king gizzard and the lizard wizard
02 ABC - 25.2.18
By Claudia Hockey
Despite the impending threat of frostbite, when my flatmate and I join the crowd gathered inside Glasgow’s O2 ABC, we are immediately wrapped in a warm glow. Is this the fallout from the two pints of beer we’ve just necked outside, or is it the lingering smoke of the cigarettes peppering the merch queue, seemingly overlooked by venue staff? We scope out the various t-shirts on offer, many of which look like something David Attenborough might create trapped in a room full of hallucinogenics and sharpie pens. The music hasn’t even started yet, but no one is frowning. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have travelled all the way from Melbourne, Australia, and they seem to have bottled those sunny, relaxed vibes to totally transform an otherwise chilly British February.
The atmosphere might also have something to do with the output of King Gizzard in recent years, which includes 5 albums released in 2017 alone, the result being that none of us have any guarantee that our preferred songs will be played. Not to say that the crowd doesn’t have favourites, stylistically Oddments is a far cry from Flying Microtonal Banana, but it isn’t exactly breaking up friendships in the queue behind me. There is a firm sense, here, that we’re all part of some unspoken tribe with an appreciation for experimental sound in itself, erasing any traditional divisions between “old” and “new” fans.
Gaudy t-shirts in tow, we join the already packed audience gathered to hear Mile High Club, renowned in their own right for a warm Californian blend of optimistic, dizzying psychedelia. Mile High are well known to this audience thanks to a collaboration album with King Gizz last year, Sketches of Brunswick East. Generally, I perceive this brand of rock music on a scale, one that stretches between the whimsical, coffee-shop beats of Sketches towards the more aggressive beast that is Murder of the Universe. It’s clear to me now that this crowd has an appreciation for all of it, happily humming along to Mile High’s Skiptracing before launching into a sweaty dance pit for King Gizzard’s opening track Rattlesnake.
Frenetic tempos coupled with a crowd of drunk Scotsmen is always a recipe for a good time, but at the point I’m struck in the head by an inflatable crocodile, I’m left to wonder if my drink was spiked. I thought The River wasn’t supposed to play until the end of this set, and why am I staring an animal in the face? Am I concussed? Off it disappears again and I don’t think much of it, until a few minutes later lead singer Stu Mackenzie stops the band. Leaning down to address security at his feet, the crowd somehow screams even louder as he says “I think you should give them their toy back”. Immediately back into Rattlesnake we go, and I’m lost to the music for another seven songs or so while a feverish crowd inspires me with their relentless energy.
Somewhere around Han-Tyumi, The Confused Cyborg Stu Mackenzie starts discussing his Scottish heritage, granting us the knowledge of his full name, Stuart Douglas Mackenzie. Before he gets much further, the crowd is chanting “ONE OF US! ONE OF US!” over and over in a slightly delirious tribal warcry. Not only has King Gizzard adopted us into their family, we have adopted them into ours. This concert is an exchange – the performance isn’t confined to the stage, and the band prefers it that way. Like the Pied Piper’s Aussie twin, Mackenzie whips out a flute for Cellophane, grinning as the crowd answers to his call. Even Ambrose Kenny Smith, who has spent most of the gig looking a bit lost in his Ghostbusters onesie, seems to return to us during this song.
Sadly, God is in the Rhythm turns out to be the last track, thanks to a 10pm ABC curfew forcing a single set rather than two. However, with this level of productivity and talent I’m sure they’ll be back soon, if only to answer to an especially dedicated throng of Scottish Gizz-heads. One thing is for certain, whatever reincarnation comes next will surely be a narrative unlike anything we’ve seen before. As Stu Mackenzie once summed up in a conversation with Lachlan Kanoniuk, “I made a pact with myself that I’d try and learn a new instrument every year till I’m dead”.