Thunder From Down Under: nugs.net Welcomes King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard 

Image: Maclay Heriot

by Jonathan Cohen

It has been said that after you first tiptoe into the unique musical universe created by Australia’s King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, you may never want to step back into the real world again. nugs.net listeners now have the chance to experience this sensation first-hand with today’s release of nine concerts from the beloved group, including videos of three complete shows from San Francisco, Sydney and Melbourne. Also making its nugs.net debut is the soundtrack to the 2020 concert film “Chunky Shrapnel,” which chronicles Gizzard’s 2019 European tour in all its psychedelic glory.

Formed in Melbourne in 2010, Gizzard has since released 18 studio albums that touch on bad-ass garage rock, full-on ‘80s thrash metal, expansive psychedelia, synth loop-driven, major-key jams, and pretty much every guitar-based form of music in between. These projects are mere launching points for the band’s ever-changing, perpetually sold-out live shows, which are represented in all their glory on this first batch of nugs.net releases. A catalog this varied and extensive may seem daunting, so let us suggest a few highlights to help you ease your way in …

LIVE IN MELBOURNE 2021:

When most of the world was still in lockdown earlier this year, Australia managed to implement effective health and safety procedures that enabled live shows to take place, and on this night, a couple thousand King Gizzard fans in Melbourne were truly the beneficiaries. In just their third show in nearly a year, the group is sizzling from minute one, as Michael “Cavs” Cavanagh’s drum solo whips the audience into a tangible frenzy. An early-set gem is the whiplash-inducing “Rattlesnake,” which hits like Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law’ on a speed bender. Frontman Stu Mackenzie’s vocal lines mirror his frenetic guitar work, conjuring an unlikely earworm as only King Gizzard can. Purple and yellow lights crackle behind the band to offer the perfect accent for the nocturnal adventure “Sleep Drifter,” while closer “K.G.L.W.” (the band’s initials — get it?) is a wicked, riffy monster that will find your brain hanging on for dear life.

LIVE IN SYDNEY 2021:

Three songs in, “Nuclear Fusion” shows why King Gizzard often defies categorization. This swaggering number, written, like many recent Gizzard songs, in the decidedly non-Western microtonal tuning, transports you to a hookah bar in outer space soundtracked by exotic, harmonized guitar leads, wacky, deep grooves, and rapid-fire snare-drum hits that would make James Brown proud. Later on, at this mid-pandemic gig in Sydney, Ambrose Kenny-Smith steps out from behind his keyboard stand to take the mic on the delightfully menacing “Supreme Ascendancy,” while the crackling black-and-white visuals add extra disorientation to the Sabbath-y, stutter-stop stomp of “The Hungry Wolf of Fate.”

LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO 2016:

What better way to salute San Francisco’s rich legacy of psychedelic rock than with a 22-minute closing song? In doing so, “Head On/Pill” features everything that’s right in the King Gizzard world. Building slowly from a positive-vibe, mid-tempo groove, the track explodes into glorious, harmonica-laced boogie rock, retreats back into a bass-driven vamp (with flute!), and emerges again with resplendent, shimmering guitar tones. “Robot Stop” sets the tone right off the bat, with Mackenzie’s guitar lead rapidly descending in pitch like a madman turning an unseen dial. Lyrics such as “Loosen up / time to drop / fuck shit up / don’t forget about it” could very well serve as King Gizzard’s manifesto, so dive right in.

The audio-only albums arriving today are chock-full of goodies as well. On “Live in London 2019,” Gizzard once again saves the very best for the last song of the night. “Float Along – Fill Your Lungs,” from the 2013 album of the same name, is nine minutes of classic rock majesty with a nod to the long, strange trips of vintage Grateful Dead. “Live in Paris 2019” offers a fantastic take on “Muddy Water” — an expert blend of power and mystery. “Head On/Pill” re-appears in a spectacular 29-minute blowout on “Live in Adelaide 2019” and even tips the cap to the diehards by spontaneously rewiring the main riff from “Rattlesnake” in a new, major-key style (the audience quickly begins singing the titular phrase in amazement). “Live in Brussels 2019” has killer versions of several songs from the band’s thrashy 2019 concept album “Infest the Rat’s Nest,” particularly the chugga-wugga “Venusian 2,” which is perhaps the best song Motorhead never wrote. “Live in Asheville 2019” shifts into the highest of gears on “Alter Me III” -> “Altered Beast IV,” which could quite possibly melt even the sturdiest of brains.

