King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Whammy Bar December 6, 2017

It was a swelteringly hot Wednesday at Whammy Bar last night, the tiny venue packed to capacity with people along to see the first of four consecutive shows by Australian psych-rock phenomenon King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, with a few special guests to sweeten the deal.

This was the fourth and final night that was added to their first headlining NZ residency (they appeared for the first time in this country at Laneway in January) and, like the Saturday, Friday and Thursday shows to come, it sold out quickly, showing the buzz surrounding this group at the moment. This isn’t surprising, drawing to the end of what has undoubtedly been “their year”, in which they have released four studio albums to massive coverage (with a fifth planned before the month is through.)

Along for the ride were two Californian groups; Mild High Club, who collaborated with the headliners this year on their album Sketches Of Brunswick East, and surf-rockers La Luz. I’ll say from the beginning that all three bands were fantastic last night, making for one of the best live musical experiences I’ve had this year.

La Luz opened the night at 8:45, matching the heat of the gradually filling venue with a set of tropical surf rock. The four-piece layered sunny surf guitars, 60’s-inspired organ and bouncy rockabilly rhythms for a little over half an hour, and I would have been happy to watch more. Drummer Marian Li-Pino particularly stood out as an exemplary musician to watch, delivering surf rhythms with a jazz-infused approach. Their music, tropical and humid, has a slightly spooky edge, self described as “surf noir”.

Up next were Mild High Club. Like La Luz before them their music was a perfect match for the summer heat, though they took a more mellow approach with woozy washed-out guitars, lounge-jazz keyboards and of course lots of reverb. Opening with a handful of tracks from their debut album, they then proceeded to play the first five cuts from 2016’s follow-up Skiptracing in order, starting with the drum machine-lead lazy psych of the title track. The best moments were those that showed their jazz influences the clearest, the five-piece swapping instruments as they layered multiple guitars and synthesizers over some sublime drumming (turns out great drummers were kind of a theme this night).

The headliners finally took the stage at around 10:40. Spaces can clearly be deceiving – on previous occasions when I’ve seen solo acts at Whammy Bar the performance space has seemed tiny, but last night it easily fit all seven members of King Gizzard, including two drummers with a drum kit each, though the bassist and one of three guitarists ended up partially hidden towards the back of the low-lit stage.

They played full-throttle from track one, opening with the breakneck People Vultures, the front row shouting every word. Most of the set after that leant heavily on this year’s Murder Of The Universe, with some of the spoken word segments cued over the speakers.

The music rarely stops at a King Gizzard gig, the group changing from one song to the next while rarely stopping the beat. For someone not familiar with all of their material, it can be hard to know where one song ends and another begins, which is a good thing in the context of this band, allowing one to focus on the driving rhythms and relentless energy.

Cellophane, from 2014’s I’m In Your Mind Fuzz, was the only pre-2016 cut played, and one of many highlights due to multi-instrumentalist Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s wailing harmonica. More mosh-friendly fan favourites came with Robot Stop and Gamma Knife, followed by a reprise of the set’s opening track People Vultures. This was just one example of the band constantly recycling musical motifs, blending tracks from across their recent discography into one continuous musical trip. The set closed with a run of tracks from their first album of the year, Flying Microtonal Banana, starting with the groove of Nuclear Fusion (a nice quiet moment only by comparison) and closing with the sustained bounce of single Rattlesnake.

The musicianship of the group is truly something to behold. The two drummers, their kits facing each other, played with almost unbelievable accuracy together, churning out relentlessly fast rock’n’roll beats in absolute unison, even perfectly coordinating each fill and drum roll. When they did diverge it was to great effect as well, trading on and off beats on the hi hats in Nuclear Fusion. The whole group navigated solidly through constant time signature changes and beat skips and jumps, keeping the music constantly evolving while still maintaining the musical repetition and similarity that gives their live set a kind of circular, continuous flow.

What’s more, I’ve never seen or even dreamt of a band being able to sustain such a high level of energy continuously for as long as King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard and keep the crowd engaged and energised for the entire set without ever growing stale for want of variation. I’ve always believed a gig needs a good contrast of energetic highs and lows, but this band somehow proved the exception, by using the talent of all seven members to construct a constant yet ever-changing musical set that taps into some place of primal energetic satisfaction.

I’m going back on Saturday, when it will be interesting to see if they have the same level of energy on their fourth consecutive appearance at the same venue. Somehow I don’t doubt it though.

Ruben Mita.

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Veronica McLaughlin:

La Luz setlist –


With Davey



You Disappear

Don’t Wanna Be Anywhere

I’ll Be True

I Wanna Be Alone (With You)



Sleep Til They Die

Sure As Spring


Mild High Club setlist –

Club Intro


Weeping Willow



Cary Me Back


Head Out

Chapel Perilous


King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard setlist –


Welcome To An Altered Future

Digital Black

Han-Tyumi, The Confused Cyborg

The Lord Of Lightning


Crumbling Castle

Alter Me II

Altered Beast III

Alter Me III

Altered Beast IV

Robot Stop

Gamma Knife

People-Vultures (Reprise)

Nuclear Fusion

Sleep Drifter

Doom City