Hard Rock Cabaret: Sleepytime Gorilla Museum’s Spellbinding Show At The Crocodile


Author: Cameron Kidd

As Sleepytime Gorilla Museum took the stage at The Crocodile following impressive and passionate sets from Peculiar Pretzelmen and Kayo Dot, the crowd greeted them with ecstatic applause and affectionate, “Welcome back!” cheers. 2024 marks the band’s first tour in over twelve years, and it was clear that their fans had been eagerly awaiting this reunion –  of the Last Human Being has been in the works since before Sleepytime concluded their last tour in 2011. In what felt like reciprocated affection for their loyal, long-term audience, the band opened with “A Hymn To The Morning Star,” the first track off of their 2004 album Of Natural History. The following one-and-a-half hours were filled with awe-inspiring musical complexity, acrobatic time signatures executed with flawless synchronization, and an impeccable flare for the dramatic.

Having had no exposure to Sleepytime Gorilla Museum prior to their show on Sunday night, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Listening to their new album of the Last Human Being beforehand, I was struck by the band’s incredible musicianship, dramatic and poetic lyricism, completely unique prog-rock sound, and my own inability to resist their pull away from the mundane and toward the fantastical, imaginative new world in which I suddenly found myself. Frontman Nils Frykdahl’s commanding bass-baritone voice combined with the complete control and sophistication of every piece of instrumentation created a sense of wonder that left me half-expecting to see a knight on his way to slay a dragon standing across from me on the bus. In other words, I was extremely excited to see this band perform.


Sleepytime Gorilla Museum put on the most sophisticated, intelligent, and theatrical show I have ever seen. Dressed in bright red, thoughtfully designed costumes that seem to have descended from the excitement and flamboyance of glam rock, the musicians became phantasmic, otherworldly bards. The band’s stagecraft, which can have the potential to distract from a purely musical performance, instead elevated their music, inviting the audience into the mystical atmosphere evoked by their sound. The theatrics were an integral part of the spell cast by the band, and no one on stage ever broke the spell. 

It is impossible to pick any standout selections from Sleepytime’s setlist. Moving from the slow and fable-like “A Hymn To The Morning Star” into the controlled chaos of “The Donkey-Headed Adversary Of Humanity Opens The Discussion” and the emphatic growl and eeriness of “Phthisis,” the band proved that their 2004 material has aged gracefully, standing tall and proud alongside their new creations. “Ambugaton,” from their 2006 album Grand Opening And Closing, with all of its tasteful discordance, audibly delighted the crowd around me, all joining the band in shouting, “Ambugaton!” right on queue. Then Sleepytime played a short selection of songs from of the Last Human Being, including “Burn Into Light,” “Salamander In Two Worlds,” and a cover of This Heat’s “S.P.Q.R.” Their new material bears many of the same sonic characteristics of their earlier projects, but these new songs also show a somehow elevated level of sophistication and control while maintaining Sleepytime’s defining infatuating weirdness, power, energy, and drama.

From Nils Frykdahl’s powerful delivery to Carla Kihlstedt’s unbelievable skill as a violinist and enchanting vocal resonance, Sleepytime’s collaboration on stage was sensational. They were completely in tune with each other, executing countless mind-bending time changes in perfect unison without breaking a sweat. No sound was purposeless. Every member of the band’s artistry complemented and augmented the others, combining into a formidable frenzy of musical prowess. 

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum weaves their diverse background, spanning dozens of genres of music and theater, into an incredible live performance that wants for nothing and leaves you wanting more. Their reunion album of the Last Human Being is a fantastic listen, and I also recommend that you take the next available opportunity to attend one of their shows this year – this is a band that is meant to be experienced live.


Cameron Kidd | The Comeback Kidd | KXSU Arts Reporter

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