Finally, “Chunky Shrapnel” rounds up excellent 2019-era live cuts, highlighted by a scorching “Planet B” and the dark, cinematic “Loyalty.” But the real treat here is Mackenzie’s ambient, studio-born contributions to the soundtrack such as “Anamnesis.” Here, we find the seeds of the music on Gizzard’s latest studio album, “Butterfly 3000,” which was built on synth loops and in so doing takes King Gizzard in an entirely new and joyous direction. Who knows what comes next? Keep visiting nugs.net to find out.

The White Stripes Live at The Magic Stick, 2001

The White Stripes

LISTEN NOW: The Magic Stick, Detroit, MI – March 31st,2001

By Ben Blackwell

Hometown shows are, oftentimes, a mess. The guest list is a clusterfuck, some weirdo from high school you haven’t seen in a decade monopolizes your time, dinner springs upon you like an unwieldy beast that you’ve never had to tackle previously (despite making it work every day in your “regular” life in town). The benefit though is that the performances are so much more likely to be sublime. And the White Stripes at the Magic Stick (coupled with the Gold Dollar as close as they would ever have to a “home field”) on March 31st, 2001 is absolutely sublime. 

As the culmination of three Midwestern dates that weekend (Cleveland and Chicago were the Thursday/Friday shows) the run was hot on the heels of the Stripes breakout performances at South-By Southwest earlier that month. The momentum was building. The shows were only increasing in intensity.

While at this point twenty years later, the setlist is fairly in line with other Stripes’ gigs from that moment, the awkwardness of “Boll Weevil” dropping in the middle of the set will never cease to feel like a glitch in the fabric of time. So clearly is that song supposed to be a set closer. In that same mindset, “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground” NOT kicking off a show, but tucked in the later third of the set, just smacks of a work-in-progress. The White Stripes were always game to adjust and call audibles and pull things on the fly…but once a move was so clearly perfected, well, there’s a hard time breaking out of that comfort.

A particular treat in this performance is the first and only appearance of the red-and-white Danelectro double-neck guitar. The stock clear pickguards were hand-painted red by Jack himself. With the auxiliary neck strung up in the baritone register, the axe is deployed for the “Astro/Jack the Ripper” medley followed by “The Big Three Killed My Baby”…and then never again. To hear Jack’s thoughts on it at the time, he didn’t feel like he should be doing anything that would explicitly court MORE comparisons to Led Zeppelin. 

(For those keeping tabs, that guitar would show up on stage six years later ably utilized by the local Detroit garage band Tin Knocker)

I seem to recall selling copies of the Stripes Sub Pop single at the merch table on this night. Or if we didn’t…we certainly discussed the possibility of doing so. Maybe we only sold a few? For everything I remember in the past 20 years, there’s a thousand I’ve forgotten so the fact there’s a solid VHS video of the gig on YouTube is a nice accompaniment here. Enjoy.

I’ve Never Played It, So I’m Going To Give It a Shot

Bruce Springsteen

LISTEN NOW: Tower Theater, Upper Darby, PA, May 17, 2005

By Erik Flannigan

There was a time when we pondered whether Springsteen would ever undertake a solo tour. 

The release of Nebraska in 1982 spurred the initial idea, as fans understandably wondered if Bruce would perform the album live. Next came the Bridge School concert in 1986 (available in the Live Archive series), his first full acoustic set post 1973, some of it solo, the rest backed by only Nils Lofgren and Danny Federici. That special gig triggered another round of talk about solo shows, in part because things had gotten so big following the stadium concerts in 1985. Wouldn’t it be interesting to boil the whole thing back down to its essence?

The two Christic Institute performances in 1990 (also available in the Live Archive series) proved the power of Springsteen alone on stage, and eventually they also proved to be the precursors to his first solo tour later that decade. Springsteen’s one-man world tour in support of The Ghost of Tom Joad stretched from late 1995 to the spring of 1997. The Joad shows saw Bruce in troubadour mode, performing exclusively on acoustic guitar and harmonica with occasional off-stage keyboard support from longtime tech Kevin Buell. The stripped-down tour hit venues the size of which Springsteen hadn’t played since the 1970s. Some, like the Tower Theater outside Philadelphia, were the very same buildings.

Appealing as those antecedents were, the 2005 Devils & Dust tour is Springsteen’s most fully realized solo expression. He expanded his instrumentation, adding new colors via pump organ, electric and acoustic pianos, and, on occasion, autoharp, dobro, banjo, and ukulele. He expanded his setlists, too, working up thrilling new arrangements of deep cuts from the catalog, some played only a time or two. Intimate performances aren’t effective simply due to venue size. They require a performer to take risks and play in the moment, which Bruce did night after night in 2005.

