The presentation of the live show from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard matched the ambition that the group brought to bear in 2017. The latter refers to the band’s having released four noteworthy albums with a fifth which will supposedly drop before 2017 is over. Even if it’s not looking good at the time of this writing that that will happen, any band releasing four albums of worthwhile material that isn’t basically all the same is impressive enough.
The Denver show on October 4, 2017 at the Ogden Theatre happened before the November release of Polygondwanaland and the set list drew on the albums I’m In Your Mind Fuzz (2014), Nonagon Infinity (2016), Flying Microtonal Banana (2017) and Murder the Universe (2017). This suggesting the band hasn’t yet incorporated much of the material from Sketches of Brunswick East (2017) or the aforementioned Polygondwanaland as yet for the live show. Given the rich visuals and theatrical presentation of the music and all the logistics involved in producing and releasing that much music in a single year, King Gizzard has plenty of time to tour on its new albums and to make the kind of concerts that will make the experience of that music with creative integrity.
What we did get to see in Denver, though, was a show from a band whose music has been stamped with various genre designation from garage rock, to metal, to psychedelic rock to progressive rock. All fit. In that way, one has to compare King Gizzard with modern groups like The Black Angels and one of the progenitors of its sort of mélange of styles in Hawkwind. Those two bands draw easiest comparisons because like those, King Gizzard’s vibe is one of manifesting a culture and community and mindset that goes beyond the band. Hawkwind’s links to folk music and the tribal spirit thereof and aiming for something more cosmic and otherworldly in its songwriting is something one finds in King Gizzard’s songs that seem to be about other dimensions and utopian futures and parallel cultures. Who, after all, calls a song “Horology”? Flying Microtonal Banana overtly tapped into non-western music not just tonally but in terms of its compound rhythmic structure which both Hawkwind has long done and which The Black Angels weave into their own music so deftly it can be tricky to figure out how their sometimes simple melodies can be so hypnotic and mind-altering.
The band’s visuals traversed the various musical worlds that King Gizzard traversed throughout the show. The organic, the abstract, the meta-media sense of being on a TV screen writ large on the sort of big screen on which many of us saw films in school—creating a sense of a shared moment of mutual education borne of being put into a mindset outside of everyday life. Maybe that’s a stretch but that’s what psychedelic music, at its best, accomplishes, challenging your existing worldview by inviting you on a journey beyond your known boundaries of experience. In the case of King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard, though, that journey was not jarring so much as welcoming enticing while not shorting you on heady moments of intense emotions along its iridescent grooves.