I spend most of my time listening to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. They’re the only band that has come anywhere close to making me feel the way I feel about Ween, (my very favorite band). The seven piece Australian psych-rock group, if that’s even what they are, captured my imagination first with Nonagon Infinity, like a lot of fans, and I’ve been obsessed ever since. I taught myself how to embroider so that I could make my own Gizz merch. So, when they announced their North American tour, I bought tickets to three dates– Toronto, NYC, and Philly.
I got to go with my best friend and concert buddy, our good friend, and his brother to the first show on the tour, at REBEL in Toronto. We grabbed tacos for lunch and headed to join the line at about 4:30pm. When we got to the venue, there was another event going on, something vaguely beachy – the King Gizzard line noticed our gang and waved us down, shouting “GIZZARD!?” at us. They said they had a feeling that we were part of their crowd. They welcomed us and gave us a number to keep track of who followed who in line. Mine was 12, even though the specific number didn’t end up making much of a difference.
We spent the hours before doors talking about how long each of us had driven to get there, and whether or not any of us had seen them before. We tried to figure out what we thought they were going to play based on setlists from the last few shows. It felt like a community—something I was really hoping would happen with Gizzard fans. It’s cool to meet other people who are as obsessed with your favorite thing as you are.
When doors opened, it was sort of a mad dash. People rushed to get one of the limited edition posters or and to get to the front. My party of four split into two groups of two, with Team Merch getting delayed by the fact that the merch booth was cash only, but Team Rail got enough space at the front of the venue for our whole group to hang out and enjoy the show. After the two openers, Orb and Stonefield (you can read about those bands in their very own articles), there was an excited anticipation brewing in the venue.
Waiting is potentially my favorite part of going to concerts. I love the waiting, knowing that any minute now something cool is gonna happen. At this show, there was a particular kind of buzz in the air. So many people there hadn’t ever seen them before, myself included. Practically everyone I spoke with in line was there for the first time. It was almost like we were about to find out whether or not Santa was real. How fitting was it that a security guard with a long white beard handed me a bottle of water and a candy cane? From the front, we couldn’t tell how many people were coming in, but you could tell it was a lot.
When the lights came down we were all packed tightly together. Somehow everyone was holding their breath and screaming at the same time. Eric and Mickey came out wearing matching red jumpsuits, with licks of digital flame on the screen behind them. They sat at their kits and started pounding out the beginning of “Self-Immolate.” People started screaming and pushing and squishing and headbanging and general wigging out.
I got super lucky at this concert to hear some of my absolute favorite songs. After the songs from Infest the Rats’ Nest, they launched into “Crumbling Castle,” the opening track from my favorite Gizz album, Polygondwanaland. For some reason I just had a bad feeling about “Crumbling Castle,” I just didn’t think that I would get the chance to hear it during my little tour. I went back and forth between gawking at the band as they played it, and ducking my head for security to catch crowdsurfers. I also thought that “Crumbling Castle” was one of the songs that sounded the most different live — there’s sort of a different vibe to the song live. The closest I got to explaining quite what it was is that the live version sounded “swirly.”
The setlist was full of other highlights, like “Doom City,” from Flying Microtonal Banana. Towards the front of the set we got a block of songs with Joey as the frontman. During this block Gizz played “Work this Time,” a song from their early catalog that I’ve honestly never really been that into. When they started playing it I was a little bit disappointed (of all the songs in all of their catalog they’re playing “Work This Time” tonight?). But I got proved pretty wrong. Joey ended the song with an insane guitar solo, face melting and unexpected. I always think that it’s one thing to have a great time listening to songs you know you love, and a totally other experience to be into a live performance of a song you’re not too keen on.
The thing I was most excited about for this concert was seeing Mickey Cavanaugh drum in person. When I watch King Gizzard videos online, I’m usually just paying attention to how good he is. I wanted to be in the room with him to watch those fast-moving wrists in real life, and there was a perfect opportunity for it. I had a pretty alright angle, and every once in a while I would remember that a fill I really loved was coming up and would hone my attention. Towards the end of the set, another jaw-dropping moment of “I can’t believe I’m hearing this live,” happened when they started playing “Gamma Knife.” There was a great build up, where for a few moments they could have easily either started playing “Robot Stop,” or “Gamma Knife.” It felt like they were deciding on stage which one they were going to play, and I really couldn’t believe that it was “Gamma Knife.” When it started, a whole new wave of anticipation started building — waiting for the drum solo to start. I almost wanted to yell at everybody to quiet down before it happened. And I mean, the drum solo was incredible, it commanded attention. The other song that was really special to see Mickey play live was “Nuclear Fusion.”
The last song of the concert was a gigantic version of “Am I In Heaven?” during the 15-minute closing jam, they peppered in moments from “Hot Water,” “Boogieman Sam,” “Head On/Pill,” “Alter Me,” and “Rattlensake.” “Rattlesnake” was especially exciting, since the crowd had been chanting to hear for most of the night. I think something that attracts a lot of listeners to Gizz (especially) is the “Gizzverse” – this notion that there’s an element of mythology to their catalog that strings all of their songs together. It’s part meme but also just a good observation– lots of their songs call back to one another, and stringing songs together from every corner of their catalog was really effective. In short, the answer to the question posed by the song’s title is, “yes,” I do think I was in heaven.
Everything about seeing King Gizzard live is pretty grandiose. I left panting, talking to excited strangers about how we all thought it might have been the best concert that we’ve ever been to in our lives. Someone we had met in line showed us that his phone screen had gotten completely smashed in the pit, (which, while kind of metal, is a word of warning. Keep an eye on your phone if you’re going to one of these gigs). I downed a bottle of water and a canned iced tea and spent the rest of the night getting excited for the next show.