It takes a lot of albums and special variants to build such endlessly snaking lines. No merch frenzy in recollection compares to the poster tube-wielding mob that attacked Forest Hills Stadium well ahead of Friday’s King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard show. An innumerable queue of happy collectors were angling for a piece of the Gizzverse Record Fair, overflowing with rarities, and the usual tables, seducing the eye with tie dye and Galea goodness. Everyone was so honed in on memorabilia, it seemed like the pit might be more Handle-With-Care cautious than usual, but these moshers had planned ahead. They had friends in seats holding their vinyl scores so nothing would end up smashed. They were checking their bags next to the joints for sale outside. They were getting too stoned to feel bruises. They had practical footwear. They were chugging liquids early to prevent an inevitable spill.
All this dedicated preparation, topped off with a range of trippy lizard and wizard costumes, was one hell of a cool sight, especially for us Gizzard chasers who remember when the band could still stand outside of a venue without getting swarmed. The present-day New York hype was even bigger since it’s been three years since they played this state (due to that whole Superbug they had predicted). What a treat that they stayed outdoors and upgraded to the ultimate sweet spot for acoustics. Even Trey Anastasio of Phish and Peter Anspach of Goose were spotted hanging in GA. Forest Hills Stadium was crowded to an impressive degree and the collective bouncing began for Jonathan Toubin’s danceable opening DJ set. The hyper yet courteous listeners also enjoyed Leah Senior’s mellifluous folk music, quite different from her omniscient voicework on King Gizzard’s Murder of the Universe. Once her soothing vocals had everyone feeling cozy, the floor turned into a thrashy wave pool for Black Midi, who got the crowd-surfers paddling out early with their intense math rock and jazz fusion. When the mythical creatures known as Stu Mackenzie, Ambrose Kenny-Smith, Joey Walker, Cook Craig, Lucas Skinner, and Michael Cavanagh walked on to tune up, they exchanged funny looks over all the song requests, affectionate jokes, and smiley face balloons that drifted up to the stage in the autumn breeze.
The weather quickly flipped back to summer in the center of the body-slamming GA herd when the boys dipped into “The Dripping Tap.” It was a surprising start that had New York zealously chanting “Left the tap on” and boomeranging around for over twelve minutes. While some fans later commented that lengthy jams like this made the setlist too short for their taste – only eleven songs due to the venue’s strict 10pm curfew – just as many folks would have likely complained had we not gotten any long-ragers. Since Forest Hills is one of the biggest venues they’ve played, perhaps Gizz avoided a hit parade so they could have more fun stretching out, unleashing the lesser-known power of their recent work. This setlist also seemed to give newer fans a chance to discover the ‘classics’ on their own, shrouding the past in mystery by gradually pushing those old favorites into live rarity territory. Stu and Amby’s vocals, sounding particularly bluesy and right on the money, were like that rope in Poltergeist guiding us out of the underworld. You could clutch onto it securely while traversing the cavernous depths of their varied set, a gooey psych paradise of crisp stick hits and reverberating strings; ecological warnings and dystopian escape plans.
As if illustrating a volcanic scene, “The Dripping Tap” poured straight into searing cuts of “Magma” and “Lava” that blew minds before “The Garden Goblin.” When their exuberant “Honey” was topped off with Banana-era teases of “Sleep Drifter” and “Rattlesnake,” the pit really turned into a pinball machine. But even as danger loomed around each flying knee and elbow, this crowd was remarkably caring. A fortress of wriggling limbs formed around anyone who needed to tie their shoe or retrieve dropped belongings. Without pause, we then got “Sleep Drifter” for real, with pieces of “Billabong Valley” and “Straws in the Wind” that carried us straight into “O.N.E.” In a big highlight of percussive glory, the beloved “Gaia” included an extended drum solo with Stu and Lucas joining in, as well as a slick nod to “People-Vultures” to thrill the Nonagon Infinity lovers. “Hell” was the first time when one was really at risk of getting kicked square in the face (speaking from experience) and rightfully so. It was a viciously fun descent, with scintillating guitar tones and rhythm section magic all the way down to the bottom.
Shifting from the paratrooping fifteen infantry of “Hell” to the living fantasy of “Magenta Mountain” was the best way to come down from the physical chaos. That curfew got real though when Stu said “Last song” with around ten minutes left, and actual booing ensued. Even so, everyone greedily inhaled “Iron Lung,” another long one that paid off, weaving in teases of “Hypertension.” When his bandmates were riffing on the joke, “Ambrose didn’t smoke enough cigarettes last night, so he doesn’t know if he can do the falsetto,” Ambrose solemly added, “Your city fucked us up last night,” then flashed an after-party grin. Turns out they had been at Madison Square Garden that prior evening – not on stage, but living it up at the Rangers vs. Sharks game. When they appeared on the jumbotron, many felt that the carefree moment foreshadowed a possible future marathon run on the Garden stage. Given the rapid pace at which they’ve taken off and the way they packed Forest Hills Stadium, MSG is a dream within reach, and they’re duly performing with confidence. “Thank you,” said Stu Mackenzie with wide eyes, searching for something to say in the midst of all the screaming. “This has been truly truly truly truly truly truly truly really dope,” he proclaimed. And Stu doesn’t throw around seven “truly”s for nothing.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley