, attached to 2022-07-29

Review by The_Good_Doctor

The_Good_Doctor Since 1994, summer shows at Walnut Creek have reliably delivered peculiarities to the Phish canon. The 1997 lightning fest is perhaps the best known, but then there was the bizarre 2003 show where Mike left and returned to the stage after allegedly purging the previous night’s debauchery. The first show I saw at Walnut Creek was in 2000, which history has relegated to clunker status. My personal attendance high point was probably the boisterous 2018 show featuring the Set II Runaway Antelope mashup.

I expected the afternoon to be swelting as is often the case down south, but on this July day it was positively suffocating. The mercury soared into the 90s while the NPR broadcast crowed about a heat wave and the inevitability of inclement weather. Even the sturdy gravel parking lot appeared ready to melt leaving us to shelter in the precious little shade afforded by the nearby pines.

Once inside the venue I watched cobalt clouds gather in the distance. Soon the greasy fwonk of Moma Dance flooded the amphitheater and people in all directions began to bounce and sway. Moma gave way to a rambunctious Possum, the latter of which feels like a virtual certainty in the south. Steam was a fine choice that affirmed the sweltering afternoon, which segued smoothly into Stash. The transition was slick and the blissy jam at about six minutes proved to be an unexpected first set treat. After riffing again on the Steam theme, they dropped into their reliably scorching cover of Son Seals’ Funky Bitch. Trey smoked the lead section before guiding the band through the 1.0 classics Wedge and Horn, only to raise the stakes with Rise/Come Together. The latter proved to be the night’s longest jam that oscillated around a Free-like jam segment although it never felt like it found solid footing.

Since its debut in 1987, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars opened Set II for the first time. This rendition deviated from its typical angular, frenetic pulse towards a more straight-ahead rhythm that reminded me of the Dead Kennedys, or even the Ramones. Carini continued BBFCFM’s foray into the dark and edgy, which was a perfect accompaniment to the taciturn sky. After a hurried but sincere Waste, the urgent beauty of Ruby Waves revealed the night’s most patient exploration of themes as streaks of pink and purple pulsated from distant thunderheads. Ruby Waves descended dreamily into the lilting elegance of Beneath a Sea of Stars Pt. 1., only to unleash the rocking trifecta of Piper, Light, and Shine a Light, that included a brief BBFCM call back in Piper.

The four-song encore spanned several moods of Phish, ranging from the lonesome sentimentality of Strange Design and to the bare-knuckled bravado of Wilson with its rowdy call and response. Altogether a fine show that displayed the diversity and depths of Phish’s catalog while also highlighting their unique ability to play to the earth and sky. Throughout the night, spatters of rain and streaks of lightning threatened but the weather miraculously veered from Walnut Creek. In many ways it mirrored Phish’s performance — both etched lively dreamscapes onto the horizon without us having to experience the peculiar experience of a full deluge.


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