Photo: Annette Geneva

Gizzfest – The Big Top, Sydney 29/11/16

It’s been a long time since Tuesday nights in Sydney were for anything more than Netflix, Thai delivery and the glum realisation that you’re still three days away from the weekend. So it was with much jubilation that about 3000 people descended on Luna Park for mini-festival Gizzfest this week to prove that Tuesdays are a perfectly reasonable day to rock out.

Returning for its second year in 2016, Gizzfest is the brainchild of Melbourne psychedelic legends King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard featuring a collection of their favourite bands, including Orb, White Fence, Stonefield, Mild High Club, Boulevarde, Pond, Jaala and Dinner, with a crowd winning set by the Gizz’s themselves.

Taking the stage in the headline slot, the hosts and curators were always expected to be a highlight and they didn’t disappoint, treating fans to an impeccable jam sesh and seamlessly running old favourites into newer tracks from their acclaimed latest album Nonagon Infinity. Cellophane, quite predictably, got a wild reaction from the audience and new single Rattlesnake proved yet again why King Gizzard are one of our favourite live acts.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard / Photo: Annette Geneva

It’s always so exciting to see Australian bands absolutely killing it and Gizzfest was a perfect showcase of this. With a lineup predominantly comprised of Aussies and an audience filled with enthusiastic fans who seem to have an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of their local heroes, this gig really demonstrated how much talent and passion we have right here.

When Melbourne outfit The Murlocs took to the stage midway through the night we noticed the first emergence of the bravest crowd surfers, throwing caution and sensibility to the wind and throwing themselves overhead in an attempt to reach the front of the stage.

Partly comprised of members of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, The Murlocs took the mood up a notch, creating a mellow yet manic vibe. Tracks such as Space Cadet got the audience singing along and frontman Ambrose Kenny Smith showed off some Ian Curtis-esque dance moves and gave an excellent demonstration of why the harmonica should be getting more love. The harmonica is definitely underrated.

For a festival hosted by a band that seem to pay close attention to their own aesthetic, the visuals and production at both stages felt rather like an afterthought. The main stage opening bands played on a stage that had been sectioned in half by a curtain (that nearly obscured view of the stage for the left side of the room), with a clumsily hung dropsheet displaying the standard swirling, trippy visuals we expect from this genre. It wasn’t until later in the night that the curtain was dropped and the full stage was utilized. Not a huge issue, but it did seem to lend the early evening a bit of a ‘battle of the bands’ vibe.

Props for the choice of venue, however. Stepping outside and away from the stages, punters were bombarded by Luna Park’s bright lights and wild glitz against the backdrop of Sydney Harbour, a view best observed from the top of the white-knuckle-inducing Hair Raiser and the Park’s various other rides.

When Perth favourites Pond appeared onstage it was as though every ticket holder in the venue had just dropped what they were doing to be front and centre, with frontman and ex Tame Impala bassist Nick Allbrook taking complete command of the appreciative room. Kirin J Callinan joined the band onstage to lend some sultry vocals to Pond’s new track, a collaboration with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker called Sweep Me Off My Feet. Callinan, just off the back of a guest appearance onstage with recent ARIA Hall of Famers Crowded House, is becoming something of a national treasure and definitely one to watch out for.

Gizzfest is a festival thrown for the love of music, for bringing amazing prog and psych rock to the people and for showing appreciation for amazing bands and the fans who adore them. There are no vulgar corporate sponsors present, no price gouging for terrible festival strength drinks, no bad attitudes and zero bullshit. It’s a refreshing change to see and hopefully a step in the right direction for more Sydney events.

So cheers for the great night Geezers. Hopefully see you same time, same place in 2017.

Gizzfest – The Big Top, Sydney 29/11/16 / Photos: Annette Geneva

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