On days when I find myself avoiding various tasks, my inner critical voice swiftly and mercilessly chastises my lack of motivation by screaming, “King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have released 24 studio albums in less than ten years, you shiftless sack of meat!!!”. After practicing a mindfulness exercise meant to save me from proverbially drowning in an abyss of self-doubt, I am still left in a world where this prolific psych-rock outfit from Australia has created enough work to fill out the entire canon of any given genre. Quite simply, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are cursed with an almost athletic prowess that is worthy of the cherished reputation they have garnered.
And their reputation certainly precedes them, evident by the maximally occupied historic Hollywood Bowl. Playing a scorching three-hour set, King Gizzard brought out what was ostensibly every super-fan in Southern California — a group of folks that looked like the freshly spawned progeny of Deadheads and Aphishianados who seemingly do not believe that wearing the shirt of the band you’re about to see is a faux pas punishable by death.
A privileged problem for members of the Gizzhive is that no reasonable set times can fully encapsulate King Gizzard’s entire corpus and ethos. To try to fit the various styles, themes, and tones of this brash ensemble would be folly. Though there was some foresight from the band to thematically bookend their set with tributes toward their influences. The group began with a rendition of Eyes Like The Sky, a deep cut from their second studio album narrated by Broderick Smith — father of Gizzard member Ambrose Kenny-Smith. Ambrose dedicated the performance to his father when he announced that his dad was supposed to perform live with him, but tragically passed only months before.
At the show’s end, Ambrose illuminated the figurative spotlight on another influence on his life — his music teacher — who implied that he would never make it in music because his voice is “weird.” Even if it was unintentional, the three-hour career-spanning set felt like a tribute to the stepping stones that were hopped over in their journey to public notoriety; both honoring those who loved and cared for them and to those who provided inadvertent motivation by denigrating their unorthodox perspective.
Everything in-between the beginning and end was a votive towards that unorthodox perspective. Twenty-minute songs about PetroDragons, Altered Beasts, Balrogs, Soy Protein Munt Machines, Reticent Raconteurs, and (the most enormous beast of all) climate change honored the sacred stage that yesteryear’s giants of rock once stood on — including Jimi Hendrix (1968) and The Beatles (1965). If one were to track a line from those giants to King Gizzard, it would be a zig-zagged and serrated path with no apparent sense of reason. Though, if you listen close enough, you can almost hear how Voodoo Child might have influenced the brutalism of Gaia or Supercell; perhaps the sweetness of All My Loving transitioned slowly over decades into the lacrimosa of Magenta Mountain.
Their show ended on a pitch-perfect note with their 18-minute, krautrock-adjacent magnum opus The Dripping Tap — a song the band wrote separately and virtually throughout the pandemic. Like the studio recording, their live performance captures the impetuous ecstasy of being together. Before the band proceeded to melt everyone’s face with the fire of a thousand Wizard staffs, they acknowledged the wave of emotions that can only come from the historical weight of that stage — as if these genreless weirdos never thought their garden of earthly delights would ever be whispered in the same breath of those who came before. The house lights opened up on the crowd, and these jovial 30-somethings from a port city in Australia were met with a roar of loving praise and admiration. A volley of smiles, hugs, whiskey shots, and a shredded cacophony of microtonal cuts were returned, and we savored it until the very last moment.
Words and photos by Eric Han