Earlier this week I had the privilege of sitting down with Felix Bechtolscheimer, the founder and lead singer of alt-rock band Curse Of Lono, before taking to the stage at a quaint Victorian tavern in Winchester known as The Railway Inn - and instantly warmed to his cordial demeanour and evident love for music and performing.
We discussed People In Cars (the band’s brilliant third album and centre of what was an enthralling night), we spoke about the depths of his inner despair after a truly devastating year, and we spoke about the quirks behind the eccentric album cover and band name.
Our conversation was fleeting yet affecting, and I truly felt the passion emanating from the German-born Bechtolscheimer as he weaved his words around music and meaning, the two in intrinsic tandem. Quintessentially, music is emotion: pure, breathing, and unadulterated. In its finest form, music has the unparalleled ability to evoke a seismic response and leave a lingering impression on the listener.
Well, this is what happened when Curse Of Lono returned to the stage and captivated a score of supporters with the maiden appearance of their promotional tour stretching from Brighton to Glasgow in an effort to reach fans far and wide. Bechtolscheimer terribly lost his father, his uncle, and his partner of five years in 2020, and having talked to the man about such subjects, it became apparent that the vivid and tender emotion that poured into the album’s construction had resulted in a touching masterpiece.
In the moments preceding the band’s return to live action, as I ambled from the bar and towards the live music room, draught in hand, I happened upon a dialogue between a man and his wife. They were eagerly anticipating the performance, and the gentleman, donning a weathered leather jacket and impressive charcoal boots that seemingly merged into the rock-heavy aura of the night, spoke of his longing for a premier performance after an ostensibly laborious day. After the event, I saw them again. Elated, jittery, fulfilled; Curse Of Lono had mesmerised and rewarded the crowd with a night that will remain etched fondly in memory for years to come. The man was visibly merrier at this twilight stage and, at the bar after the gig’s culmination, draped an arm over Bechtolscheimer and heaped praise on an unforgettable affair before departing with his beaming wife – but not before getting an autograph!
Which reminds me, during my earlier conversation with the rock outfits lead singer, he told me that the People In Cars tour represents a rekindled connection with those in attendance, a return to interaction and conversation, which in turn enhances the night and leaves a perpetual positive impression. Bechtolscheimer’s said this, “This whole tour, we’re deliberately steering clear of the bigger venues, we’ve scaled it back, we’re going down to smaller venues all around the country to reconnect with people. I want to be able to have a beer with people after the gig and I want them to be able to come up to me and tell me that they did like this, or they didn’t like that – I just want to be immersed in it again.”
It’s not very often that you come across a band that surpasses their studio sound with a flawless live showing. A new era of music is upon us. Production proficiency has never been higher and fine tuning and distorting tracks is now a given. Consequently, crowds can be disappointed when watching their favourite bands fail to live up to expectations on the main stage. Curse Of Lono repels this notion. This is not a band soaked in monotonous mediocrity.
Before donning the stage, Bechtolscheimer’s friendly manner indeed gave the impression you had met an old pal, but once the lights dimmed, he erupted into a cacophony of brooding, baritone brilliance. There is so much that could be said about the depth and artistry of the performance, but quite simply it was a thrilling and infectious display.
Curse Of Lono channelled the respective talents and combined with bolts of searing lightning to unite in melodious unity and guide the crowd on a poignant journey of health and heartbreak, drugs and despair, and love and loss. The album is quite simply a beautiful and poignant ode to some of life’s most devastating issues, spun with resounding excellence through an obviously innate band connection.
It was remarkable. Where so many fall on the live stage, this five-piece blossomed into a cohesive unit of slick, pulsating passion. Bechtolscheimer channelled his personal strife after a year tinged with loss and heartbreak and conveyed his message to captivated audience, who absorbed the fruits of his labour, showering thunderous applause after driven anthems such as Let Your Love Rain Down On Me and Stepping Out, and swaying in awe of the beauty of heartfelt ballads like Man Down and Don’t Take Your Love Away.
There was a point in the performance, perhaps 20 minutes in, where the lads almost became detached from reality, immersed and transfixed by the fruits of their own labour and lost in the melodious sparks flickering from member to member. Hearts had been poured out on stage like a gushing waterfall, and Curse Of Lono were finally ready to conclude the show, but upon announcing the culmination of the night's events and offering thanks to a delighted crowd, cries for an encore reverberated across the room like shrapnel.
Like the true performers that they are, the band were happy to oblige and immediately reignited the fire that had dwindled to an ember with two of the night’s best received numbers, seeing the bundle of energy roar back into robust life.
Curse Of Lono is a phenomenal band of musicians. The riffs were sublime, the percussion skills of Neil Findlay were out of this world, each track was infectious. There was a musical intellect clear for all to see and a cohesion so sweet in its integrity and candid depiction of an issue close to home.
I arrived expecting a good night with some good music and with a good band at the centre. I left exhilarated; I had uncovered an immensely talented band who will stay with me for years to come.