“Hey, what did he do? What did he do?” Stu Mackenzie pleaded with the guard across the room. King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard’s continuous set came to a screeching halt as a fan was nearly ejected by the Bowery’s security – and their frontman wasn’t having any of it. The crowd, still a sweaty knot mid-mosh, echoed his plea, hands rising above in a flutter of placatory gestures. “Come back. Come back, man. Come back, let him back! He didn’t do anything!” insisted Stu desperately, as if it were his own night on the line. Then, the unthinkable happened. The guard suddenly released the man and climbed onstage, his palms turned outward in a peaceful surrender. Facing the 7-piece that is King Gizzard, he bowed down, swiveling to grovel over the crowd as well. They let out a loving howl and the rocking carried on.
It was clearly a special night. Among those rocking were curfew-fighting kids armed with sharpies and merch, a couple who had come all the way from Ecuador just to see King Gizzard live, those magnanimous moshers who continuously sling cold beers over the sweltering mob, and many other fans cut from the same obsessive cloth. It was no surprise that this audience would flip over opening rock band The Murlocs, since their lineup keeps it in the family with Gizzard’s own Ambrose Kenny Smith and Cook Craig. Steaming up the Bowery Ballroom, the Murlocs sunk into the vibe of a French 60s spy film, with distorted pops of color and a slew of sultry, whammy bar grooves. “We really like it here,” whispered the Murlocs’ Lalić Milinković, somewhere between two quick swigs of water and two halves of their immersive set.
It was that magical moment of dimmed lights and down-to-the-second suspense, just before King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard made their way onstage, that foreshadowed the raw intensity of the show to come. The extinguished lights snapped us into wild darkness, and the sight of two drumsets sent pulses racing. The sea of fans rolled and crashed like brutal surf until the beloved Aussie psych rockers appeared before them. Much of this desire was inextricably tied to Nonagon Infinity, their newest full-length LP and the world’s first infinitely-looping one.
Though fingers were inevitably crossed for a straight run-through, the crowd was more than satisfied with the mostly-sequential mix that was soon poured out with hallucinatory energy. “We’re kind of still working out a few of the songs. Some of them are really hard to play live,” drummer Eric Moore told us earlier in the evening, noting the drums on “Road Train” as a particularly tough feat. But don’t be mistaken – this is not a tour-horny garage band still knocking the kinks out of a hastily-released album. This is a serious group of musicians that have spawned a 41-minute piece of music that is so daunting and technically intense, it’s almost more than anyone could handle.
In a set that hardly stopped (aside from the rescue mission with the guard) King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard brought us a healthy dose of Nonagon, allowing new classics like “Gamma Knife” and “Evil Death Roll,” as well as older favorites like “Trapdoor” and “Cellophane,” to continuously creep back into the main theme of “Robot Stop.” And every time they ended up back where they started, the crowd absolutely lost their shit. As the raucous fans traded bruises and sought new scars, drummers Eric and Michael Cavanaugh maintained a pulverizing beat in perfect synch. Stu, in his vintage Greenpeace shirt, offset their havoc with his mild-mannered delivery and proclivity for jarringly soft impacts. As if newly-possessed by each surging riff, he often flung his body sideways into a rigid arc; tongue out, eyes white, hair hanging down like a twisted troll doll.
You really can spin Nonagon Infinity for all eternity, but there’s just something about seeing them execute the small moments that hide within the grooves of that magical, marbled record. As Stu wielded his guitar to stab the amps with a pop, turned half-step trills on his flute into a distorted playground of sound, and wrapped his entire mouth around the mic for those “whoop!”s that are so essential to “Gamma Knife,” King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard brought a million little pieces to life. And from the looks of the ravenous crowd, it was the kind of show that could change everything. Long after the last note, fans hung around outside discussing music with strangers, connecting with the precise kind of mutual thrill that can turn a genre into a scene. “Psych, punk, garage, metal…” you could hear someone listing off enthusiastically. His hefty list of favorites, which once would have never been caught dead together, trailed off into the cool night air. And everything felt new again.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley