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Concert review: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard practice poolside hypnosis

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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard performs at the Hard Rock Pool, April 18, 2017.
Photo: Erik Kabik

Four stars

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard April 18, Hard Rock Hotel Pool

There may be no better way to acquaint yourself with a band you don’t know all that well than to accept its invitation to a weeknight pool party. For me, Melbourne psych-rock powerhouse King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard was that band, and the Hard Rock Hotel kindly supplied the pool. I left the band’s poolside show with a better understanding of it—and also robots, sorta. And nuclear fusion.

I almost can’t believe we’re doing this—that we’re actually talking about a band that draws inspiration from prog, psychedelia and Krautrock, in this sorrowful age of diminishing-returns EDM. Yet there stands Stu Mackenzie, singing about anoxia and “people-vultures” as if the 1970s had never ended and the godawful Peter Jackson Hobbit movies had never been made. There’s almost something punk about King Gizzard’s precision geekiness, and really, what could be more outré in this day and age than a seven-minute song about rattlesnakes?

I loved every second of it. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard split my fool head wide open. There were moments, lots of ‘em, where Mackenzie and his bandmates—keyboardist Ambrose Kenny Smith, guitarists Cook Craig and Joey Walker, bassist Lucas Skinner and drummers (yes, drummers! Plural!) Eric Moore and Michael Cavanagh—appeared to be telepathically connected. From the first notes of “Open Water” to a show-ending medley that included “Am I in Heaven,” ”I’m in Your Mind” and “Cellophane,” the band virtually redefined the concept of tight playing, and they seemed to have as much fun doing it as we did watching it happen. Song after song, the musicians dug deeper into a groove akin to hypnosis, and there were no dead spots. The entire damn show was the show highlight.

One last thing: Shortly before the end of the set, Mackenzie inquired about the Hard Rock’s pool: “How’s the water?” His bandmates tried to discourage him from it, but Mackenzie insisted that the audience carry him over their heads, deposit him “gently” in the water, “then bring me back.”

The audience obliged him. And when a soaking wet Mackenzie was carried to the stage, he toweled off before grabbing his plugged-in guitar—a bit of cautious behavior that echoed something he said earlier in the evening, when a pit first sprung up. “Go psycho,” he said, “but take care of each other, okay?” That's a good description of King Gizzard's friendly chaos ... and it's good pool party etiquette, too.

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