Photos by Josh Groom
Words by Mark Royters and Jacob Burkett
To the uninitiated and bad spellers out there, Gizzfest probably sounds like some sort of circle-jerking bonanza (see Urban Dictionary of “Gizz” for further clarification). This is only slightly the case, in that all the bands are massive fans of each others work and constantly heap praise on each other, but that’s about it. Based on the success of last night however, I’d say people across Australia (and perhaps the world?) will quickly come to learn the true meaning of the word.
For those in the know, Gizzfest is an annual psych-rock party, comprised of various local and international bands, and curated by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. The festival is only in its second year but, by golly, it’s already going to be tough to top.
With the likes of The Murlocs, POND, Stonefield and, of course, The Gizz themselves, it was a night of truly epic proportions, and any psych-rock fan’s wet dream. Oh, and the Sydney leg was at Luna fucking Park.
Frequent Gizz supporters ORB kicked off proceedings at the mainstage. If you’ve yet to experience the sonic force of the Geelong-based trio then stop reading, pick you favourite Black Sabbath song and play it on loop for half an hour. This may sound like an insult, but it isn’t at all.
The guys know their sound, and they’ve perfected it to a tee. From the fuzzy bass, to the sludgy guitar riffs, to the rolling drum fills, this is vintage prog-rock at its best. Opening track ‘Reflexion’ (a long lost cousin of ‘War Pigs’) quickly won the crowd over and set the stage for what was to be a headbanger of a set, with the track transitioning into an extended jam/breakdown.
It’s a credit to the guys that I had no idea how many songs they actually played. Perhaps they’ve been learning from the Gizz…
Vocal performance of the night goes to Stonefield drummer and lead singer, Amy Findlay. The oldest of the four sisters group leads with her raspy screams that brought about the biggest crowd of the early sets.
Closer ‘Eyes’ was a festival highlight, and this punter for one was hoping it would continue to loop. Kicking off with a slow hazy riff that creeps on you like a spider on your spine, the track is off 2016 album As Above So Below, but much like the rest of the Stonefield discography it goes best in a live setting.
Perhaps a regret is that Amy wasn’t front and centre belting it out, as they occasionally tour with a stand-in drummer, but the fact she remained on the kit shows how talented she is. Supported by quick thundering bass lines and buzzing psych synth melodies, it was a set that kicked a whole lot of gizzfest-goers into gear.
Ambrose Kenny-Smith may provide important bromance vibes for King Gizzard (see here) and downright badass harmonica parts, but he truly comes alive as the leader of spinoff band The Murlocs.
Although he may take a supporting position in his day job, Ambrose knows how to command the stage as a frontman, dancing around whilst thrashing on guitar, belting out in his unique voice or going to town on a harmonica. The band perfect translate their lo-fi bluesy-garage sound into a live setting, creating a crunchy wall of sound that inspires a weird dancing cross between a country hoedown and circle pit. Given that they run in such similar circles, it’s not surprising that the crowd knew many of the band’s biggest songs like ‘Space Cadet’ and ‘Compensation’, but still exciting to see a relatively small band making such a sizeable splash.
Everybody knows everybody in Perth. Being the most isolated city in the world is going to result in some band crossovers, and side-projects happened to be the theme of the night.
POND can be thrown into that mix, and they were the surprise package of the night. King Gizzard obviously stole headlines, but their hype band exploded onto the stage led by former Tame Impala bassist, Nick Albrook.
The once shy and reserved frontman is a shade of his former self. Owning the mic from the start with experimental vocals, guitar shredding, and waving his an arm like an inflatable car sales mascot. Not to be graded for their on stage banter alone, POND are a well drilled group of lads who are musical freaks. Jay Watson shuffles through an instruments like a proper casino dealer, to list him as the keyboardist alone would be a sin.
‘Waiting Around For Grace’ was sung by the crowd as much as the band, and the hype was enough to summon Kirin J Callinan to the stage. The standalone entertainment package helped out on a new juicy song that’s set for release early next year. ‘Sweep Me Off My Feet’ was another highlight, with the spacey stop-start body of the song make it the perfect boogie track.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
What is there to say about these guys that hasn’t been said before? Their live show is pretty much flawless, and they’ve easily solidified themselves as one of Australia’s must-see acts.
Keeping in the vein of latest album Nonagon Infinity, the band play their sets as one long, seamless jam, with each track blending into the next. This may sound easy, given that the album already does that, but when you see how hard all the band members go, and how much they bounce around the stage and yelp into the mics, it’s amazing that they don’t exit the stage on stretchers.
Starting with ‘Gamma Knife’ rather than album opener ‘Robot Stop’ initially threw people for a loop (!), but as soon as they faded seamlessly into following track ‘People-Vultures’ we knew we were in for a classic uninterrupted Gizz jam. Especially impressive is how the guys work in older tracks like ‘I’m In Your Mind’ and ‘Cellophane’ into the Nonagon format, seamlessly interweaving between then. A mashup between ‘The River’ and ‘Wah Wah’ was the best example of this.
The band only broke form for closing track and latest single ‘Rattlesnake’ which, given it’s microtonal composition (get your music nerd on here), can’t blend with the other tracks.
I must admit to being initially underwhelmed by the track, but after a few listens and a stellar live performance, it’s quickly snaked (!) its way into my brain and become a Gizz classic. Plus, it’s especially impressive seeing frontman Stu play it on his custom micro-tonal guitar, which allows you to truly appreciate the inventiveness and complexity of the track. If it’s anything to go by, their upcoming (5) albums are going to make for an equally amazing tour.
Long live the Gizz!