A Potent Dose of Live Gizzard

by Jonathan Cohen

It was a long time coming (to be precise, 29 months since the originally scheduled dates, which were postponed three times due to COVID), but King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard finally made their Red Rocks debut two weeks ago as part of a three-show run featuring “marathon three-hour sets” each night, with no repeated songs. The final performance will take place Nov. 2, and will air with professionally post-mixed audio beginning Nov. 6.

Whether you’re a devoted fan of the prolific Australian sextet or a curious newcomer, the Red Rocks run offers an incredibly potent dose of live Gizzard. Indeed, the band seems to be performing at the peak of its on-stage power, even as it releases three distinct new albums in the month of October (its 21st, 22nd and 23rd since forming in 2010). Below are some highlights from the first two Red Rocks shows, as well as what fans might expect at the finale. In the meantime, be sure to check out nugs.net’s King Gizzard catalog, which includes more than a dozen audio and video releases taped all over the world.

Night one: 10/10/2022

As cloaked in mystique as Gizzard often is, the group defused any artifice between band and audience on opening night by nonchalantly walking onstage to tune and adjust its instruments 10 minutes before showtime. Frontman Stu Mackenzie was wearing a green alligator visor in a nod to the lovable Gizzard mascot, and once the concert began, there was no doubt of its significance for the musicians on stage. “I can’t feel my legs,” keyboardist Ambrose Kenny-Smith shouted. “Holy shit,” guitarist Joey Walker said. “Let’s get fucked up! Have a good time and love each other.”

After two blistering songs from 2019’s thrash-metal extravaganza “Infest the Rat’s Net,” the first set was highlighted by “Magenta Mountain” and its long, tense closing jam with Walker on analog synth, the wobbly “O.N.E.” (with a tease of the dark, heavy boogie “Straws in the Wind,” which appeared later in its complete form) and the penultimate “The River,” its snappy, retro vibe upended by teases of the more sinister “Crumbling Castle” and “Wah Wah.” The set wrapped with the nine-minute-plus “Magma” from Gizzard’s recent album “Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava,” the product of intensive jam sessions that were then edited together by Mackenzie after the fact.

As a bonus treat for the sold-out crowd of nearly 10,0000, Gizzard premiered the first of two songs on another new album, “Laminated Denim,” over the PA during intermission two days before its proper release. “Laminated Denim” was also available for early sale at the merch stand at both shows, if you were willing to brave the 45-minute line.

Set two roared to life with “Rattlesnake,” one of the best examples of Gizzard’s innate ability to work riffs and grooves into lengthy instrumental explorations (this time with teases of no less than five other songs, including the next three on the set list: “Automation,” “Honey” and “Sleep Drifter”). “Ataraxia” was much faster and precise than its studio version on 2021’s “L.W.,” its chorus hook sticking in the brain like musical toffee.

For a group that most certainly jams but has not made many overt references to scene forefathers like The Grateful Dead, Gizzard submitted to the legends of jam band past on “Evil Death Roll,” its major-key, Dead-style workout tuning directly into the spirit of this legendary venue. The head-bopping continued on the new song “Ice V,” its fizzy, New Orleans swamp funk providing an intriguing transition into three songs from the concept album “Murder of the Universe,” narrated by opening act Leah Senior, who provided the same service on the studio versions.

Walker’s girlfriend later brought out shots for the whole band in honor of Walker’s impending birthday, while Kenny-Smith prowled the stage to sing “The Grim Reaper,” what he described as “some weird ass satanic rap for ya.” The 27-song evening concluded with a final dose of thrash-y rock’n’roll in “Planet B,” which Gizzard finished exactly one minute curfew.

Night two: 10/12/2022

What better way to start the second Red Rocks show than with a 15-minute “The Dripping Tap,” one of Gizzard’s best new extended jams? During a quiet breakdown in the song, Walker was presented with a birthday cake by his girlfriend and manager, remarking, “I was expecting that later in the set!” “Gaia” featured a taut, spacey section reminiscent of Tool, with drummer Michael Cavanagh nodding to that band’s Danny Carey with his creative roto-tom work. Walker positively ripped on “Predator X,” even finger-tapping a la Eddie Van Halen and throwing in one bar of “Perihelion” (which would later open set two).

“Doom City” was futuristic surf rock crossed with Black Sabbath doom, while “K.G.L.W.” was absolutely wicked, a sea of bobbing heads offering their full compliance in the audience. The set wound down was the rarity “Sea of Trees” (played for just the 15th time since 2012), its sleazy groove segueing into the satisfying southern rock of “The Bitter Boogie.”

