King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard perform at The Anthem on Oct. 23, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Rock bands tend to be a mighty determined bunch. And throughout their careers plenty have strived to live out grand visions for their followers across the world. But today’s rock fans could very well find themselves in the presence of one of the most ambitious outfits of all time.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard — formed back in 2010 in Melbourne by a group of newly acquainted friends and musicians in college at the time — has been at it for just more than a decade. But in that time, this Australian group’s accomplished more than most can hope to in an entire career.
In fact, they’ve amassed a sprawling catalogue by releasing a whopping 23 LPs — they dropped a behind-the-scenes video project last week and then on Friday released yet another album. Though it’s likely unbelievable to those unfamiliar with the band, it’s the third the group released in October alone and the fifth it produced in this calendar year, and the second year in which it’s done as many.
Out to promote the head-turning amount of work it’s released this year alone, and in anticipation of the newest offering, titled Changes, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard presently finds itself on a “World Tour” through North America with stops at venues speaking to an act on the rise and quickly growing its base.
At The Anthem in DC the night of Oct. 23, KGLW lived up to justifiable buzz in the form of a sold-out performance for the ages, a mind-bending and consuming dip into a book of songs that evolved from psychedelic surf rock to run the gamut across so many different types of music, a continued exploration.
Listen to King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard’s newest album, which dropped Friday, titled Changes:
From spaghetti western concepts to jazz and folk experiments and with various collaborations along the way, this refreshing and prolific machine has shown an impressive ability for not only taking on and accomplishing projects in rapid fashion, but maybe more importantly, the aptitude to execute it all with a style that keeps building equity for its brand.
Forming two merchandise lines that stretched deep into the venue, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard freaks took over The Anthem last Sunday night for what became a wild and astonishing engagement between the artists and a thrilled group of listeners. And after all, ticketholders had their reasons — with all the band had going on this past summer, it was announced that King Gizzard would be canceling the rest of its European and UK tour in a revelation that leadman Stu Mackenzie has been battling Crohn’s disease for years and needed to seek treatment, which he fortunately did.
So, with the band’s engines firing again this fall, not a soul within The Anthem seemed to be taking last Sunday night for granted, and the amped attendees were packed close to the stage by the time the recently released single “Hypertension” was underway. This twisting, bewildering number — representing one half of the early October album Laminated Denim — propels into a full-speed maze of guitar riffs, with melodies piling on one another as the band’s two other axe-swingers—Joey Walker and Craig Cook—used separate runways to make this track, played live for the first time, incessant and unrelenting.
Within no time bodies began to roll atop the crowd and mosh pockets formed all throughout it, and the venue had extra security staff on hand to help people safely reach the floor at the stage barricade.
Watch the music video for King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s song “I Hate Dancing” directed, shot and edited by John Angus Stewart:
A night that by its design was different than every other show the band has put on and will put on, it was a hand-picked set by Mackenzie, who was electrifying with swinging kicks and erratic howls. Keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Ambrose Kenny-Smith, wide-eyed and animated as perhaps the most recognizable voice in the pack, was devious in his role for tracks like “Blame It On The Weather,” another October release, and, later, moving to the front of the stage to command the whole room during “Straws In the Wind.”
Perhaps a bit enigmatic until seen in the flesh, KGLW additionally includes bassist Lucas Harwood and drummer Michael Cavanagh. Together, these collective personalities and their racing instrumentation added visual and mental stimulation to an already insanely trippy endeavor.
And no matter who was most vocal, or who was most intense on whatever instrument he might have been playing, this band showed such an indomitable spirit, such gusto to dig into uncommonly potent and intricate jams, some that went on for as long as 15 minutes.
With the healthy live execution of a band like Phish, but with vibrations that might best be compared to entities like King Crimson, Rush or, one of the band’s more modern influences, Tool, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard has been able to hone their live sound to be wholly its own while trekking on a Zappa-like quest for unique sound across almost two dozen albums.
Listen Laminted Demin, one of the five albums released in 2022 by King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard:
And to provide the full picture, the band’s also put out 14 live albums, three EPS, a remix album and three compilations as well as dozens of singles and 60 music videos. Though few believe art and numbers should be intertwined, all signs point to the band as being rightfully included in a 2019 study identifying the world’s “hardest working musicians.”
Outdoing themselves seemed to be the theme of the evening at The Anthem, which saw KGLW invite opening act and fellow Aussie Leah Senior to the stage for commemorative takes on “The Reticent Raconteur” and “The Lord of Lightning.”
Playing a slice of the 2014 album I’m In Your Mind Fuzz, King Gizzard took it up a notch by blasting through “I’m In Your Mind” and rolling right into “I’m Not In Your Mind,” “Cellophane” and “I’m Not Your Mind Fuzz” for a tear that fused futurism with grunge textures and progressive rhythms.
The visual projection and stage lighting, like something from a dragon’s dream, was saturated in greens, reds and oranges, and it flickered, essentially mutating the crowd — random humans rolling, arms and legs flailing in the air — into a giant slithering creature of its own, particularly when viewed from above.
As the set went on, any seasoned concert goer would have certainly appreciated the drive and the complexity in these songs, some with cataclysm and repetitious booms just being soaked by one of the most interesting crowds to ever congregate for a show in the nation’s capital.
Watch the trailer for “Sleeping Monster,” a video project released last week exploring King Gizzard’s studio routine, via the band’s YouTube channel loaded with content:
The Anthem would be rewarded with an oscillating “Rattlesnake,” from Flying Microtonal Banana, one of five albums released in 2017, just before an epic and transportive “Float Along – Fill Your Lungs,” the avant-garde title track from a 2013 LP and one that helped this extremely busy act bid farewell to Washington DC.
Everyone cheered, some screamed with admiration for a group that’s done so much within a short time frame but still aims to better itself night by night, album by album. And as recent articles have pointed out, KGLW has helped show what can be accomplished on the business front by a band that is willing to embrace itself as a brand while still focusing on artistic output, song creation and improvisation.
In observing a cutting-edge band with so much momentum, a local music fan can only hope the area’s venues will entice them back the next time King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard decides to take a swing through the states.
Blame It On The Weather
The Reticent Raconteur (with Leah Senior)
The Lord of Lightning (with Leah Senior)
I’m In Your Mind
I’m Not in Your Mind
I’m In Your Mind Fuzz
Self-Immolate (with big time drums)
Straws in the Wind
Float Along – Fill Your Lungs
Here are images of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard performing at The Anthem the night of Oct. 23, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.