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Review: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard @ Bristol Beacon

Australia’s genre-bending experimental rock band performed an incredible two-hour marathon of their impressively varied sound to an ecstatic sold out crowd.

By Louis Amor, Third Year Zoology

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (KGLW) have come a long way since they last performed in Bristol eight years ago. Since then, they have built an extensive catalogue of albums now 25 strong, creating a diverse community of dedicated fans who are consistently being provided with completely new sounds from the band. Consequently, walking into Bristol Beacon, I had no idea what to expect despite seeing them only a year prior. It recreated the anticipation of seeing a band you love for the first time, and the giddy thrill of thinking about what they could perform. Would it be a ferocious act filled with metal and garage rock, or a trippy adventure through psychedelic and electronic music?

Before we could find out, Melbourne based support act Grace Cummings performed an emotionally fuelled and powerful show to start the evening. Grace has a demanding presence when performing, fronting her bands folk and pop sound with tremendous vocals which filled the hall. Between songs she was welcoming and friendly, but when performing her focus and feel was wholly in her music, and with such a compelling voice this completely pulled the audience in. It was a remarkably intimate set for such a large stage, and the peaks of energy were more than enough to warm up the crowd for the main act.

Between sets, the crowd cheered as a large table covered in synthesisers was wheeled onto the stage, giving us an incline into how this set would start. Following the release of Butterfly 3000 in 2021, the band have been frequently experimenting with electronic music, ranging from fluttery pop tunes to highly danceable club music. These cheers were sustained as a few members of the band walked on stage, surrounding the table, but there would be around a 10-minute delay before any music would start. This did not matter at all, as a simple eyebrow raise from guitarist Joey Walker, or robotic dance moves from multi-instrumentalist Ambrose Kenny Smith kept the crowd on their toes.

Eventually, the music started, and it would not be stopped for over two hours, flexing both their extensive discography, and their unbelievable talents as musicians to sustain energy. This was done in two ways, firstly, by extending their songs with seamless improvisation, as demonstrated by the hallucinatory opening half an hour of electronic music. These tracks would seamlessly flow into one another, which paired with the mind-bending visuals of their equipment morphing into various colours and shapes, took the audience to a completely different world. The swaying, loose dancing of the audience turned to high energy bouncing as this psychedelic trip reached the conclusive track ‘Gondii’, with a catchy verse which accurately described the state of the crowd: “Can’t get a message to my brain, I can’t control myself”.

The second way KGLW sustain energy is by brutally pummelling numerous tracks back-to-back at the audience, with a large chunk of this show being made up of a relentless metal medley. This was kicked off with the track ‘Supercell’, which started one of the largest and wildest mosh pits I have ever seen.  Front man Stu Mackenzie was the personification of this madness on stage, giving a fierce vocal performance, completely juxtaposing his softer, more playful vocal earlier in the show. He definitely has underappreciated vocal range in this scene, which he demonstrated effortlessly in the huge variety of genres they played that night. When he wasn’t singing, he was throwing his body and guitar around the stage. How he manages to play the absolutely rapid metal riffs of their heavier tracks whilst doing so is baffling.

KGLW @ Bristol Beacon | Louis Amor

This onslaught of metal was glued together by the mind-blowing technical ability of drummer Mickey Cavs. Up until 2019, KGLW had two drummers, but ever since Eric Moore’s departure, Mickey seems to have gained ability to sound like two drummers at once. His ability was so striking I took a couple of occasions away from the mosh pit to just watch him do his magic; he is absolutely one of those drummers every single band dreams of having, and was an essential backbone to this particularly vigorous part of the show.

The highlight of the evening for me personally was the thrilling performance of the 15-minute anthem ‘Hypertension’. The abstract progression of this track was absolutely mesmerising live, and I absolutely loved the sudden shifts into the lively chorus, which were far more robust in a live setting than the studio recording. The combination of the multilayered instrumentals, chantable lyrics and jumping joyous crowd made me feel as though I was flying; I think the whole crowd was completely lost within that sound and it was amazing to be a part of.

KGLW’s music is largely based around one large hidden, mythical lore within their music, which fans have become so obsessed with that even specific instruments that the members play are now iconic symbols within the fandom. As such, when Stu picked up his strangly shaped, yellow guitar, termed “The Flying Microtonal Banana” to close the set, the crowd went absolutely wild. To me this was the perfect representation of the unbelievably loving community that KGLW have built, and it was that reciprocal appreciation that made this set one of the greatest shows I have ever seen. This connection between the fans and the band was present all the way to the closing track ‘Billabong Valley’, in which Ambrose performed his vocals within the crowd, only lasting 2 minutes before admitting he likely peaked too early and may come back for a part two. I am praying we do see him in a Bristol crowd again, hopefully much sooner than in another eight years’ time.

Featured Image: Louis Amor

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