King Gizzard Infests Elm City

Prolific genre bending outfit King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard stopped off at College Street Music Hall in New Haven, CT during their 2019 coast-to-coast North American tour.  Hundreds queued up out front and down an adjacent alley a good hour before doors even opened.  A stacked lineup including fellow Aussies O.R.B. and the sisters Findlay four, a.k.a. Stonefield, should have been enough, but there was another reason to get in line early.  On this North American tour King Gizzard is selling a limited run of show specific screen-printed posters by Melbourne-based artist Jason Galea featuring colorful psychedelic, fantasy, and sci-fi themed designs. Once gaining admittance to the venue a new line formed from the merch table and snaked around the perimeter almost all the way down to the stage.  Needless to say, Gizz fans love their merch!

With O.R.B. and Stonefield trading the opening slot from city to city, Stonefield was up first tonight in New Haven.  Sisters Hannah, Holly, and Sarah donned variant burgundy toned corduroy two piece 70’s suits complete with wide lapels and flared pant bottoms.  Eldest sister and founder of the group, Amy, wore more appropriate attire for her anchoring role behind the drums, serving as lead vocalist for most of the tracks as well.  Amy’s wild playing style had her long blonde hair tossed and pulled in all directions as her dervish-like playing saw her arms undulating to the driving beat. Hannah (guitar) also often played behind her long brown wavy locks that were draped in front of her face as she twisted about with her white SG slung low along her waist.  Youngest sister Holly followed suit on bass while Sarah was in plain view wearing her shoulder length hair tucked behind her ear. Their sound has evolved since their first release in 2013. Taking on a darker and harder tone with their recent move to King Gizzard’s label Flightless Records last year, 2018’s Far From Earth and 2019’s Bent ditched their prior classic rock sound in favor of a more psych and stoner aesthetic. 

Much of their set was culled from these two excellent releases that have flown under the radar, particularly here in the US.  I expect that as a result of this tour Stonefield is on the precipice of really blowing up. While their recorded albums are excellent, their live shows are not to be missed.  There’s a reason there are very few lead singing drummers out there, primarily because it’s incredibly difficult, but Amy pulls it off with grace, precision, and flare.

Up next were O.R.B. who pushed the evening deeper in the stoner direction with their drawn out heavy prog jams that even had the crowd surfing earlier than expected.  Like Stonefield, O.R.B.’s sound has also grown and matured across their 3 album discography. Their self-titled debut on Castle Face Records featured heavy Black Sabbath-inspired cuts, while twisters like “Lucifer’s Lament” on The Space Between released last year on Flightless Records reflects a more refined craftsmanship from the Victoria trio.  Their set was thick and heavy with few onstage antics. Guitarist and lead singer Zak Olsen did exchange his six strings for four with bassist Daff Gravolin while Jamie Harmer kept pace on the kit.  While their performance was subdued their sound was anything but and had the crowd whipped into an early frenzy before cult heroes King Gizzard took the stage.

The near capacity crowd could hardly stand the wait as was evident in their hoots and hollers as members of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard took the stage with house lights on and music playing to quickly soundcheck their instruments and microphones.  The anticipation seemed to reach a palpable threshold when unexpectedly the house lights were replaced with a single light source from the rear of the venue. As a prerecorded track played the back wall of the stage glowed with the oscillating imagery of the now iconic rat skull statue.  As it spun in place with a menacing red glow the 7 members took their places on stage. First to their spots were drummers Michael Cavanagh and Eric Moore each donning red jumpsuits. While the others picked up their instruments and manned their stations Cavanagh and Moore opened with the furious beat from “Venusian 2.”  Stu Mackenzie, Joey Walker, and Cook Craig inserted their piercing guitar riffs that just about blew the roof off the place. Bassist Lucas Skinner stood on the drum riser next to his low end brethren and Ambrose Kenny-Smith was stage right on keyboard, harmonica, and percussion. From the fire of the opening two tracks, “Venusian 1” and “Venusian 2” off of their latest release Infest the Rats’ Nest, the Gizz do what they do best and turned on a dime, sonically speaking, with the more aquatically themed “Plastic Boogie” from their first 2019 release Fishing For Fishies.  A quick “Ello New Aven” atop the rabid applause and the band launched quickly into the sprawling 10+ minute “Crumbling Castle” which felt more like the opening narrative of a Dungeons and Dragons quest or fantasy novel than a track from their 2017 release Polygondwanaland

With the accelerator pinned to the floor and all safety features disabled the shuddering vehicle that was King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard rarely slowed or veered off course.  Frontman Stu Mackenzie performed his usual guitar lunges and yoga-like poses with his iconic axes. These included his Gibson Holy Explorer for much of the first half and the ZE Flying Banana, which was first pulled out to play “Rattlesnake” with it’s wild microtonal fret modification that provide that sitar-like sound.  

Stand out crowd favorites that saw many a body deposited into the photo pit as well as a bloody nose for a young female fan included “Muddy Water”, “Alter Me I”, “Altered Beast I”, and “Sleep Drifter”.  With sensory overloading visuals pummeling ones eyes and the accompanying cacophony of their sound, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard exhaust and overwhelm their audience in the most satisfying way possible.  The boys from down under finished with 2 blazers from Rats’ Nest, “Mars for the Rich” and “Organ Farmer” and closed with the psychedelic epic “The River” from their 2015 release “Quarters!”. To give you just an inkling of how prolific this band has been recently, despite being released just 4 years ago, “Quarters!” is now 10 albums ago!  Truly mind boggling output, which can also be said about tonight’s show. Needless to say you should seek these guys out if they stop in a city near you.  

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King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard Setlist

1. Venusian 2

2. Venusian 1

3. Plastic Boogie

4. Crumbling Castle

5. The Fourth Colour

6. Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet

7. The Castle in the Air

8. Muddy Water

9. Real’s Not Real

10. Alter Me I

11. Altered Beast I

12. The Bird Song

13. All Is Known

14. Anoxia

15. Rattlesnake

16. Sleep Drifter

17. Cyboogie

18. Mars for the Rich

19. Organ Farmer

20. The River