King Gizzard: The Caverns Premieres

Blog courtesy of acclaimed music journalist, and Gizz-superfan, Jonathan Cohen

Watch the worldwide premieres from the 13-show marathon. The four-night Caverns run will premiere starting Friday June 23. Read more about these special events in Cohen’s full Summer Tour write-up.

The Caverns – Pelham, TN

What could be more King Gizzard than a show inside a literal ancient cave in a rural Tennessee town with a population of about 400? On June 1 at the first of four gigs in this unique venue (two in the cave, two in the above-ground amphitheater up the hill), the energy is off the charts from the opening notes of “The Dripping Tap” to five straight songs from 2016’s “Nonagon Infinity” played without a pause. Two of the best and most sprawling selections from Gizzard’s five distinct 2022 studio albums, “Ice V” and “Hypertension,” also make a wonderfully symbiotic pair, while the “PetroDragonic” standout “Super Cell” is given its live debut.

Back in the cave the next night, Gizzard again seems possessed by hard-rocking spirits with the opening suite of “I’m in Your Mind” -> “I’m Not in Your Mind” -> “Cellophane,” a trio immediately trumped by the head-banging thrash of “Planet B,” “Predator X” and another new tune, “Converge.” An attempt to incorporate some electronic gadgets goes comically awry after the flute-kissed hip-hop of “The Grim Reaper,” with multi-instrumentalist Joey Walker at first commanding frontman Stu Mackenzie to “engage the granulator” before giving up and chuckling, “our stuff is broken really well.” The long-awaited live debut of the funk jam “Astroturf” follows, and by the “K.G.L.W.” closer, it almost feels like Gizzard is just getting warmed up after almost two hours on stage.

The June 3 outdoor set had already been designated beforehand as a Pride Night celebration, but Gizzard goes above and beyond by performing fully in drag after purchasing dresses and other goodies that afternoon from a Goodwill by the Bonnaroo site in nearby Manchester. The night before, a federal judge had struck down Tennessee’s widely criticized anti-drag law, and fans of all ages and orientations can’t help but feel the love coming from the stage. Highlights include the one-two heavy metal punch of “Gaia” and the yet-to-be-released “Petro” face-melter “Witchcraft,” the Ambrose Kenny-Smith showcase “Boogieman Sam” (with snippets of Canned Heat’s “Going Up the Country” and Muddy Waters’ “Got My Mojo Working”) and the expansive combo of “Magma” and “Lava” from last year’s “Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms, and Lava.”

At the final Caverns show, fans get to experience Gizzard at its most beguiling. Despite the heaviest album of its career due for release in less than two weeks, the band opts to play a fully acoustic set for what’s believed to be only the fourth time in its 14-year existence, and this ultra-rare assemblage of songs includes just two that have been released since 2017. It’s a reminder of how earlier Gizzard songs such as “Lonely Steel Sheet Flyer,” “Sleepwalker,” “The River” and “Let Me Mend the Past” bring out a more nuanced, roots-y and jam band-adjacent sound, and why they work so well in this stripped-down setting. “Thanks for indulging our dad-rock tunes,” Walker says at one point. Closer “Her and I (Slow Jam 2)” embodies all sides of Gizzard at once, as it works its way into a loud, two-chord jam before quieting back down to hushed tones. All in all one of the most unusual performances in recent Gizzard history, this one is not to be missed.

Watch the worldwide premieres from the 13-show marathon, starting Friday June 23rd. Save 25% when ordering all 13, available as an upgrade from any single-night’s show.

Jonathan Cohen is a music journalist, editor and author of the New York Times-bestselling authorized biography of Pearl Jam, 2011’s “Pearl Jam 20.” He previously served as the music booker for the first six years of Jimmy Fallon’s NBC late night show, where he oversaw the debut U.S. TV appearances of Tame Impala, Kendrick Lamar, Tyler, the Creator, Frank Ocean, Lorde, Kacey Musgraves, and Ed Sheeran. He also plays keyboards in the band Chamberlain.