King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard Velvet Underground, Toronto ON, May 10
Published May 11, 2016"How do they do it?"
That had to be the question on the mind of each and every person with their eyes on the Velvet Underground stage last night. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, the scintillating Australian psych outfit, were doing their thing, and it was bonkers.
Try to find a modern day band that displays the same amount of energy as these lads do, and you'll come up empty; from the moment frontman Stu Mackenzie, with his untrimmed guitar strings wiggling precariously, opened sweetly with a "Hi" and a wave, all the way to ending off the night with another wave and endless Thank you, thank you, thank yous, the energy was relentless.
The at-capacity crowd, cheering and chanting "Lizard! Lizard!" eagerly, were on par with the band's energy to a point, but unlike the band, they eventually went from bouncing rabble-rousers to head-bobbers and slight body swayers (though crowd-surfers were seemingly endless, with limbs poking through the orange and purple stage mist every now and again). For their part, King Gizzard never once let on that they needed a rest, making neither a single misstep nor playing a bum note. Not a one.
Endless felt like the night's theme: endless energy; endlessly frantic; song after song after song. It all jibed perfectly with the record King Gizzard were in town to promote, their cyclical, end-where-it-begins LP, Nonagon Infinity. They initially burst right into the first four tracks off of Nonagon, "Robot Stop," "Big Fig Wasp" (which really got everyone going), "Gamma Knife" and "People-Vultures." You could feel the drums and bass in your chest, there were wah-wah wars between the guitarists and despite how manic things seemed to be getting, the band were superb throughout.
Speeding up, slowing down, transitioning; it was all seamless. Perhaps the only downside was when Mackenzie picked up his flute — the crowd lost it when it initially appeared onstage — and the microphone wasn't picking it up as loudly as it could have, but the flute's trills thrilled regardless, adding to the overwhelming mix of guitars, bass, drums, harmonica, vocal woops and crowd cheers.
The band teased playing Nonagon in its entirety, but then switched over to older cuts, like the sneaking "Trapdoor" off their previous release, Paper Mâché Dream Balloon, which exhausted them vocally but gave their poor fingers a rest. This was followed by "The River" off their 2015 EP, Quarters!, which they dove into different variations of, adding a jazzy breakdown, then a solid gold groove.
It was back to Nonagon after that, with "Evil Death Row," which was an explosion of pure bedlam, paired with maddening stage lights that amplified the chaos. It was nearly 80 minutes in that they reached their final jaunt, and it was the 16-minute epic, "Head On/Pill." It's a wonder no one broke a guitar string.
After the band left, to either collapse backstage or continue bouncing off the walls, the insatiable crowd were demanding an encore — whistling, hitting tables and stomping loudly on the floor. Despite their diligent and impassioned pleas, King Gizzard stayed true to their goodbye and how could they not? They had exhausted themselves, exhausted the venue and, using their last bit of energy to cry "Encore!," exhausted the crowd.