The party was instantly restarted during set two’s “I’m in Your Mind” / “I’m Not in Your Mind” suite, the guitar riffs of which imagined being chased through a Middle East bazaar. Leah Senior returned to narrate six songs from “Murder of the Universe,” a jaw-dropping display of Gizzard’s instrumental virtuosity and dynamic command.

From there, it was one delight after another — the baby-making soul of “Ambergris,” the slow-cooking “Iron Lung” and its emphatic, Kenny-Smith-belted outtro, “Robot Stop” and “Mr. Beat,” which teased back to “Iron Lung.” The members of Leah Senior’s band snuck onstage to spray Gizzard with silly string and bring the 32-song performance to a close, as the crowd high-fived, hugged and gazed behind it at Red Rocks’ impossibly beautiful natural surroundings.

What’s left?

Knowing that the Red Rocks shows will feature no repeat songs, we can identify some likely suspects for the third gig on Nov. 2. They include favorites such as “Venusian 2,” “Plastic Boogie,” “Self Immolate,” Am I in Heaven,” “Float Along — Fill Your Lungs,” the complete “Crumbling Castle” and “Intrasport,” plus several songs from “Murder of the Universe” that weren’t played this week, “Shanghai” (the lone song in live rotation from the 2021 album “Butterfly 3030”), newer material such as “Sadie Sorceress” and anything from the upcoming album “Changes,” which will be released a few days before Red Rocks night three. One thing’s for sure: King Gizzard always seizes big moments like this, making Nov. 2 a show certainly not to be missed.

About the author: Jonathan Cohen is a veteran music journalist, editor and author of the New York Times-bestselling authorized biography of Pearl Jam, “Pearl Jam 20.” He previously served as the music booker for the first six years of Jimmy Fallon’s NBC late night show.

Get your pass to watch all three nights at Red Rocks, the first two are still available on-demand.

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Why Live Music Streaming is the Best Spotify Alternative

man in black leather jacket playing guitar

When we think about the future of music, it’s hard to imagine a world without Spotify. It is the most popular alternative to purchasing physical albums and using other platforms that could only offer so much access and quality.

The problem with Spotify is that it doesn’t actually allow you to connect with the artist. This can be a bit disappointing if you want to feel like they are singing just to you while also offering an intimate performance format. Live music streaming offers a remedy for the social disconnect many people suffer from when enjoying their favorite playlists on Spotify or other platforms.

Live music streaming allows you to listen in on some of the most talented musicians in the world as they play their hearts out in front of an audience. You can hear them improvise, experiment with different sounds and styles, and even talk about their creative process as they go along!

Live Music Streaming as a Remedy for Social Disconnect 

Live music streaming is a great way to connect with other people, especially if you don’t live near them. Not only do you get to hear the music you love, but live music streaming can help you build relationships with people who share your community values and musical taste.

No longer will being an introvert prevent you from attending a show; with live music streaming, you can still experience all the best parts of those events. Watching acts like The Rolling Stones perform in their heyday from the comfort of your home is a great way to experience a concert while being connected.

Same format as a live show

Live music streaming is a lot like a live show. It brings you closer to your favorite artists and allows them to connect with their fans, no matter how far away from each other they may be. With one platform, you have access to numerous artists who stream their shows on the same day as their performance. You can even see what songs are coming up next in their setlist so that you don’t miss anything important!

It brings you closer to your favorite artists

Live music streaming is the ultimate Spotify alternative because it brings you closer to your favorite artists. With live music streaming, you can interact with artists, ask questions, see them perform in real-time and in a more intimate setting.

Nothing beats the atmosphere of a live music performance. It’s something that you can’t get anywhere else, and it’s often what makes the difference between an average show and a great one. When we talk about the atmosphere of a concert, there are several things at play:

  • The sensation of being part of the audience
  • A sense of community
  • Excitement about being part of something special
  • A feeling of belonging to something bigger than yourself

Live music is more accessible than ever before. Since most virtual concerts are streamed online and don’t require a ticket purchase, anyone with an internet connection can tune in—no matter where they live or how much money they earn.

Enjoy improvisational styles the way they were meant to be

Live music streaming services are the best way to experience improvisational styles. One art form that many musicians have been practicing is improvisational. You’ll find it in many genres, including jam, jazz, and classical music. Live music streaming is the best Spotify alternative for anyone who loves improvisational styles and wants to hear improvisational music the way it was meant to be.

