On paper, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard sounds like a band that only the biggest music nerds could love. Case in point: the Australian seven-piece psychedelic group’s latest album, Flying Microtonal Banana, has as its central conceit that the band recorded it entirely with specially-modified instruments designed to allow them to play in microtone intervals, rather than the usual semitones of normal western instruments. Many of their songs don’t follow standard verse-chorus-verse pop forms so much as they build slowly and repetitively toward a conclusion from beginning to end. Some of the most devoted fans of the band have even worked out a complex theory of a “Gizzverse,” an alternate universe in which all of the band’s albums are connected, forming an overarching narrative that will only be fully revealed at the final one (a theory for which the band themselves have lent their own encouragement). Crazy, right?
And yet somehow, despite (or perhaps because of) all of this, the band has seemed to explode in popularity, as was evidenced by their packed, sold-out show at the 9:30 Club last week, filled with dancing and crowd surfing. The band divided the set in half, performing with their microtonal instruments for the first part of the show, and then switching to standard instruments for the second part. The majority of the microtonal songs came from the new record, including “Nuclear Fusion,” “Sleep Drifter,” and “Rattlesnake,” along with a new song, “All Is Known,” that has yet to appear on any record. They also started off the second half with several new songs, an alternating suite of tracks referred to as “Alter Me” and “Altered Beast” (with two versions of each). From there they played several tracks each off of their 2016 album Nonagon Infinity (“Robot Stop,” “Gamma Knife,” and “People-Vultures”), their 2015 album Quarters! (“The River”), and their 2014 album I’m In Your Mind Fuzz (“Celophane” and “Am I In Heaven?”), along with one more unreleased track which they’ve been performing since last year (“Lord of Light”). Throughout it all, the audience hardly ever stopped moving.
The band has announced ambitious plans to release five albums in 2017. Whether they’ll succeed in this venture while also touring the world remains to be seen. So far, three months in, they’ve only released one (with another, titled Murder of the Universe, being teased but with no release date announced yet), so they’re going to have some catching up to do. One way or the other, it’s going to be a wild ride, and we can only be glad that King Gizzard has invited us along on it.
Two other Australian acts opened the show. ORB, who describe themselves as a “hard psych/slack prog” band filled the venue with Black Sabbath-inspired riffs, while Stonefield, a band made up of four sisters, provided their own driving take on hard rock.