The festival of Melbourne’s favourite 60s psych-summoning septet returned in 2018 for its fourth instalment. Leaning healthily against the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mantra, the lineup fished out acts from the ever widening pool of psychedelia, with flavours of synth, punk and folk to boot.
Kicking off my day were boisterous local pub punks, Amyll and the Sniffers. Fresh from an independent tour and supporting slots to King Gizz in the States, the enthusiasm for home soil was both unmistakeable and wildly reciprocal. Ironic haircuts, flannel and larrikin energy were summoned to the pit where raucous circles, crowd surfers, Amyll’s scattered catalog, and a bird-flipping middle-aged man stole the show.
Not too long after came brainchild of Gareth Liddiard, Tropical Fuck Storm. The art rock/post-punk group have had a pretty successful year, particularly with their debut album A Laughing Death in Meat Space. While TFS look great on paper, in reality, they can fall pretty flat. Only a few songs in, TFS moved into their signature track You Let My Tyres Down. Emotionally charged, noisy and very catchy, it feels a little like the pieces of Shark Fin Blues were swept up and glued back together by some different sets of hands. The crowd wallowed submissively to their familiarity, but the most memorable part of their set was Liddiard’s incessant vocals and the heavy reliance on a few key tracks.
Late afternoon saw self-proclaimed ‘smackwave’ artist Spike Fuck perform in what was essentially a converted, under-cover carpark, appropriately partitioned by chicken wire fence. Spike Fuck played mostly solo, and mostly with nothing more than just a backing track. Much like the motions of withdrawal, Spike Fuck crawled through their catalog of misanthropic odes to abuse, loss, and self-destruction, with a helping hand from a few synth melodies. Jaded but up-beat, it was good to see Spike Fuck on stage again after a hiatus.
Blending their enigmatic style with the more immediate elements of psych, Altin Gün injected a much needed sense of energy into the crowd. The marriage of traditional Turkish folk sounds with echoed guitars and fuzzy bass lines made them one of the day’s more memorable groups.
Under the eventual cover of darkness, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard modestly entered the stage with downplayed enthusiasm. Moving straight into the I’m In/Not In Your Mind Fuzz sister songs, and rounding off with the repetitively hypnotic, The Balrog, the fan favourites were well and truly on display. By the time the subdued psychedelia of Stressin’ had kicked in, the initial energy of the audience had worn a little thin, probably a symptom of the long day behind them.
But the lull was short lived. By mid-way through the set, the unstoppable energy and deep dive into the depths of the band’s catalog was emanating. The wheels were in unstoppable motion down the road of high-energy 60s revivalism as vocalist Stu Mackenzie commandeered from front of stage. Aided by crutches, Ambrose Kenny Smith nursed both a broken knee and his signature harmonica as he hobbled about stage, seemingly unfazed by his wound.
Tearing through album highlights like Wah Wah/Road Train and live favourites like Gamma Knife and Rattlesnake, King Gizz breathed air all the way through their prolific back catalog. Although not playing a 3 hour set, as was previously reported, the 100 minute set was probably a much better, more practical idea.
Another year done, it’s refreshing for a band and annual venture to prioritise its fans over ‘grammable’ cultural impotence. Year on year Gizz Fest has celebrated its roots, celebrated its contemporaries, and provided a festival that lacks the macho-energy endemic to so many other outings. The winning recipe that satisfies once again.