The beauty of live music is that it’s always evolving and changing, so you never know what you’ll get when you listen to it. You might hear a cover of your favorite song, or an entirely different take on something familiar. That’s why we think live music is so special. It’s spontaneous and unpredictable, which makes each performance totally new and exciting. And that’s why we think live music streaming is the best Spotify alternative!

Live music streaming is the ultimate Spotify alternative.

Live performances are intimate and interactive, allowing you to enjoy improvisational styles as they were meant to be. Live music streaming is a remedy for social disconnection in our modern world; it will enable you to connect with other people while enjoying an immersive experience that only exists in real life.

So, to sum it up: live music streaming is a fascinating and thrilling new way to experience music. We’re still in the early days of this emerging genre, but we can already see how it’s changing the landscape of music as we know it. The best thing about live streams is that they allow musicians to connect with their top fans and build more personal relationships, which can benefit everyone involved. So, if you’re looking for something new and exciting in your life (and you love music), then why not give live-streaming a try? You won’t regret it! Check out nugs.net for a complete list of live concert streams coming to a screen near you

Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders at Keystone Berkeley, 11/2/74

LISTEN: Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders perform live in Berkeley, CA.

This post is excerpted from Garcia Family Provisions.

GarciaLive Volume 18: November 2nd, 1974 Keystone Berkeley presents the complete and previously uncirculated two-set Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders performance originally recorded to 1/4” analog reels by Betty Cantor Jackson.

Is there a more iconic venue for Garcia/Saunders than the Keystone Berkeley? The Bay Area haunt was the setting for the performances contained on the legendary Live at the Keystone releases and yielded at least a half-dozen other celebrated official live releases. Be it the quaint, unassuming setting or the proximity to home, magic never seemed to be in short supply — and this evening in November was no different.

In addition to the ever-present John Kahn on bass, the rhythm section this evening was bolstered by one of the most in demand session drummers of his day, the great Paul Humphrey whose credits range from Marvin Gaye and Joe Cocker to the Lawrence Welk Show. Future Legion of Mary bandmate Martin Fierro rounds out the ensemble.

The performance itself is nothing short of exceptional, particularly the monstrous 1st set combination of “Valdez in the Country,” The Harder They Come,” and “You Can Leave Your Hat On” which destroy any notion of genre as Garcia, Saunders & co somehow fuse seemingly disparate originals by Donny Hathaway, Jimmy Cliff & Randy Newman into a sound all their own. After a brief set-break, the group returns for a super-charged 2nd set highlighted by extended versions of “Freedom Jazz Dance” and Merl’s own “Wondering Why” before closing the evening with a fiery “Mystery Train.” Always ones to stretch the bounds, you get the sense they would’ve gone all night if not for the venue’s pesky 2am curfew.

Set One

  1. Neighbor, Neighbor
  2. Valdez In The Country
  3. The Harder They Come
  4. You Can Leave Your Hat On
  5. That’s The Touch I Like

Set Two

  1. Freedom Jazz Dance
  2. Tough Mama
  3. Wondering Why
  4. People Make the World Go Round
  5. Mystery Train

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Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band: Wembley Arena, London, 6/4/81

LISTEN NOW: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Wembley Stadium, London, June 4, 1981

It Takes One To Dream, But It Takes Two To Make A Dream Come True

by Erik Flannigan

When the River tour kicked off in early October 1980, Bruce Springsteen had been off the road nearly two years, save for the No Nukes concerts. He hit arenas that fall with 20 new songs from The River in hand; not surprisingly, Springsteen setlists grew in length to accommodate the bounty of fresh material. By late December, River shows were approaching three and a half hours, in part because the underlying structure of the set established on the Darkness tour remained fundamentally unchanged, albeit in a supersized edition. 

After peaking with Bruce’s longest concert to that point on New Years Eve 1980, the River tour resumed in early 1981 and began to streamline. The number of songs from the double album included in the set also scaled back. By the time Springsteen hit Europe in April, opening night in Hamburg featured 24 songs, down from the 12/31/80 zenith of a whopping 38.

As the European tour proceeded, the tone of the shows began to sharpen, influenced by the perspective Bruce was gaining as he experienced life and culture outside of the United States firsthand. The books Bruce was reading—including Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States and Alfred Wertheimer’s Elvis ’56: In the Beginning (An Intimate, Eyewitness Photo-Journal)—also shaped his creative outlook. 

