REVIEW: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard at Riverside Theater

Friday night the acclaimed Australian psychedelic acid-rock outfit King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard played the Riverside Theater – their second time in town (last year at the Pabst had been their first). I had always wanted to experience a show of theirs ever since I listened through their extensive, evolved discography about two years ago. I was blown away.

King Gizzard consists of vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Stu Mackenzie, guitarist/vocalist Joey Walker, vocalist/keyboardist/harmonica Ambrose Kenny-Smith, bassist/vocalist/keyboardist Cook Craig, bassist Lucas Skinner, and drummers Michael Cavanagh and Eric Moore (both of which wore all red). The band is known for their prolific output; in 2017 they had promised the world five albums in one year, and followed through. Progressive rock, jam-banding, soul, metal, folk, and jazz have all been incorporated to some degree in their outstanding psych-rock flavor. Their most recent effort is “Infest the Rats’ Nest,” which came out a week ago – their second of the year after April’s “Fishing for Fishies.” Overall they have dropped fifteen albums, and undoubtably have more on the way.

I had intended to go by myself but found friends, and we got granted access to box seats on the left side. Kenny-Smith was directly below us and danced erratically up close during instrumental breaks. The band’s 2019 material dominated their set, although they mixed in a few old numbers as well. “Stressin'” of their 2014 album “Oddments,” “Wah Wah” and “Road Train” from 2016’s “Nonagon Infinity,” “Inner Cell” and “Loyalty” and “Horology” and from 2017’s “Polygondwanaland,” “The Great Chain of Being” and “Down the Sink” (the song’s live debut, featuring Craig’s lead vocals) from 2017’s “Gumboot Soup” all got played. Their extended jam of “Head On / Pill” from their 2013 album “Float Along – Fill Your Lungs” closed the night and featured fragments of old songs embedded as well.

Trippy tape loops, flashing red and yellow strobes, shredding guitar breaks, and mechanically-altered vocals all made for a psychedelic masterpiece of a show. What I find so fascinating about psychedelic music is how sensory it becomes; the combination of surrealist theatrics and obfuscated vocals evokes such transformative imagery within one’s consciousness. King Gizzard brought an uncanny juxtaposition of metal-savvy abrasiveness cooled down by twangy beach-pop ditties. The pit had been absolute anarchy the entire show; crowd-surfing and mosh-pits flurried depending on the punch of the song. King Gizzard played for about two hours.

I unfortunately missed the first opening band Stonefield, but I watched the second band ORB (who are signed to King Gizzard’s record label Flightless Records) from the second floor. They put on an amazingly gritty and riff-heavy psychedelic rock set as well. Their latest album “The Space Between” came out in 2018.

I imagine it won’t be long before King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have more albums either planned or released. If you like acid-friendly music and adapt well to frequent temper changes, don’t miss the next show of theirs. It was definitely one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.

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