Saturday 07/30/2022 by phishnet

WALNUT CREEK RECAP: BIG BLACK FURRY PIPER FROM MARS

[We would like to thank users @Kerstenb and Suzydrano (Suzy Barros, @suzydrano on Twitter) for recapping last night's show. -Ed.]

We arrived together, friends since we were six, 28 years since our first show at Walnut Creek.

The moist heat smacked us in the face like a used spa towel, but once we strolled through the dusty lot to arrive at the venue, we were home. Even the stairs to the lawn provoked memories that we endeavored to locate throughout the years.

This was a show that required some recognition. Suzy’s 225th show, Kersten’s kids’ first show, our fifth Walnut Creek show together, friends and family scattered across the audience---hard to find on the packed lawn)---running into random people and finding out they're from our tiny home town in rural North Carolina. Of course, conversation quickly drifted to the memorable 1997 show, when the deluge turned the lawn into a mudpit, Kersten’s parents were at their first show, and her brother was featured prominently on the jumbotron as he danced, shirtless and wild.

© 2022 Dan Pasquarello (courtesy of Wombat Matt)
© 2022 Dan Pasquarello (courtesy of Wombat Matt)

This particular Walnut Creek show was a mix of songs from throughout the years, without a dud to be found. The band met the moment with an ongoing recognition of the potential for storms, the fog of humidity creeping on Sandburg’s cat feet, and the lingering and potent sunlight bracketed against the Carolina blue sky. They referenced light, water, and weather in general throughout the show, a wink and a nod to those of us who understand the capriciousness of North Carolina summer evenings.

They launched into "The Moma Dance" opener with playful energy. Even though it is definitively not a rarity, hearing a "Moma Dance" opener always feels fresh, a welcome invitation to boogie. As the funkiness increased, the light show accelerated. The band maintained a nice balance of rock and funk, bringing up the energy with the tempo and the lights simultaneously.

There were sheer paroxysms of joy at the opening chords and rhythms of "Possum," a classic tune that inevitably brings shouts of glee. Mike was having a blast during this song---incorporating slap bass between his lilting lyrics. Trey integrated bluegrass riffs around a clean, fresh Page solo dominated by major key piano chords. Page had a jazz moment minus any flourishes, maintaining the energetic, happy vibe.

"Possum" ended with a pause for celebration before Trey played the first notes of "Steam," which could be called the Phish fan version of “the song of the summer.” There was abundant opportunity to groove and to giggle at the effects on stage, including steam, red lights, and occasional screaming.

The transition to "Stash" was so subtle and pristine that many of us were slapping our neighbors and raising our eyebrows. Was that a tease? Yes! No! It was a full blown launch!

© 2022 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
© 2022 PHISH (Rene Huemer)

And what a "Stash" it was. Tighter than new spandex. The crowd was swaying and clapping, then we settled into a deeply soulful groove. During the jam, with about two minutes left, they took a brief major key detour with Page bringing back echoes of earlier solos, then shifted back into a minor key. We were all with them in the trenches, when what at first seemed to be a "Manteca" tease actually became a launch back into "Steam," cutting off the end of "Stash" in a way that disappointed no one.

"Funky Bitch" lived up to its name. At one point, Trey took flight, Mike joining him with muscular riffs, Fishman driving the tempo, and Page bringing the syncopation.

The always welcome sing-along contentment that "The Wedge" brought was the refreshing musical version of the vodka lemonades that Suzy was happily slurping. The band executed it flawlessly, and we marveled at Trey’s precision.

"Horn." This gorgeous rendition of an old favorite was the perfect way to segue into the sunset. Unless there’s something seriously wrong with you or with the band, it is well nigh impossible to listen to "Horn" without a smile playing across your face.

As lightning scattered across the sky, Trey launched into the introductory lyrics of what became the longest rendition ever of "Rise/Come Together" at over 20 minutes. Many of us were recalling the 1997 mudfest at Walnut Creek, as we nervously checked the leaking sky while maintaining our focus on the intensifying jam. The band seemed to notice and began to play along with the flashes of lightning against a rose backdrop, which was reminiscent of the inimitable "Taste" from Jul 22, 1997, when they seemed to use the streaks of lightning as musical punctuation marks. When the sky opened up with juicy drops of rain, so did the music: guitar and bass weaving seamlessly together, toggling with Page, who brought tumbling piano chords then shifted to synthesizer.

