On Wednesday April 13, 2022 Australian band King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard brought their mind-altering brand of psychedelic rock to the Arlington Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara. The group was joined by supporting acts DJ Dan Crenshaw and fellow Melbourne band Mildlife.
Mildlife, who opened for King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, brought their distinct melting pot of genre-blurring tunes to the Arlington stage. The tracks ranged anywhere from disco, jazz, and funk-influenced tunes. The band played as attendees slowly trickled in, mesmerized by the sights and sound of the band on stage. Listening to the band I was struck by the intense and unyielding interplay between bass player Tom Shanahan and drummer Jim Rindfleish, who maintained a solid rhythmic base. This allowed guitarist Adam Halliwell and synthesizer player and singer Kevin McDowell to experiment with more sublime tones and melodies. Towards the end of their set you could visibly see audience members tuned in to the group’s music, as several people got up and danced to the music.
Prior to the show, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard announced on their Instagram that they would be playing an all-acoustic set. On stage you could see stagehands bringing out several acoustic guitars, and there was even a grand piano off to the side. The band came out to thunderous applause, and audience members immediately got out from under their seats to stand. The group opened the set with “The River” from their 2015 album “Quarters!” Without taking any pause the band immediately jumped into songs “Sleepwalker” and “It’s Got Old.” All the while, the band had some lively onstage graphics on a screen behind them, projecting snippets from “The River” music video directed by Jason Galea, longtime illustrator and collaborator for the band. After the three opening songs guitarist Joey Walker noted that this acoustic set was the first one they have played outside of Australia, joking, “Which basically makes it our first acoustic one ever.” Afterwards the band played “Muddy Water” off 2017’s “Gumboot Soup.” At that moment I noticed that no one in the audience was in their seats. In fact, several attendees crowded the aisle trying to get a better view of the band.
After finishing the song Walker asked the audience, “How’s the acoustic sound?” To which the crowd responded with cheers. Vocalist and guitarist Stu Mackenzie then mentioned that the set was “dedicated to our audio peeps who made this happen.” Mackenzie then recounted the band’s decision to play an acoustic set in Santa Barbara after their show at the Fox Theater in Pomona the night before. This left their audio team scrambling to find a piano for the show.
During the set the band played one of my personal favorite King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard songs, acoustically for the first time, “Mr. Beat” from 2016’s “Nonagon Infinity.” The acoustic rendition of the song maintained the dynamic energy of the album version, while giving it a laid back and intimate feel. After the song the band jokingly interacted with the crowd. During this interplay Mackenzie asked, “Any Heavy Metal fans here?,” which was met with applause. Then Walker added to the line of questioning “Any John Mayer fans?,” which was met with loud boos. Eventually as if following some sort of Cartesian line of thought Walker declared, “What the fuck is music?”
As if the band’s extensive repertoire was not any more impressive, they played a song off their upcoming album, “Blame It on the Weather.” While the band played the new track, projected on the background were images of what can only be described as apocalyptic visions of weather, if you dropped acid right before looking up at the sky as the world was ending. When the song was over one of the members asked, “Any of you guys going to Coachella?” Some people in the audience cheered. The band is set to play both weekends of the iconic music festival. Someone in the band responded, “See you at the ‘chella.” The seventh song of the set was “The Bitter Boogie” which saw the band reaching Grateful Dead levels of extended jamming. During the song the band engaged in a bit of call and response, chanting the word “bitter” over and over, all the while Walker took a solo. Mackenzie walked to each member of the band and offered them a mystery drink from a bottle. During the band’s performance of the songs, “Dirt” and “Hot Water” they were joined by Mildlife’s Halliwell, who Mackenzie noted, “We’ve know…our whole lives.” Halliwell played the flute on the tunes. He wasn’t the only member of Mildlife to join the band for their performance.
On the last two songs of the night, Rindfleish joined the band onstage playing the drums alongside King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard drummer Michael Cavanagh. Once again the band descended into extended jams. As the band’s performance came to an end Mackenzie waved goodbye to the audience, and several attendees returned the gesture. As he made his way off the stage he stopped at the lip of the stage, grabbed the setlist, and began to fold it into a paper airplane. While the band continued to play, Mackenzie walked up to the microphone and expressed his thanks to the audience. The performance was over, but the crowd was eager for more, cheering for an encore. Unfortunately, for myself and everyone else in attendance, there was no more King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard in Santa Barbara that night.