Friday night saw King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard play their last of many, many shows for 2014. The tail end of an(other) Australian tour, this was a show whose location was odd considering the band’s tendency to perform at a stack of smaller venues several times over a week; but nonetheless, The HiFi seemed to provide more space onstage for King Gizzard’s seven members than ever before.
Preceding the headliners was Adalita, the mononym of former Magic Dirt front woman Adalita Srsen. She entered the stage with her three-piece band; her presence made known immediately upon her launching into a distorted, rhythmic tirade of tracks from her 2013 album All Day Venus, as well as some older and newer too. Srsen’s set was a particularly polished one despite both guitars on stage being laden with fuzz and distortion. Each song emerged as possessing rhythm and melody on their own terms; no song sounding at all like the last, even considering the songs’ fairly simple, pop-leaning structures. She lunged about the stage throughout, waifish but hardened, furiously strumming at her guitar. At some point in the set, she turned her undivided attention to her drummer – her back to the crowd as she marched on the spot to the beats being generated. It was a set that was as clean as it was dirty: a trademark that has kept Adalita on the scene for over 20 years.
The crowd grew denser as seven lots of equipment were set up on stage. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard shortly after emerged, beginning with an odd choice of song. ‘Her And I (Slow Jam 2)’ is roughly what its name would suggest; a slow jam about love. It’s also the final song on the band’s new album I’m In Your Mind Fuzz, making even more obscure their placement of it as the set’s first song. In the true style of a slow jam, it was laden with groove, tinged with a little bit of 60s bossanova, and even involved two people playing bass (very groovy). Front man Stu Mackenzie played every excessively-wah’d solo in the eight-minute song with precision, even if the solos did contain about four different notes (wahs) each.
From there they played their new album almost in its entirety. The four-song garage medley that opens the album, ‘I’m In Your Mind’/I’m Not In Your Mind’/‘Cellophane’/‘I’m In Your Mind Fuzz’, was understandably met with the most crowd excitement of any of the new material. It seemed the septet have played the same medley so many times recently that they’ve all but perfected it; each track sprinting into the next with each fuzzy riff, lick and drum fill falling exactly where it had on the album while simultaneously sounding like a charging, frenzied shamble. All the while, kaleidoscopic projections by Jason Galea (who designs all of their album covers) frizzled, doubled and tripled the number of band members on the screen behind them — quite strikingly resembling a number of their music videos (all of which Galea un-coincidentally created).
They didn’t play a party set. There were two songs with ‘slow jam’ in the title, as well as new album track ‘Hot Water’ and older album tracks from their previous LP Oddments, ‘Sleep Walker’ and the infantile ‘Vegemite’. This caused immobility amongst the audience, which was eventually broken by the first two songs from their first release Willoughby’s Beach; the almost-schizophrenic ‘Danger $$$’ and surf rock-ripper ‘Black Tooth’. They also slipped in ‘Cut Throat Boogie’ from their 2012 album 12 Bar Bruise – which saw Ambrose Kenny-Smith project rasping vocals for the song’s short but extremely frantic duration.
King Gizzard’s signature live track ‘Head On/Pill’ was tired. Having played it more or less every show since the LP Head On/Pill’s release in 2013, the rendition was laced with fatigue, monotony, and frankly, boredom from the band. The song went for 22 minutes despite already running for a modest 16 on the album, and the stark repetition of the same notes they’ve been playing for almost two years saw half the band seated cross-legged on the stage (some even stared off while playing) for quite a chunk of the song. It seemed the track has had its run – perhaps to be replaced in their set for 2015. Speculation aside, their closing track ‘Hot Wax’ will never be tired. The undeniable groove of the Cramps-esque number renewed the audience’s excitement; the vocals shifting between low (Mackenzie) and high (Kenny-Smith) throughout the song with the intermittent screech of a harmonica. Cleverly, they’d saved the best pop song for last.
Thereafter they exited the stage, not to reappear for the encore the audience were demanding. Although it would seem that this band don’t really play dud shows; this one was a clear indicator that after two albums, a few international tours, and signing to Castle Face Records all in 2014, perhaps it’s time King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard took a well-deserved rest.