© 2022 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
© 2022 PHISH (Rene Huemer)

Around eight minutes in, and all four members of the band were in a jaunty conversation, instruments circling each other in an infinite recursion. Meanwhile, the rain lay in wait, the lightning waving at us from a distance. It was hard to notice any lights other than the choreographed genius above the stage.

This jam maintained a remarkable tempo throughout. Rather than building and releasing tension, this "Rise/ Come Together" juggernaut was a rigorous exploration of the full range of Phish’s musical uniqueness. Around 13 minutes in, and they transitioned from a glorious celebration of jazz-influenced harmonies to pure funk, then mellowed again into a jaunty, silky flow. At 16 minutes into this epic version, we were treated to a Phish waterfall, cascading notes and chords, instruments woven together, an intricate braid of sound, before they picked up the pace yet again, pushing the audience into an emotional release that was a quintessential first set culmination.

Set break brought another rush of nostalgia, along with the opportunity to reconnect with some friends. Stories and recollections floated in the rapidly cooling air. “Stash was so tight.” “When was your last show?” “What is your bet for the second set opener?” As past mingled with future, we took a moment to appreciate the fleeting present, and squeezed each other in anticipation of what was to come as we gloried in what already was.

"Big Black Furry Creature from Mars": What a fabulous way to start a set! Hard to believe that this was the first time that BBFCM opened a second set, because it brought the energy to a fever pitch immediately. They threw a party with this one, bright white lights flashing in all directions. This version was wildly different than your typical "BBFCM." Suzy explains, “I wish I was a better guitarist but I’m sure there are lots of you who can describe the difference between this version and all others.” To us, it seemed much more straightforward, pure rock, all power chords and punk, before launching into a wild speed metal jam that was unlike any we had ever heard for this song.

Maybe one day people will get used to the idea of "Carini" as a show/ 2nd set opener, but we haven’t gotten there yet. It’s still an absolute thrill. They played "Carini" with such facility and dexterity that listening and watching became a fully immersive experience. It is an ideal song for taking the audience through a wide range of emotions, from intense darkness toward further jazz-funk delights and blissful moments. This longest version since the fantastic show opener from 4/20 at MSG lived up to the vaunted "Carini" expectations. As the band played, Chris and team put together a lighting sequence that included the formation of geometric shapes accentuated by winking flashes, like a Jedi vs. Sith battle royale. As Trey led the band from peaks to valleys, the lights followed, forming patterns and tracking the sense of the song.

The set then sojourned into some nice opportunities to chill, with "Waste" → the spacy alien transmissions in "Ruby Waves" → "Beneath a Sea of Stars Part 1" serving as a lovely interlude between "Carini" and "Piper."

© 2022 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
© 2022 PHISH (Rene Huemer)

The transition from the first "Sea of Stars" since Mexico into "Piper" was chef’s kiss beautiful, almost ethereal. It was an ever-sought-after slow-build "Piper," filled with goose bumps, wide smiles, and bobbing heads, everyone shaking and shimmying. We have to give a shout out to Fishman for his artistry with the drum kit on this rendition. The popping beats, quick high-hats, and rapid-fire snare patterns drove the rhythm.

The band achieved peak synchronicity: colors, instruments, voices in consonance. After the aforementioned fantastic slow and patient build, Trey hit on a riff that was quickly picked up by Page and Mike, leading them into a very surprising brief visit back to "BBFCM," this time with a distinctly emo vibe.

The transition to "Light" was, again, so natural that it was hard to realize that we were already in a thoughtful, poetic rendition of this pretty tune, which culminated in a very funky finale. Another impeccable transition arrived in an exceptional, blissful version of "Shine a Light," which ended the second set with a triumphant flourish.

There was only a short pause in the action before the encore began. It was an interesting departure for the band to choose "Strange Design," as they had never played it in an encore! The crowd was brought to readiness with this straightforward, uncomplicated song, just in time to prepare us to dance to "Heavy Things."

What an exuberant way to bring the energy back up again! Folks were tossing balloons as we enjoyed this celebration of a song. Although we had a strong feeling there was something more to come, we didn’t expect "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley!"

We felt super lucky and incredibly pumped to be present to see sneaky little Sally rear her head after 31 shows. It was a short-but-sweet version, an invitation to get your best funkified boogie on with a fun vocal jam at the end.

