(Photographer: Joshua Pike)
To launch their new album Quarters, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard treated Australia to a sumptuously psychedelic tour of old-fashioned, dirty, rock mayhem: Gizzfest. Featuring an amalgamation of the country’s hottest new psych, garage, indie, grunge rock gods, this tour was sure to leave a lasting stain on your musical memory.
The sold out Sydney show took place at the Factory Theatre with bands playing unintermittedly between two stages, and DJs outside playing a titillating plethora of retro vinyl. Stepping inside the venue amongst the vintage-adorned hippies and shaggy-haired hipsters felt like plunging straight into a scene from the 70s. Flares and floral shirts swayed whilst rippling swirls of psychedelic colours were projected onto the building’s exterior.
Pop-electronic duo Mezko took to the side stage to open the show. Laura Bailey and Kat Harley oozed nonchalant cool as they effortlessly looped live guitar and bass with synth and drum machines to create a grungy Grimes-esque sound. With ethereal vocals and catchy, tight bass lines their swirling melodies sounded like the spawn of Goldfrapp and Scissor Sisters. Mezko were the subtle entrée wetting your appetite before the epic feast ensued.
Emerging from an atmospheric cloud of dry ice Los Tones ripped up the main stage with an explosive set of dirty garage rock. Gritty, nasal screeches and twangy 60s guitar solos blasted an eager crowd. There’s no doubt these guys are really fucking cool, but not in a nonchalant way like the Mezko babes; Lost Tones are determined and dedicated to their unique sound. They are loud and expressive; every limb is involved in producing their caustic bohemian vibe. The set was fast-paced and energetic and had the crowd revved up and hungry for more.
Grinding Eyes were even louder still. A prominent melody from the keys overpowered the rough, rock riffs, perhaps a little too much with its screeching quality almost hurting the ears. The drums were heavy and a tambourine was smashed with enthusiasm over the lead singer’s Graham Coxon, nasal apathetic vocals. The set was fuzzy and messy with a laid-back attitude of 90s grunge.
In stark contrast, up next was the Babe Rainbow. Swaying and swirling about the stage as if in a trance, the trio of blonde-haired guys from the Gold Coast serenely serenaded the crowd with a floaty set of 90s pop vocals and upbeat T.Rex style melodies. The sound is deliberately kitsch, like their name, with carefree shakes from the maracas and tambourine and plenty of echoing reverb on the vocals. The guitar had a resonant clarity of the Growlers, whilst the bass and drums were laid-back and fuzzy like a Dandy Warhols track. At one point the guitar warped into a warble with a bubble pedal playing staccato chords reminiscent of 60s lounge music. The set was almost like a mellow acid trip of swirling rainbows, with neon abstract shapes being projected behind the spaced out trio.
As if being roused from a Midsummer Night’s dream, the crowd drearily converged in front of the side stage to be woken with an electrifying, succinct set from The Dandelion. Guitarist and singer Danatalia de Silver grooved away with her signature 60s dance moves in-between flawless solos. The twisting psychedelic sounds of the organ howled like that of the Doors, and the light upbeat bass riffs bounced around to create a fluid, kaleidoscopic sound. The entire crowd was in awe of their abounding talent when Danatalia treated them to a rare rendition on the flute. The set ended with a dramatic crescendo of climactic speeded tempo with the crowd bursting into rapturous applause.
Continuing the retro vibe, The Murlocs played to a packed heaving crowd on the main stage. Listening to their bluesy tones is like being handed a smooth shot of bourbon in an old New Orleans speakeasy. The harmonica howls. The vocals are raspy and shrill. The sound washes you over with an easy-going atmosphere that sways you into an appreciative swing of the knees. Ambrose is an impressive front man flitting across the stage screaming fervidly into the microphone. Every sound is heartfelt and haunting just like the piercing bends of the harmonica’s eerie notes. The band entertained the crowd with a funky version of Hot Chocolate’s Everyone’s a Winner with a soulful, bopping bass that had everyone whooping and dancing with delight. Almost as entertaining, was the guitarist’s choice of outfit, who had bizarrely donned a leopard print dress and black stockings.
Energy levels almost exhausted from an already intense line-up, a large quantity of the crowd dispersed to convalesce outside. But despite the thinned out audience The Laurels still assailed the remainder with a barrage of fuzzy, loud music. Like a lovechild of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Kasabian their sound is grungy, but upbeat and indie. With plenty of reverb and biting riffs the band had the audience head banging and jumping around.
At 11pm the long-awaited King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard took to the main stage. Lead singer Stu McKenzie made an immediate impression wearing a NASA jumpsuit and outlandish 80s sunglasses. The crowd went crazy as soon as the music started, moshing and jumping and yelling. Long hair flailed in the air and large inflatable crocodiles were thrown about amongst crowd surfing youths. The band were born to play live; the apparent talent on their records is multiplied tenfold on stage. With seven members, including two drummers, they still managed to sound flawlessly tight. Each song was extended with indulgent instrumentals featuring harmonica solos from Ambrose, bizarre monotone vocals and noises from Stu and a profusion of psychedelic, sound.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard meld so many genres into their avant-garde sound it is hard to specifically label them. Head On/Pill is like a Beatles meets Brian Jonestown Massacre melding of slow guitar chords and sparse crashing drumming with undulating sitar sounds. And then as if birthed from an entire different planet they have The River a Parisian summer stroll through a 60s jazz café. And then even more different they have Hot Wax, which sounds like a stoned garage version of Grimes Oblivion with a hint of funk. As soon as this track began playing fans clambered onto the stage to jive amidst the already crowded musicians. Body after body appeared on stage swinging and clapping until the stage was packed with an orgy of zealous kids. The atmosphere was jubilant and free-spirited, as if anything were possible. The conventional barrier between musician and fan had been transcended to a beautiful celebration of sound and bohemian philosophy. When eventually the scene descended into slight chaos, with Stu being jostled to the edge of the stage and the keyboard accidentally unplugged, the band politely asked everyone to get off. In a surging wave of limbs they threw themselves blithely atop of the remaining crowd to surf and fall.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard was as spirited and whacky as their inebriated fans (which included many members of the supporting bands who crashed the stage to converge in a dancing frenzy). Their set was the perfect exhilarating zenith to a night of crazy revelry.
Written by Cosima Wood