Where am I? What are all these colours? Who are these people around here? And what the hell is Stu doing with his tongue?
King Gizzard is back and going big, and it’s definitely disorienting. After performing to a half-full but loud 250 person show at the Fairmount last March, they overflowed from Le National to absolutely pack L’Olympia last Wednesday. Seriously – security was in full force keeping tabs on the human sardine-packing effects, clearing the hallways near washrooms, staircases and other channels, and for good reason: the human gridlock was at points becoming scary.
The crowd was huge; the band blew up. The format was full voltage rock – no more flutes, no more synthetic concept voice-over segments, and poor Ambrose was relegated to traditional back-up instruments, harmonica & vocals duties. Must have been in a hurry- not even a rudimentary introduction of the group members. To make the band transition complete, it was noticeable that a spotlight was literally trained on lead singer-guitarist-frontman Stu MacKenzie 80% of the time. Commercial decision, band politics, or perhaps an artistic choice – who knows? One thing is certain, the show itself was a full octane psychedelic train ride into the bowels of collapsing polychromatic supernova. Most fans gave me this exact description outside after the show.
Even with the crowd surge, L’Olympia staff did an impressive job, and once the music started the pressure eased off. I mean, about 1/4 of the audience naturally all decided to cram into the front-center moshpit, in the hope of forging diamonds out of human sweat and vintage rock t-shirts, am I right?
Opening act Amyl and The Sniffers warmed up the stage, much the same way whiskey warms up your throat. A raw 70s-style punk four-piece with a seriously talented front-lady. Amy Taylor charmingly took us by the scruff of our necks, kissed us on the cheek and then spat in our eye. Raw and vicious. It would be a cop-out to call her a blonde Australian version of Joan Jett with a much better backing band, but that’s the description we’ll go with. Suffice to say, she was pushing the energy of the venue a few bars above your typical opening act. Any band that also gives a cheer for the beer guy wading through the crowd is A-grade.
On to Gizzard. The same band that sorta filled the Fairmount theatre just over a year ago is now pulling around 2200 Montreal souls. There’s something funny about seeing your favourite band explode in popularity. Scores of new fans start packing bigger venues, humming tunes you know, jigging around to the riffs. Feels like a legion of latecomers crashing a party, barging in to get your drinks from the kitchen… You’re ruffled but you’re also slightly proud because they like the same beer.
From the first drop of ‘Digital Black’ the energy of the crowd was lit up. The entire mass of the front section was heaving up and down, with the surface of the audience looking like a carpet of silhouettes flapping in the wind. The ensuing set featured the usual electric procession of overlapping KGLW multi-song movements, with the end result feeling like more of an endurance high than a climactic rock crush. Just when you thought the band had hit 5th gear and things were running at max speed, they would switch from ‘Big Fig Wasp’ to ‘Gamma Knife’ and your head would explode.
After producing five albums in one year, this band presumably has forgotten how to slow down. Their US-Canada tour hits hard, now headed south for three nights in Brooklyn. Missing them at this point is just ignorant. A pleasure to watch; an experience if you happen to be up close. The buzz was palpable walking home after the show. Somewhere in the chaotic rainbow-infused psychedelics of ‘Cellophane,’ to ‘the Fourth Color,’ to a giant red spinning nonagon, all of us: the sweat-drenched mosh kids, head-bobbing hipsters, and golden-years grey rock fans, we all found our zen.
The Lord of Lightning
Altered Beast I
The Fourth Colour
Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet
The Castle in the Air
Am I in Heaven?
Big Fig Wasp
Review – David Loach
Photos – Jean-Michel Lacombe