King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: Australian for ‘rock’

Melbourne band brings thunder from Down Under to sold-out Asheville crowd

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard at the Orange Peel in Asheville, North Carolina, on 6/19/18

By John Flannagan • Photos by Blake Huettel

To say Australian psych outfit King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard is the hardest-working band going today would be a colossal understatement. Since 2010, the seven-piece group from Melbourne, Australia, has released a whopping 13 albums, five of which have come out within the last two years alone.

On June 19, on a steamy Tuesday night in Asheville, North Carolina, King Gizzard and company took to the Orange Peel stage at about 20 minutes to 9 in order to perform a soundcheck. Transitioning quickly from that into a pummeling, 24-song setlist, the band never stopped, tearing through its sizable catalog until just after 10:30.

The sold-out crowd ate up every second of the psychedelic madness. Drink cups were flung into the air throughout the show, and stage divers continuously surfed over the gathered masses – much to the chagrin of the bouncers on hand. All in all, it arguably was one of the most raucous weeknight shows we at BLANK have attended in quite some time.

The Lizard Wizard’s live show plays very much like an LP in that the band will blend one song into another, introducing the same guitar riff about every fourth song and making it at times hard to tell which song they’re playing. Like jazz players, they are prone to constant improvisation; the two drummers for this show gave a nod to prog-rock bands of the ‘70s, as were the psychedelic images playing on a screen behind them throughout the set.

Frontman Stu Mackenzie was as engaging as ever, holding up his guitar at the conclusion of the show in triumphant acknowledgment of the mind-blowing performance the audience had just witnessed that evening. I can’t help but to wonder at what point burnout may set in, though; recording so much material in a relatively short amount of time and putting such a massive amount of energy into marathon shows surely have to take a toll, as does constantly touring the globe.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are selling out the majority of cities on this current, short tour. This show marked the third time BLANK has caught them, adding to a performance at Bonnaroo in 2015 that immediately sold us on the group and a jam-packed gig at the Pilot Light later that summer that was equally spellbinding. It was well worth taking a day off from work and making the short drive over the mountains in order to see such a special act – one that you should catch provided you have the opportunity. Given the superb talent that has emerged from Australia in recent years, it’s safe to say that the land Down Under has a firm grip on rock ‘n’ roll right now.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard at the Orange Peel in Asheville, North Carolina, on 6/19/18

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