– by Isadora Jarosek
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have always been men of action over words. Following the success of last year’s inaugural Gizzfest, the psych mini festival returned with a vengeance in 2016 with quite the lineup for a six-hour show. Coming to the end of its national run in humble Perth’s Bar Pop Backyard, this jam-packed capsule had us absolutely spoilt for choice and no better way to enjoy it than with beers, bites and blissful weather.
Sliding us into the sunny afternoon were mustachioed psych slackers Mild High Club. A fitting warm-up for the proceedings to come without being JUST a warm-up act, it’s hard not to be charmed by the wooze that earned them a place at Stones Throw Records. Being very mild (and very high), the Club handle dreamy, lazy licks as only Californians know how. Theirs is a breezy no-pressure funk listening experience with enough warmth and depth to keep you wanting more. Think that stoner boyfriend who just, like, reeeaaally respects you you know?
In keeping with the recent resurgence of old-school sounds, the musical spirit of Gizzfest was very much a throwback to the reverberations of decades past. None of the day’s bands hit this mark quite so much as Geelong blues hounds The Murlocs. They’re a tight garage outfit with a rock-solid feel, and vocalist Ambrose Kenny-Smith also deals both guitar and harmonica with equal aplomb. A fitting wake-up call after our dreamy beginnings.
Taking the reigns in between sets to keep the good vibrations going was Canberra-based enigma DJ Playful Sound. Making the most of each interval with old school treats to please any tastes. Particular props for spinning the iconic Ethio-jazz of Mulatu Astatke’s New York – Addis – London.
The appearance of White Fence frontman Tim Presley drew much excitement from the front-row punters (“he plays with Ty Segall!”/”look at his lipstick!”) and from the first rousing chords of “Swagger Vets & Double Moon” this understated lord of lo-fi had us hooked. Presley and his band kept the crowd guessing with a set heavy on the psych side of things. Shocks of sound that packed a punch without losing the tenderness that sets White Fence apart from much of the recent garage output, they cooled down for a few minutes with “Breathe Again” before gearing back up. If you’ve given Vols 1 & 2 of Family Perfume a listen (you should), it’s a joy to bask in it in the flesh as the sun sets on a perfect day.
Winner, winner, next up Dinner. It’s hard to know where to start with this unpredictable German retro-wave artist. Swanning out on stage in a shimmery gold headpiece (OK, a large scrap of gold fabric on his head) and performing to a backing track, he definitely seemed out of place in the lineup at first. However, he had the bemused audience playing along with his primary-school style exercises in no time and they were practically eating out of his hand by the end of the set. There’s a kind of communal feel to his act and those deep, sulky, New-Wave vocals really hit the spot. If you’re into the heavy 80s antics of John Maus, you need to get stuck in to Dinner.
After this emotional little moment, it was time for Perth/Freo beloveds Pond to do their thing. Bringing his mad grandma aesthetic and queasy good performance as usual, Nick Allbrook was also the only frontman (to my ears) to acknowledge that they were performing on Noongar country, a simple but important act too often overlooked at gigs nationwide. His voice goes right through you with snarls, croaks and yelps; Pond are never here to be the act that keeps you comfortable. That being said their full, tight and haunting sound is always a pleasure and church was well and truly in session by “Sweep Me Off My Feet”. In a welcome departure from the other ensemble acts they managed to bring a bit of banter with them to refresh the supporters (“Dagliesh represent”/“Dagliesh massiiiiiiive!”). The crowd was showing nothing but love, belting along to the likes of the anthemic “You Broke My Cool”.
With the penultimate act Boulevards (aka Jamil Rashad, hailing from North Carolina), it was time to change the pace and shake things up. He’s an unapologetic hunk of old-school funk with a punk sensibility (see his out-of-nowhere crowdsurf midway through King Gizzard’s set). A godlike stage presence with fantastic audience engagement, Boulevards brings the party with a Rick James-esque groove, raw energy and call-and-response style banter. Despite the authentic sound of his jams, complete with that wet bass and plenty of cowbell, he’s an absolute breathe of fresh air and was easily one of the most engaging acts at Gizzfest.
Headliners King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have been on a roll with 9 studio releases in almost half as many years, touring the globe and on top of that managing to organize this little ripper of a day. Phew! Their work ethic was out in force as they kicked off closing proceedings with “Gamma Knife” and played…and played…and played. Known for their intense performances, these warlocks of acid psychedelia did not disappoint. Their skill is on point and their energy was infectious enough to get the mosh pulsing within seconds, continuing to quench their thirst with bangers like “People Vultures”, “Cellophane”, and “Lord of Lightning”. Pounding through epic after epic, the King Gizz lads don’t need to stop for a breather. At some point it seemed not even the fans could quite keep up with the constant run-on of licks but, with the final throes of “Rattlesnake”, they were just as gutted when it all came to a close.
Now, it simply wouldn’t be fair to wrap up the day without an honourable mention to the fashion of Gizzfest’s patrons. There was enough tie dye, embroidered velvet, loud prints and cult tees to rival the young ones you see grinning from old photo albums. The guessing game’s the best part; were those threadbare chinos from ASOS or did he snaffle them from the old man’s drawer? WHO KNOWS?!
With more and more of Perth’s festival offerings biting the dust recently, perhaps the independently organized mini-festival is what will come to the rescue. As this year’s Gizzfest has shown us, fantastic things can indeed come in small packages.