This Tower Theater concert is from the opening weeks of the D&D tour. Bruce’s personal history with the venue — going all the way back to 1974 — portended something special, and the payoff came early. “My Beautiful Reward,” performed on pump organ, closed most shows in 1992 and ’93; here it is reborn as a reflective opener, and Springsteen’s vocals flow warmly right out of the gate, sliding across notes with confidence. A sweet harmonica coda formally commences the evening.

D&D tour setlists progress in a chapter-like form, often tied to the instrument Springsteen is playing. Bruce moves through tour staples “Reason to Believe” and “Devils & Dust,” then sharp readings of “Youngstown,” “Empty Sky,” and “Black Cowboys” (featuring Alan Fitzgerald on backstage keyboards at the end). Those three had limited runs in 2005, but nothing like the next selection, as Bruce moves to piano for a true WTF moment on a tour filled with surprises.

“In honor of the fabulous Tower Theater I’m gonna do something here,” Bruce says. “This is a song I cut for Darkness on the Edge of Town, but it didn’t make the record, and I’ve never played it. So I’m gonna give it a shot.”


The crowd reacts with enthusiasm, only to be reminded not to get ahead of themselves: “[It’s] probably one of the stinkers we left off. I wouldn’t get over-excited.” Funny. When the first chords play, it sounds like fewer than a dozen people recognize “Iceman,” recorded in 1977 and released on Tracks in 1998.

The intriguing tune is representative of a cluster of early material cut for Darkness including the still-unreleased and kindred “Preacher’s Daughter,” which was recorded around the same time and first surfaced publicly as a snippet in some 1978 performances of “She’s the One.” “Iceman” also shares a key line with “Badlands”: “I want to go out tonight, I want to find out what I got.” Given our familiarity with those words from “Badlands,” it is fascinating to hear Springsteen give them entirely different diction here.

“Iceman” may not approach the lost-masterpiece levels of “The Promise” or “Drop on Down and Cover Me,” but his committed vocal performance (faintly reminiscent of his 1972 demos) and excellent piano playing bring out the best in the somber song. Also intriguing is the shift Bruce makes at 2:41, appending “Iceman” with an unexpected piano coda.

That new piece also turned out to serve as a bridge, allowing Springsteen to go from “Iceman” without warning into “Incident on 57th Street.” It’s an impressive rendition, with strong, dialed-in vocals and fine piano. If you bet the “Iceman”/”Incident” exacta at Joad Downs, your ponies came in, friend.

Upper Darby’s next chapter is on guitar. First up, “Part Man, Part Monkey,” preceded by Springsteen’s timely intro about local governments rethinking “the whole evolution thing.” How quaint that mild questioning of scientific fact seems today. A trio from Devils & Dust follows: “Maria’s Bed,” “Silver Palomino,” and Bruce’s sodomy & sin soliloquy, “Reno.”

Springsteen shifts to electric piano for a moment of musical beauty with “Wreck on the Highway.” The underplayed River closer draws quiet power from the steady, sober telling of the tale. But where Roy Bittan’s piano on the album and full-band versions is widescreen, the electric piano comes across more intimately, as the instrument’s tones ring with sweetness and darkness. It’s a disquieting, captivating performance.

Another unlikely transition, as “Wreck” drops into “Real World,” played as it should be on solo piano. Again Springsteen’s full-bodied vocals and stirring work on the keys combine to create one of the best renditions of “Real World” post-Christic. It’s also, notably, the first to be released in the Live Archive series from the Devils & Dust tour.

He’s on a roll now, fueling excellent interpretations of a refreshed “The Rising,” a convincing “Further On (Up the Road),” and four from Devils & Dust to finish the set. The quartet includes “The Hitter,” which ends with Bruce’s lovely falsetto, and “Matamoros Banks,” which Bruce calls the sequel to Joad’s “Across the Border,” reminding us of the deep connective tissue between the two albums and supporting shows.

The encore opens with an enchanting, Mariachified take on “Ramrod” for the first time on the tour. Quirky but fun. Next, the eternally optimistic “Land of Home and Dreams,” and finally the mesmeric pairing of “The Promised Land” and “Dream Baby Dream,” one of the true highlights of the 2005 tour.

The Ghost of Tom Joad and Devils & Dust both feature Springsteen inhabiting characters. His troubadour persona on the Joad tour afforded a bit of distance from the audience, a stance only punctured at times by tour-debuted originals like “Sell It and They Will Come”” and “I’m Turning Into Elvis,” which felt more personal in nature. The Devils & Dust songs are still character studies, but on the 2005 tour, Springsteen invited the audience on an intimate journey, revealing parts of himself in those new songs and even more through the thrilling exploration of his vast catalog.