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King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

A shot to the chest of heart-thumping garage rock

BY JAMES STEMPLE

 

A sizeable crowd gathered at the 9:30 Club March 29 to see King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. It was hard to move an inch at the sold-out show without awkwardly bumping into a stranger.

 

The Australian psych/garage rock band had just arrived in D.C. that morning for one of its first North American shows after the release of their latest album, “Flying Microtonal Banana,” which features music heavily made with microtones — notes in between semitones, the shortest distance between one note and the next note. Microtones can be thought of as “half notes.”

 

“We’re all a bit jetlagged, we’re all a bit f—d up, but there’s no other way to enter your beautiful country,” lead singer Stu Mackenzie with his banana-yellow microtonal guitar, which is featured heavily on the band’s latest album, said.

 

Mackenzie is one of seven members in the band, which is composed of two drummers, three guitarists, a bass player and a member who encompasses a wide variety of instruments ranging from synthesizers to cowbells to the harmonica.

 

The band is managed under the independent record label Flightless, which is operated by one of the drummers, Eric Moore. Under this label, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (KGATLW) plans to release a total of five albums this year — ”Flying Microtonal Banana” being one.

 

KGATLW started the night with selections from “Flying Microtonal Banana”: songs like “Sleep Drifter,” a relaxed introduction to the show progressing with more energy as the song goes on, and “Billabong Valley,” a song written by band member Ambrose Kenny Smith. Smith switched places with Mackenzie and delivered the song calmly, but filled with emotion.

 

The crowd was launched into a frenzy when KGATLW played a new song called “Altered Beast,” from its next album titled “Murder of the Universe.” Mackenzie howled like a man undergoing a werewolf transition under moonlight — an altered beast — showing ties to heavy metal for their next release.

 

Lead guitarist Joe Walker shook his head at the crowd’s antics as he played his solo of “The River” from KGATLW jazz-rock album “Quarters,” a smooth 10-minute jazz fusion journey that feels like gliding along a river, just like the name implies.

 

Then the band played songs from their biggest hit album, “Nonagon Infinity,” an album where each song flows seamlessly into the next. Popular songs from the album, like “Gamma Knife,” showcase the garage rock roots of the band, which get your heart thumping and head banging with heavy guitar riffs and fast-paced drum beats.

 

The band continued traveling back through their discography throughout the night, not once losing focus, not even when the visualizer projection that paired with the music broke down three times.

 

Those of us that had to leave early to catch the last train of the night showed our visible sorrow as we swam through the crowded, humid room to the exit. The feel of the show left a lasting impression that ran into the next day, making us wish we could go back and experience the concert all over again.
KGATLW is just getting started though; the rest of 2017 promises more music—at least four more albums’ worth—and there’s no doubt that the Australians will be back in D.C. sometime soon with a plethora of new music to play.