As he had done first with the inclusion of “This Land Is Your Land” at Nassau Coliseum in December, Springsteen was questioning American idealism and beliefs in front of fans in Europe who did not necessarily share the same values or background. Moreover, for all intents and purposes, European audiences had never seen him perform before and had no history but the present. The result was the most earnest Bruce Springsteen to ever take the stage. 

The tonal shift in Europe ‘81 also manifests through the inclusion of new material. First came “Follow That Dream” in Paris; “Run Through the Jungle” in Rotterdam, “Johnny Bye-Bye” in Manchester; and finally “Trapped’ in London. 

Three of those four remarkable songs are included on London 6/4/81, the fifth show of the six-night Wembley stand which features five tracks not performed on the previously released Archive title from 6/5/81. Multitrack recordings of the last three London shows are the only surviving professional documents to capture the distinctive, eye-opening spirit of Europe ‘81. 

The show gets off to a banging start with the trio of “Prove It All Night,” “The Ties That Bind,” and “Out in the Street,” presented in a crisp, new Jon Altschiller mix that puts the listener in an appropriately intimate position for this deeply personal performance.

An extraordinary duo follows. Introduced simply as “a song that was originally done by Elvis Presley,” “Follow That Dream” is performed in a lump-in-your-throat re-arrangement that is equal parts Presley’s original, Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams,” and Bruce’s own mediation on faith. The E Street Band’s accompaniment is magnificently understated, with Roy Bittan’s piano and synthesizer poignantly accenting Springsteen’s haunted vocals. If one song sums up the sound of Europe ‘81, “Follow That Dream” is it.

From Elvis’ own song to a reflective tribute, “Johnny Bye-Bye” is performed with eleagic backing by the E Street Band supporting Bruce’s plaintive, heartfelt vocals. Before he plays it, Springsteen talks about the aforementioned book Elvis ‘56 and says the following about the artist captured in the book’s images, though he might just as easily have been saying it about himself: “When you look at him, when he was that young, he always seemed so sure of himself. He looked like he had some secret that he wasn’t telling nobody.”

The guitar sound is SO clear before the start of “Jackson Cage” you might think there was a secret guitar amp hidden in your room. Played as a request, this might be the best live version of “Jackson Cage” you’ve ever heard, and it is the first from the River tour to appear in the Live Archive series. Vocals from Bruce and Stevie Van Zandt lay it all on the line, and the song’s ending is particularly tasty.

The performance of “Trapped” is only the fourth ever, as Bruce’s reworking of the Jimmy Cliff original debuted the first night at Wembley. These early versions are nonetheless fully realized and ride an evocative synthesizer line as the song builds to its climatic choruses and a saxophone crescendo from Clarence Clemons. An August 1981 Rolling Stone article called it “a scintillating new song…reworked in the searing mode of Darkness on the Edge of Town.” The audience reception to “Trapped” is immense.

The first set continues, with “Two Hearts,” “The Promised Land” and “The River” marked by the kind of heightened lead vocals that are the hallmark of great shows. As “The River” ends, the spotlight turns to Roy Bittan for his chills-inducing “Once Upon a Time in the West” introduction to “Badlands,” which explodes out of the gate and never lets up. Marvel at the interaction between Bruce and Stevie starting with “Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king.” If you need to be reminded of the power of “Badlands,” your faith will be rewarded.

A warmly received “Thunder Road” closes this peerless opening set. If you weren’t fortunate enough to see a show in the intermission era, imagine how that Wembley Arena audience felt when Bruce says, “We’re gonna take a short break and come back to rock you all…night…long.”

Set two opens with an especially delightful “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch),” again showcasing Van Zandt’s backing-vocal prowess. The feel-good onslaught extends to “Cadillac Ranch,” “Sherry Darling,” and “Hungry Heart.” On the last of these, the Wembley faithful acquit themselves impressively singing the first verse, perhaps drafting on experience from songs sung at football grounds.

“Fire” and a barnstorming “Because the Night” are exemplary versions that rank among the best of this era. The same can be said for the two classics that follow, neither of which appeared on the previous Wembley release.

“Racing in the Street” taps that aforementioned earnestness as Springsteen sings with simple, unaffected beauty in a reading defined by Bittan’s expressive and powerful playing. I have always presumed his work on “Racing” is what led Mark Knopfler to tap him to play on Dire Straits’ masterpiece Making Movies. The “Racing” outro here is sublime.

