Last October, Melbourne’s very strange psyche rock/metal/avant-garde purveyors of sound, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, dazzled a packed One Eyed Jacks. Between then and now, the band hasn’t slowed down even remotely. In 2017, the band did the unheard-of and released five separate full albums, all of which were very good and easily digestible, to me at least. Apparently, these guys have an aversion to time off, though, because they've been touring non-stop in 2018, and they don’t seem to be slowing down or losing their luster. Last night was a perfect reminder of that.
They were set to come on around 10:10, and I was outside around 10:05 waiting on a friend (I unexpectedly had an extra ticket and had to get someone down there as soon as I could), when the loud vibrations from inside the (by now) packed Republic starting flowing into the still-busy streets. We quickly made our way inside, and by that point, the band was blasting their unique mix of odd time signatures, off-the-wall lyrics, and full-throttle metal musings. Opening with the insane and caustic “Digital Black” followed by “Vomit Coffin,” the band was clearly ready to throw down. Coming soon after those were more tracks from the heaviest of the five albums last year, titled Murder of the Universe. The band executed “A New World” without error, then poured straight into “Altered Beast I,” among others from that album. To watch them—as best as I could, being stuck behind the always-unfortunate pillars of Republic—was really something to behold.
This band absolutely has no thought of slowly entering the set and building momentum. They essentially start at 11 and rise and rise with sheer enthusiasm and intensity from the onset. They also clearly don’t believe in breaks in between songs. Stu MacKenzie, lead singer and rising lurker in the dark, highly trippy visuals being presented, never said anything but two brief words after one song, instead leading his band to crushing every song of the set. During the entire show, they didn’t stop, didn’t chat, and chose to pummel the widely enthusiastic crowd with every ounce of energy they had. Frankly, it’s impressive to see a band leave so much sweat and energy on the stage.
The stage show was fantastic, too. Last year, it was acceptable and enjoyable, but you can tell their elevated status in indie underground music has helped them to really provide an intoxicating visual show with more psychedelic signatures than can be explained. Every song had great accompaniment when it came to the stage show aspects of the package. The crowd ate it up and gave just as much energy back to King Gizzard as the band was giving to them. Honestly, it was one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. It wasn’t over, though.
Throughout the set, the band delivered with poise a rousing performance of the 10-minute-long “Crumbling Castle,” off of Polygonwanaland, which builds with a slow, mystic guitar feeling before segueing into an even more winding guitar section. “Castle” was one of the clear highlights of the evening, but the seven-piece still had some tricks up their sleeve. Near the end of the set, what’s probably many of the people's favorite songs, “Rattlesnake,” was delivered with as much gusto and bravado as I’ve ever seen a band deliver. It’s not a traditional song in any way. The vast majority of the lyrics are simply chanting the title of the track, but for a band like this, normal rules of interesting music-making don’t apply. That’s why it works so well.
These guys played for well over 90 minutes, and with the finale of “Gamma Knife” flowing out of the speakers, the crowd ate it up and demanded an encore. But there was no encore, which I actually love. So often these days, the concept of a built-in encore seems mandatory and planned, but it’s refreshing to see a band deliver a staggering 20-song, nearly two-hour set and leave the audience wanting more. These guys hopefully aren’t going anywhere soon, and I expect them to be back playing even bigger places in the very near future.