by Stephanie Roush
[Writer’s note: I now owe you one less article! Working on turning my crazy winding personal essay, “Music as Memory, Music as Time,” into something more readable. Stay tuned.]
What I didn’t realize was that the concert was 16+. Retrospectively, I think that was a good thing. What I did know though was that Webster Hall, as a venue, is a place that lends itself to a good time. I particularly love watching a show unfold from its balcony level, taking in the kinetic energy of a mostly-18-and-under mosh pit and gazing at crowd-surfers accidentally getting dropped. Its only fitting that in a messy NYC establishment venue like this a band like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard thrives.
Originally hailing from Melbourne, it’s unusual that such a large group (there are seven of them with at least twelve guitarists) has stuck together this long and been so prolific in their output. They’ve released nine full-length albums since 2012. And they don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon– they have said that their most recent release Flying Microtonal Banana is just one of five that they will release this year.
The show mixed their signature style of psychedelic nerd rock with a full-throttle energy and what I’m going to term “sloppy tightness.” Admittedly, I was a bit taken aback by how tight they are live. From looks alone, you expect a sort of Ty Segall meets King Tuff sloppy thrash rock, but what you get could not be farther from that. Their two drummers seem excessive until you realize how important the extra percussion and melody are to the complexity of their jams.
And they played the hits, like their groovy ballad “Rattlesnake,” showing off their instruments infamous microtonal capabilities. If you want a sense of truly how nerdy this band is you should know that frontman Stu Mackenzie had a custom-made guitar built with the ability to play microtones. And then told the band they had to do that too. A generous person, he gave them a stipend. Serious. I wish they could’ve done the entire soundtrack for 2015’s Mad Max Fury Road because they have a certain penchant for producing music that could be a soundtrack for an epic dessert car chase.
They played other hits from Flying Microtonal Banana like the hypnotizing-ly jammy “Sleep Drifter” and the brooding yet catchy “Nuclear Fusion.” They also played older songs like “The River” from Quarters with its LSD metaphors and sleepy, rollicking melodies.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard is a band that has carved out its niche in the crowded world of psych rock, vying for attention and praise with their unabashed nerdiness and proclivity for making music that is most interesting in its repetitiveness. Don’t forget, they constructed their 2016 album, Nonagon Infinity, as an infinite loop, so that the album only truly ends when you decide to turn it off.
This is a band absolutely worth seeing live. Perhaps even preferred live. Their highly energetic performance is punctuated by each band member’s surprising mastery of their instrument (see above: “sloppy tightness”). It has never been this cool to be so shamelessly nerdy.