By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Popular Australian psychedelic rock band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard return to San Francisco to play a venerable San Francisco venue for two nights starting Wednesday.
Housed in the location that was once the Carousel Ballroom and rock promoter Bill Graham’s Fillmore West until the club closed in 1971, SVN West is located at the corner of Market Street and South Van Ness. The venue has been hosting events and DJ parties since last fall, but these two shows mark the return of psychedelic sounds to a space that once featured performances by such legends as the Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead.
Formed in 2010 in Melbourne, the group led by guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Stu Mackenzie has built a fiercely loyal, growing fan base with its energetic live shows and remarkably prolific output (the band is set to release its 15th album this month and issued a whopping five records in 2017 alone). Made up of seven friends who all grew up in southeastern Australia and started jamming together, King Gizzard came into being when Mackenzie and company were asked to play a show by a friend and adopted their long, ridiculous moniker.
Bashing out a reverb-soaked style of surf-influenced garage rock that echoed the unhinged psychobilly of the Cramps and the propulsive psychedelia of longtime Bay Area heroes Thee Oh Sees, King Gizzard started releasing music with a pair of raw, lo-fi EPs in 2011 (the out-of-print and unavailable Anglesea and Willoughby’s Beach) before issuing it’s somewhat more polished debut full-length 12 Bar Bruise on the band’s own Flightless imprint.
The band would soon establish it’s unorthodox and prolific working methods, exploring a variety of styles with the narrated spaghetti western concept album Eyes Like the Skies in 2013, the mellower psychedelic excursions of Float Along – Fill Your Lungs (the first King Gizzard album to feature a song written by guitarist Cook Craig) and the more straightforward psych of Oddments and I’m in Your Mind Fuzz in 2014.
By this point, the band had already become a popular live attraction beyond the shores of the their native country, playing festivals like the Austin Psych Fest, Bonnaroo and Sasquatch. King Gizzard continued to push conceptual boundaries with their recordings, releasing the jazzy psychedelic jam collection Quarters! that featured four extended tracks that were exactly ten minutes and ten seconds in length in 2015 before the acoustic effort Paper Mâché Dream Balloon (their first for U.S. label ATO) and the ambitious Nonagon Infinity, an album designed to be played front to back in an endless loop that also featured the band’s first experiments with microtones.
The band has only ramped up its activities in the past two years with the release of five separate albums in 2017 (notably the Turkish-influenced Flying Microtonal Banana, the concept album Murder the Universe and Polygondwanaland, an effort released for free download with the band encouraging fans to make and sell CDs and even vinyl copies of the record). King Gizzard has continued its prodigious output this year, already releasing the fractured electro blues album Fishing For Fishes this past spring ahead of the far more metallic Infest the Rats’ Nest this week.
Exploring the band’s affection for the classic thrash metal of genre icons Metallica and Slayer as well as more extreme German groups Kreator and Sodom, the new effort stands out as King Gizzard’s most ferocious display of headbanging riffs in their career. For this two-night stand at SVN West, the Aussie outfit tops a bill featuring two other bands from down under, Stonefield and ORB.
Made up of the quartet of Findley sisters — Amy on drums and lead vocals, Hannah on lead guitar, Sarah on keyboards and Holly on bass guitar — the musicians have been has been making their hypnotic psychedelic hard rock since first starting under the name Iotah in their small rural Victoria town of Darraweit Guim in 2006. They switched their name to Stonefield in 2010, releasing their eponymous debut in 2013. The group recorded it’s latest effort BENT issued on Flightless/ATO in the space of five days with Mackenzie and Joe Walker from King Gizzard at their Melbourne studio. Power trio ORB has been delivering their brand of fuzzed-out psychedelic doom indebted to the sound of Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer since coming together in 2014.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Wednesday-Thursday, Aug. 14-15, 8 p.m. $35-$37