Live Review: King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - London Alexandra Palace, 5 October 2019
Despite having been a fan since 2016’s Nonagon Infinity, before last weekend I had yet to see King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard live. The Aussie psych-rockers’ gigs are infamous for their energy and intensity and photos of injured limbs aren’t exactly infrequent posts on their Reddit page. On 5th October, the band played their biggest show yet at Alexandra Palace, selling out all 10 000 tickets for the London venue. One of those 10 000 was me, seeing not only Gizz for the first time but any band away from the safety of Leicester De Montfort Hall balcony or the polite middle-class crowd of Greenbelt Festival. Let’s just say I’d thrown myself in at the deep end.
Before Gizz, fellow Flightless Record members Stonefield and ORB provided support. In anticipation of the ensuing carnage, the crowd restrained themselves during the two 45-minute-ish sets. Admittedly, both bands are also on the slower end of psychedelic rock than King Gizzard, although ORB (who were the more engaging of the two) broke up their set with some enjoyably groovy jams. Stonefield weren’t bad either; some cosmic synth work complemented their doomy stoner rock nicely and I always appreciate a drummer who’s also the lead singer. Neither band, however, did much to prepare me for what was to come next.
The tensest moments come when you’re in an unusually open area and the threat of some shirtless nutter flinging themselves at you and propelling you across the floor is a lot higher.– Nathan Brooks on The Moshpit
The paradox of the mosh pit is that the people pushing and shoving you around are the same people supporting you; the more surrounded you are, the more likely you are to stay standing. In fact, the tensest moments come when you’re in an unusually open area and the threat of some shirtless nutter flinging themselves at you and propelling you across the floor is a lot higher. If that does happen to you, however, there will almost always be a number of people immediately there to help you back up again. Or, if you drop your glasses, to form a barrier around you until you find them. This courtesy is, of course, all in the service of being able to throw you around again but there is something rather lovely about how considerate a bunch of moshing stoners can be. Does this show that human nature is inherently supportive and benevolent, as much as it is feral and self-destructive? Perhaps. Regardless of any deeper meaning, I had a hell of a good time.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are a famously eclectic band, having incorporated all sorts of influences, from smooth jazz to Turkish Anatolian rock, into their core garage-psych sound. However, on stage, they tend to stick to the faster side of their discography. There’s a reason the high-octane Nonagon Infinity has remained a firm fan favourite: live, it translates to some spectacular mosh pits. That album’s epic centrepiece Evil Death Roll was an especially monstrous experience, whist Rattlesnake from 2017’s Flying Microtonal Banana was a reliable crowd-pleaser thanks to its propulsive krautrock vigour. The highlight of the night, however, had to be Crumbling Castle, the remarkable opener from 2017’s prog-rock odyssey Polygondwanaland and an absolute beast of a live tune, building and releasing tension in the crowd like a televangelist.
The [latest] two albums represent the two stages of climate awareness: the naive, tree-hugging, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…message of the former, then the horrifying realisation of the latter that we are all going to die if we don’t take drastic action immediately.– Nathan Brooks on Fishing for Fishies and Infest the Rats’ Nest
The two climate-inspired records Gizz have released this year, breezy boogie rocker Fishing for Fishies and ferocious thrash metal concept album Infest the Rats’ Nest, featured heavily in the setlist. Together, the two albums represent the two stages of climate awareness: the naive, tree-hugging, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Meatless Mondays message of the former, then the horrifying realisation of the latter that we are all going to die if we don’t take drastic action immediately. Musically, they each influenced the gig in unique ways. Self-Immolate and Mars for the Rich from Infest the Rats’ Nest opened the set at breakneck speed, essentially taking the band’s usual approach to live shows to its logical, heaviest conclusion. I’ve never been much of a heavy metal fan but feeling the blistering drums and fierce guitars vibrate through my bones amidst a crowd enraptured by wild abandon helped me understand the appeal. The Fishing for Fishies songs, on the other hand, flavoured the mosh pits with a groovy swing, injecting a bluesy soul into the otherwise rather mindless rhythm of the mosh. This Thing was a particularly funky highlight.
The show ended with an extremely rare performance of Float Along – Fill Your Lungs, the title track from their third studio album. It’s a delicate, ethereal raga rock track that couldn’t be less like the rest of the set. It was a wonderful touch, concluding the show on a beautiful, almost spiritual note that saw the shirtless guys once tossing each other around now embracing each other and slow dancing. This atmosphere of camaraderie permeated the entire evening, like the moment before the band came on when we helped the group next to us search for their mate Jordan (who we did find and who absolutely lived up to the hype). I’m told this inexplicable friendliness is a feature of many live gigs. At the very least I can say this is certainly true of Gizzheads.
So, is a King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard gig for you? If your instant reaction to the name King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard is to recoil, probably not. However, for those whose idea of a good time looks like being packed in the sweatiest, rowdiest sardine tin in the world to the tune of full-throttle Australian psych-rock, this is your kind of show.
The Breakdown | Live Review: King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – London Alexandra Palace, 5 October 2019
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, an often exhilarating band in the studio, become an utterly overwhelming experience live: cathartic, groovy and very very loud.