Getting tickets to a King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard is nearly impossible; tickets are selling out months in advance across the US. The two shows the band played in Denver and Boulder this weekend were no exception. Scalped tickets were running for over $140 a piece. They’ve gained a near cultish following, and the cult’s members are willing to pay anything to see the six-foot tall and over six piece. Getting tickets can be a difficult feat for the demographic that the band attracts (types who probably don’t make their bed in the morning). Somehow I (who only sometimes manage to make my bed) scored a cheap ticket by stroke of total luck, and I made my way to Boulder’s Fox Theatre on Oct 5 and into the sweaty cluster of bodies, all vying to get to the front.
Sometimes using sitar, sometimes a tiny yellow guitar frontman Stu Mackenzie named his “Flying Microtonal Banana” during their April tour of the album. Always with two drummers, King Gizzard has been climbing higher and higher into a doomy, nightmarish dystopia since their conception in 2014. Their sound is nearly light bending, channeling the psychedelic underground, like listening to metal composed in a scale typical of Indian folk music.
So far, they’ve released eleven total albums, ranging from five to twenty five songs in length, mostly saturated with lyrics that predict doomsday, demonic mind control, the underworld, beasts and cyborgs. Their imagery recalls that of a ten-year-old boy who watches way too much Adult Swim, and it’s totally off-beat, just a little bit scary and brilliantly insane.
Amidst projections of sacred geometrical shapes, cartoon alligators and high-flying color their energy laced the air of the theatre, King Gizzard live is as pervasive an experience as a nuclear spill and just as noxious. Their setlist leapt into a quick collage of tracks mostly pulled from their most recent Sketches of Brunswick East, including all three iterations of “Altered Beast” along with more familiar tracks like “Gamma Knife” and “Robot Stop” from their 2016 Nonagon Infinity, and “Nuclear Fusion” and “Sleep Drifter” from Flying Microtonal Banana (2017).
The pit was a turbulent wash of t-shirts, body odor and adrenaline. Everywhere I turned my head was a mouth full of spit and lyrics. I was close enough to see Stu’s calm, nonchalant expression as they ripped into “The River” right before I got kicked in the head by a crowd surfer. The crowd couldn’t get closer, couldn’t get enough of it. I still have a fairly large sized lump on the side of my head from the guy’s Chuck Taylors and I’m not proud of the constant low grade throb it still gives. Despite having to sleep on my left side for the rest of the weekend, it was worth it for the show. I walked away slightly confused and more than slightly concussed and stoked.
King Gizzard announced their plan to drop five albums in 2017, three of which have already been released. They are firing all 12 cylinders, but the fact is that they don’t seem doomed to burn out from the expenditure. They’ve somehow managed to craft 11 different albums that are as chaotically, synchronously mapped as some of my favorite Floyd albums graced by Syd Barrett. They’re masters of chaos, every new record more inverted and warped, and once you see the whole image, the mess in its totality, it’s nothing less than brilliant.