Chilled fingers, damp socks, drenched winter coats; sometimes just making it to the show is part of the experience in NYC, and it took some real purpose to get out in last night’s rain. But King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s sold-out crowd – bewitched by the understated stroke of genius that slithers around strings and sticks, sneaking into their psychedelic sound – made the cold trek to Webster Hall with intense excitement. Protecting coveted show posters from the wet heads of their peers, they packed the pit as if Einstein were splitting atoms onstage.
Fellow Australian bands Stonefield and ORB had their work cut out for them as last night’s openers, but they soon won the audience over with their similarly-trippy sets. Stonefield, made up of sisters Amy, Hannah, Sarah, and Holly Findlay, celebrated the release of their new 7-inch with a dark, grungy performance that instantly hit with the crowd – accentuated by Amy’s badass lead vocals as she wailed on the drums. ORB’s immersive, monotonous sound seemed almost industrial, like a factory cranking out good, meaty guitar solos on a fast-moving assembly line. From the middle of the pit, ORB’s last song was the first time I needed to put my fists up – not that the bashing-around was really anything crazy (yet). In the moments before King Gizz took the stage, a sticky drink surged overhead with a splash and seemed to signal the start of a war – or at least, a pretty solid mosh pit; a necessity for the occasion. In response, a black jacket lost its owner and spent the next two hours in the air.
Also flying were numerous pairs of feet and unidentified limbs when fans lost their collective shit to King Gizzard’s set – a banana split of songs from the new album, starting with a deadly combo of “Open Water” and “Doom City” to get things rolling. Also fresh from their Flying Microtonal Banana were “Anoxia,” “Billabong Valley,” and “Sleep Drifter” (in backwards order from the LP), an insane “Nuclear Fusion,” and the mind-bending album opener, “Rattlesnake,” in that funky order. Their sound carried an almost mystical, mathematical level of perfection; an impossible formula – some kind of sacred geometry that not only allows for the use of two drummers pounding out the exact same rhythms in perfect synch, but requires it.
About 45 minutes in, you got the feeling that something literally kicked in, either for the band, the crowd, or both, who suddenly seemed terrified and thrilled all in the same moment. Frontman Stu Mackenzie himself seemed to really be digging the vibe, letting out enthusiastic “yup!”s of approval each time they sank into a good groove. “You know, it’s flattering and a little overwhelming to be playing for so many people in such a beautiful, historic place,” he told us the first time they stopped to breathe.
The show was all-encompassing and surreal; pure genre-bending, instrument-swapping madness, particularly between Stu and keyboardist/harmonica-extraordinaire Ambrose Kenny Smith. It was a quagmire of menacing beats, disgustingly good riffs, disorienting microtones, and quick, slippery lyrics that sucked you into their wild minds. After unpeeling the new record (the first of 5 full-lengths they plan to release this year, because holy fuck), they treated the NYC crowd to some unreleased stuff from the NEW-new record, including the inextricable “Alter Me” / “Altered Beast” in its many parts and pieces, all taking shape in a death-defying time signature, thanks to their formidable rhythm section.
It was then that King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard threw things back to last year’s much-revered, infinitely-looping record, Nonagon Infinity, tearing “Robot Stop” to pieces before an unexpected plunge into “The River” from 2015’s Quarters! – bringing it back to Nonagon with “Gamma Knife” and “People-Vultures.” In a truly mind-altering finale (that some fans are calling their best-to-date in various comment sections today), they exploded into “Lord of Lightning,” “Cellophane,” and “Am I in Heaven?” the last of which featured interlocking snippets of “Cellophane,” “Alter Me,” “Hot Water,” “Head On,” and “Pill” that had everyone’s synapses firing.
Though they played right up until their curfew of 11:00pm – a satisfyingly long set – it was hard to watch them leave the stage and accept the strange new silence that took over the room. And rest assured, they’ll be filling that silence with something totally different this evening, so don’t miss it! There are still some tickets available for tonight’s show – get em’ here while you can.
*Watch the full show below thanks to Pitchfork*
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley