King Gizzard & the Little Wizard Take Music Hall on a Wild Ride

September 17th, 2015

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 16, 2015

Given the number of New York City shows King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have played in the past year, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re from around here—or at least nearby. It’s a little absurd then to remember that they’re actually from Melbourne … Australia. But like their Dungeons & Dragons–on-acid band name and their three-guitars-two-drums-bass-harmonica-and-occasional-flute lineup, there is little about these guys that isn’t absolutely absurd. So making NYC their Western Hemisphere outpost is right in character and, judging from the absurd energy inside Music Hall of Williamsburg last night, the crowd is happy to have them call our town home.

Before King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard got started, Toronto’s Michael Rault perfectly set the stage with an excellent set of overdrive garage rock that featured odd, shifting tempos, vocal harmonies, two-guitar jams and a nonstop flow of delectable bass playing that got the full house in the mood. After a quick changeover, the sound of Men at Work’s “Down Under” filled the room—a cheeky reminder that, no, the headliners didn’t just drive in from their Bushwick walk-up. The prolific seven-piece opened with some new material that nonetheless had the crowd bouncing and stage diving within minutes as brain-trip projections flashed behind them at an epileptic rate that kept pace with the intense two-drum rhythms. “Hot Wax” earned a roar of approval with its hot fusion of sounds, like the punk rock of CBGB and the psychedelic jams of the Wetlands exploding together in an at-home-in-NYC flash.

From there, things got, well, absurd. Songs leaped from genre to genre, from the metal of Black Sabbath to the flute-prog of old Genesis, from cosmic doo-wop to jazzy improv. Themes flipped from one to another without warning but also without whiplash, long extended jams sometimes circling back around again leaving you with a sensation of headbanger’s déjà vu (“Is this the same song?”). The set list bounced between yet-to-be-released new ones and what constitutes older material for a band that’s been churning out music for the past five years. “The River” was a representative highlight, beginning with a swinging jazz riff and then launching into a lengthy go-everywhere jam led by 12-string-guitar exploration and weird-out animations on the backdrop. “Head On/Pill” was another highlight: an epic that grew very quiet before a full-band spastic freak-out and a triumphant mid-song melodic climax, hitting a few other sweet spots before eventually coming back. After 90 minutes of breakneck no-encore-necessary playing and a promise to return soon (like there was any doubt!), there was only one way to describe King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: absurdly good. —A. Stein | @Neddyo