To put an exclamation point on the frolicking show, the opening chords of "Wilson" motivated the entire crowd to shout his evil name in unison. Every form of gyrating, knee-bending, arm-flailing, pirouetting, and cavorting was in view, as we bid the venue that is our PHISH home away from home Good Night!

© 2022 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
© 2022 PHISH (Rene Huemer)

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Comments

, comment by Waveslave
Waveslave The best review I think I’ve ever read on here, about one of the best show I’ve ever seen. The Rise/Come Together jam was absolutely incredible, and the way you described it along with the rest of the show…you captured it all.

What a show. What a band. Thanks for the awesome recap
, comment by suzydrano
suzydrano Thank you so much!
, comment by GottaJibWho
GottaJibWho Now thAt’s how you write a review!! Thank you for capturing the essence of this show and sharing your joyful experience! Wish I coulda been there…
, comment by nichobert
nichobert 16-17 minute mark of R/CT is my #1 seed for minute the year so far! Great review
, comment by mgolia6
mgolia6 Very descriptive and patiently drafted review. I loved the balance between describing the music and describing the moment. It felt like a cohesive piece knowing two perspectives were putting the writing together. Thank you for taking your time putting It together and sharing your experience.
, comment by Waveslave
Waveslave @nichobert said:
16-17 minute mark of R/CT is my #1 seed for minute the year so far! Great review
Minute 12-13 is right up there with it. Goodness gracious. And then starting about the 14:45 mark when we enter Allman territory, all the way to the finish…that’s it. That’s IT
, comment by Brain_of_Brass
Brain_of_Brass I so appreciate this detailed review of the show. It's a remarkable recap.
Raleigh was only my fourth time seeing Phish. As a sexagenarian, I had long ago given up on attending most crowded events. But my son, who had been subjected to my off-beat music choices through his childhood, has turned the tables on me. He has returned all the funk, jazz, prog rock and more with one quartet of amazing musicians and people.
He turned me into a fan by taking me in 2019 to the second of three gigs (he went to all of them). I return for more when I can.
Your review captured why I ignore what work demands, body aches, the weather and finances are telling me ... and just go.
From children to folks older than me (albeit not many), I feel at home with y'all at each concert.
The music is exceptional and the people connect with each other with humanity that I had been missing for some time.
Thanks for writing with such care and kindness. It means a lot to me, as do you folks.
I've had a "brain of brass," but because of people like you, I'm a fan at last.
, comment by BigJibbooty
BigJibbooty Great review! Just one disagreement with you regarding the "ever sought-after slow build Piper". You got me all pumped up to finally hear one of those again, but I just listened and was disappointment to hear 1 minute of musical intro before the singing started. I think I speak for all the "Long Piper Intro Chasers" in saying that the 4-5 minute musical intro is what we're all hoping to see return one of these days..... will it ever? I hope that's not just a thing of the past!
, comment by wilson69
wilson69 Thanks for sharing your sentiments about Walnut Creek. I have similar lifelong bonds to SPAC and Great Wood. I went did the Charlotte>Walnut?Portsmouth weekend in 2011 and was very impressed with the whole scene there. With the creek and the hometown feel, it reminded me of SPAC with a better lawn. And what a show- Cars Trucks Buses>Peaches opener, Guyute, down south Curtis Lowe, hugged a lot of strangers during Esther, Been Caught Stealing (such a unique moment), that beast of Split, Good Times encore. Glad you got another good show!
, comment by spac_melt
spac_melt @nichobert said:
16-17 minute mark of R/CT is my #1 seed for minute the year so far! Great review

Shades of the ‘10 Greek Simple in that segment????????
, comment by nOOborn_elf
nOOborn_elf @BigJibbooty said:
Great review! Just one disagreement with you regarding the "ever sought-after slow build Piper". You got me all pumped up to finally hear one of those again, but I just listened and was disappointment to hear 1 minute of musical intro before the singing started. I think I speak for all the "Long Piper Intro Chasers" in saying that the 4-5 minute musical intro is what we're all hoping to see return one of these days..... will it ever? I hope that's not just a thing of the past!

Listen to the jam out of sea stars. The real call of the Piper is going on for 2 minutes in there before the”intro” begins. Piper is a complex little worm
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