“Backstreets” on the River tour boasts a striking, minute-long instrumental introduction before the familiar piano refrain begins and we swell to Bruce’s memorable first line. You’ll hear Danny Federici’s organ appealingly high in the mix throughout the track, balancing Bittan’s continued virtuosity. “Ramrod” arrives to buoy our spirits, and “Rosalita” brings the house down, conquered and bloody happy about it.

The encore may look tidy and traditional, but like the rest of 6/4/81 it is delivered par excellence. We love it when Bruce’s vocals rise at the end of “Born to Run” on “Oh, oh, OH, OH, OH-OH-OH.” In the last song of the night, “Detroit Medley,” Springsteen tells the audience he’s out of gas, much to The Big Man’s dismay. In the end, and to no one’s surprise, Bruce goes the extra kilometer for what ultimately turns out to be a 15:25 tour de force that includes a quick detour to Memphis for “Shake” and “Sweet Soul Music.”

“Spotlight on me,” Springsteen shouts at the end of “Sweet Soul Music,” taking his place among the list of legends the song namechecks. After the masterful performance he and the band delivered at Wembley on the fourth day of June, 1981, he absolutely belongs on it.

LISTEN NOW: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Wembley Stadium, London, June 4, 1981

Benefits of Live Music to Physical and Mental Health

If you’re a nugs.net subscriber, chances are you already love live music. As it turns out, though, live music loves you back. In recent years, study after study has shown that concerts have a huge impact on physical and mental health. The health benefits of live music range from physical to mental: Concerts reduce stress, release happy hormones like oxytocin and dopamine, improve brain function and longevity, provide essential social connection, and even relieve pain. Essentially, your live music habit is really, really good for you.

Concerts are a communal experience

Sociologist Émile Durkheim coined the term “collective effervescence” to describe the sense of communal energy and shared emotion people feel when they come together for a single purpose. Before public spaces were shut down at the onset of the pandemic, these moments were baked into our everyday lives; in one study, the majority of people reported experiencing collective effervescence weekly, or even daily. We went to live concerts, sports events, movie theaters, and crowded bars, all of which provided us with connection and some kind of common purpose. Those activities spark a unique kind of connected joy and fulfill our need for belonging in a way that studio albums or binge-in-your-own-time TV series simply can’t replicate. Even as many aspects of our lives return to some version of pre-COVID normalcy, it is necessary to actively seek out these experiences in a way that it wasn’t before, whether by watching live sports, going to the movies, or, of course, streaming a live concert.

Live music benefits physical health

Psychology and sociology researchers are increasingly interested in the impact of the arts on health and, more specifically, the impact of live music on physical health. Studies show that live concerts reduce the release of cortisol, the stress hormone which controls our body’s responses to stress (sustained spikes in cortisol are linked to heart disease and diabetes). Researchers also noticed that participants had reduced blood pressure and heart rate after experiencing live music. Live music experiences can even act as a natural pain management method; concerts can relieve physical pain by triggering the release of endorphins, which reduces a person’s perception of pain, or even intercepting pain signals before they reach the brain. 

Live concerts improve mental health

There are significant benefits of live music on mental health. One study shows that “engaging with music” — which the researchers in this case defined as dancing or attending a concert — leads to an overall sense of well-being, with participants reporting improved mood and a sense of connection to others. Concerts are a unique opportunity to experience both music and social interaction. There’s a neurochemical connection between music and mental health with hugely positive impacts. Live music has been shown to trigger the release of oxytocin — improving our senses of vitality, companionship, and trust — as well as dopamine. Music in general has even been prescribed to treat depression and improve mood and fine motor control in patients with Parkinson’s disease. One study even described live music as “better for your mental health than yoga.” Hormonal and chemical shifts aside, music creates space for emotional expression and processing beyond what we’re able to put into words.

Live music improves brain function

Listening to live or new music also challenges the brain — it has to work to understand a new sound — acting as a workout for the brain. Music improves creativity, memory, alertness, and clarity, and live music has been linked to improved cognitive function in patients with dementia. When looking at subjects’ brain activity in MRI scans, researchers found that music activates more areas of the brain than even language; in fact, in early development, babies start processing music before they can process speech. Studies have shown that listening to music releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which promotes neurogenesis: the growth of new neurons. Essentially, listening to music, recorded or live, keeps your brain young. 

People who regularly experience live music boost their creativity and cognitive abilities; reduce stress hormone levels while increasing the production of endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin; experience consistent social connection or “collective effervescence; and even live longer (up to nine years longer, in fact).