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King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard on 4/20 at the Rialto Theater

Stu Mackenzie of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, photographed by Vic Verbalaitis

About a month ago, Tucson’s Rialto theater was graced with the presence of Australian psych-rock band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, fortuitously playing a show on April 20th. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are hailed for their genre-blending sound, incredible guitar work, prolific discography and captivating live shows. They also boast what has to be my favorite band name of all time. King Gizzard is a long-time favorite of KAMP Student Radio, so we were all thrilled to learn they would be performing at the Rialto in support of their latest album Omnium Gatherum. I had the amazing opportunity to cover this show along with KAMP’s Mobile DJ director Vic Verbalaitis.

Spelling photographed by Vic Verbalaitis

The show opened with a spectacular performance from bay area based artist Spelling. I was immediately stunned by the beauty of her voice, and intrigued by her songs' unique melodies. Spelling's music is significantly less heavy than King Gizzard’s, with influences form soul and folk, but creates a similar psychedelic atmosphere. One of the most unique parts of Spelling’s performance was the way she danced as she sang her songs. Her movements, in combination with her flowing white dress, the softly colorful lighting, and her entrancing music, had a mesmerizing effect.

When King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard took the stage, it became clear to me why the band is known for their live performances. They made excellent use of the stage’s backdrop, illuminating it with neon colors and patterns that changed with the music. The dizzying visuals maximized the psychedelic element of the music, creating a slightly disorienting effect. During some songs, such as “Murder of the Universe”, projections included lyrics or phrases to emphasize the story told by the music. Every member of the band was a great performer; it is clear that they are all very talented musicians and are passionate about playing live. I was struck by singer Stu Mackenzie's resemblance to Matthew Gray Gubler. I hope I am not the only fan who notices this.

Lyrics of "Murder the Universe" displayed on the backdrop, photographed by Vic Verbalaitis.

I really enjoyed the setlist the band selected to play. Masters of 10+ minute tracks, King Gizzard certainly were not afraid to break away from a conventional rock setlist of 4ish minute songs. The show was populated with their sprawling psych-metal masterpieces that led effortlessly into one another. Their performance of “Rattlesnake” stood out to me, as it seemed a very appropriate song to play in the Sonoran desert. It's also an absolute banger. The blend of the vibrant, futuristic lighting with the long songs full of epic guitar solos and sci-fy inspired lyrics made me feel like I had stepped into a nightclub for alien mercenaries. I loved the band's use of instruments not commonly heard at rock and metal shows, such as flute, tambourine, and even egg.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard photographed by Vic Verbalaitis. Note the presence of the flute and tambourine.

The band’s energy was most definitely reflected by the crowd. Audience members moshed wildly to the music, especially the more metal-tinged tracks, and pressed toward the barricade in an attempt to get as close to King Gizzard as possible. Crowd surfers popped up with increasing frequency as the set went on. This show was the first time post-pandemic that I truly had to fight for my life in the pit. However, though the crowd was rowdy, it did not feel unsafe. Everyone just wanted to have a good time and let loose to the soundtrack of King Gizzard’s incredible shredding. Whenever someone fell down, they were immediately picked up by their fellow fans.

Though King Gizzard's huge discography is slightly intimidating, this show has inspired me to dive into all their albums and familiarize myself with the stories of their psychedelic sci-fy epics. This was a sonically and visually incredibly night, full of sweat, earth-shaking riffs, dazzling lights, and an unexpected amount of flute. It was my first King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard show, and I certainly hope it will not be my last!

Stu Mackenzie photographed by Vic Verbalaitis

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