the usual quartet of keys and lead up front assisted by drums and bass bringing up the rear, plus the usual fluid frontman. Forever the twain in the standard band set up witnessed from the floor.
Our front man periodically switches guitars, beats a single drum on one track and takes frequent time out to engage an audience in multiple ways. The hugely personal mixes with the irreverent and by the end of the show you feel you know a little more about who Curse of Lono are. You are certainly exposed to their fine musicianship and that essential knack of blending as a band. Keys and harmonium c/o Dani Ruiz Hernandez are always prevalent, though occasionally you wish they would drive a track a little more. Lead guitarist Joseph Hazel rises to the challenge to take up the mantle for the required solos and obliges with amplified intent. Felix keeps thing ticking over from the front, in unison with his long term colleague Neil Findley behind on drums. Charis Anderson completes the line up on electric bass, although you can turn that on its head by saying that is really where it all starts.
The smaller upstairs room of the Hare and Hounds hosted this evening's gig and was well-populated with many Curse of Lono devotees lured into sharing the vocals on some of the the band's most popular songs. This included tracks such as 'Pick Up the Pieces' and 'Don't Look Down' from the band's debut 2017 album SEVERED. Indeed the bulk of the tracks from this release and its 2018 follow up AS I FELL featured in the setlist. The odd song out was 'Goin' Out West', which had its first recorded outing on the new Curse of Lono album. This record titled 4AM AND COUNTING saw the band go into the aforementioned Toe Rag studios and re-record a number of tracks off the previous albums in a special live and stripped back format. The lead single from this album 'Welcome Home' was another track inked onto the setlist for inclusion this evening.
While this Curse of Lono performance had its roots in the full band set up, there was still a slot for Felix to share the first encore song 'All I Got' accompanied only by Dani on keys. Another song from a sensitive perspective was 'I'd Start a War for You'. 'Not to be taken literally' quipped Felix, who was also candid about his own past and some of the issues he has overcome.
This gig was certainly a valuable experience in getting to know more about Felix Bechtolshheimer, Curse of Lono, and the music that is exciting many folks on the cusp of the Americana circuit where the sound tumbles into some remnants of indie rock. Not forgetting the presence of John Murry, set to feature on all the dates the band undertake on this short tour. Yes, so many positives drawn on this latest trip down Kings Heath way.
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