The estimable, prolific Aussie garage band had a rude awakening on their first-ever Asian tour. This week, in addition to their Fuji Rock appearance at the White Stage, their first ever in Japan, they were supposed to play the Jisan Rock Festival in South Korea, but the whole festival was cancelled at the last minute. The fact that KG&TLW were the only major foreign act on the roster may give you some indication why it was cancelled.
More for us, I guess, and the most surprising thing about the Gizzards live is that they don’t come across anything like a garage band, or even a psychedelic outfit, another qualifier that tends to get attached to their work. They’re essentially a metal band, but a metal band with the narrowest metal priorities. Even when they take the piss, it often seems as if they feel obligated to do so. “Turn it up Sammy,” guitarist Joey Walker said as they opened up with a killer speed metal riff that abruptly stopped and turned into something else — but on a dime, mind you.
The fact that the Wizards didn’t dip into their vast psych-folk-experimental well and concentrated just on headbangers shows they know their audience, and the already sizable crowd kept growing as passers by glommed onto the fun under a slate grey sky. But this was serious fun. The band sports two drummers, which is automatically cool, but there’s none of that Dead-Allmans contrapuntal bullshit. They played in lockstep, and while the patterns were sometimes complicated their main purpose was force and precision. The bass player stands behind them, obviously afraid he’ll miss something. The three guitarists were not exactly hot stuff, but they knew how to play against each other. What they dig about metal is that mensch-like attention to the smallest detail. Stu Mackenzie’s stentorian vocals fit the music to a T, and while the visual aesthetic is a scruffy bunch of high schoolers, they learned their lessons only too well.
It wasn’t until the last song, the iconic “There Is No Planet B” that the Lizards singular sense of humor finally made itself felt. The song was heavy metal heaven with a shot of prof-rockfish elan. And the sound was absolutely stellar. What garage band goes for high fidelity? Nice job, Sammy.