[Recap courtesy of dot net user @ObviousFool. Thank you! -Ed.]
Somewhere between the poolside daiquiris and the beachside margaritas, we realize that we might need a little down time before the show. We retreat to our suite for a soak in the hot tub and a doobie while we plan our evening. This does not suck.
We decide to go in shortly after doors to take in the surroundings, and get our bearings---and for the massive taco buffet, which also does not suck. After a day of eating at buffets that wouldn’t even make it at the Circus Circus Reno, we are grateful for the delectable sustenance.
Before we make our way forward into the crowd, the skies open up briefly and douse us in warm rain; not enough to soak, but just enough to cool us down. We ditch our flip flops by a palm tree and walk barefoot through the sand, proclaiming, once again, that this does not suck. And as the sun sinks into the western sky, a warm breeze comes in over the ocean, the lights go down, and the Phish take the stage.
As is the case on any show day, speculation about setlist selections and openers has run rampant. All the usual suspects have been mentioned, e.g., “Free” (splashing in the sea), “Soul Planet” (the ocean is love), “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing” (duh). But when does Phish ever do what we expect them to? Besides my one friend who picks it every show, nobody was expecting them to open with “Spock’s Brain” (last played 7/30/03, 429 shows). “Twist” comes next and is an excellent display of just how locked-in the band is, picking up right where they left off seven and a half weeks ago. “Free” provides our first self-referential lyrics of the evening, as a handful of fans flock to splash in the sea. A short but sweet rendition with fantastic interplay between Trey soaring and Mike digging over the meaty groove that Fishman and Page lay down.
As though “Spock’s Brain” wasn’t a big enough bustout, we’re treated next to a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Who Loves The Sun?”, the first time played since its debut on 10/31/98, a whopping 602 shows ago! Amongst the sunbaked and peeling in the crowd, the sentiment is appreciated. Who loves the sun? Definitely not everyone. “Everything’s Right” comes next and continues its trend of strong performances. There are a handful of Phish songs I think are mediocre at best, but worth it for the jams that follow, and “Everything’s Right” is certainly finding its place on that list. An inspired jam with fluttery peaks galore, this is textbook bliss hose that can’t even be spoiled by the abrupt return to the song proper and a sudden--but tight--ending.
“We Are Come To Outlive Our Brains” arrives as the first Kasvot Växt tune of the evening. For those keeping track at home, they’ve played a KV song in 9 of the 10 sets since the Halloween run, a pretty good indication of how well those songs fit into their existing repertoire. “Rise/Come Together” follows, and I finally succumb to my need for relief. I grab my flip flops from the palm tree and saunter across the beach, not missing a single note. On my way back, I decide to stop for a fresh, hot churro. This still does not suck.
“Funky Bitch” comes next and Trey is brimming with confidence, resulting in a fiery shredfest, replete with ample organ slaying by Page----another trend of the evening. Finally, “Sand” closes the set out with a short, blazing rendition, as we all equate our lives with the sand between our toes.
Set break is like set break at any other Phish show. Some people head back to the taco buffet, others head back to their rooms for a quick shower and to change out of their swimsuits. We decide we don’t need to go anywhere, as we are being brought piña coladas where we stand! This does not suck.
“Soul Planet” opens set two, and I’ve never seen the ocean so full of love. And hippies. This is another one of those new songs that don’t do much for me until the jam, but this jam gets right to the business. Page lays down some dirty organ tones and Mike follows suit, creating a dark space for Trey to melt faces. Fishman drives this jam with a funky backbone that provides a seamless transition into our third huge bustout of the night, a cover of Little Feat’s “Spanish Moon," not played since its debut on 10/31/10. And now the ocean is love…and whiskey…and bad cocaine. “Spanish Moon” is played quite well, and reminds me how much I wish they’d bring back some more songs from Waiting For Columbus.
“I Always Wanted It This Way” gives us the first Page song of the night, and is easily a top version of this song. The traditional jam makes way for a much more stripped down funky groove, driven by Mike and Fish. It doesn’t take long for Trey and Page to steer the jam back into bliss hose, and while I prefer the dark and the funky, we’re dancing on a beach in Mexico, so bliss is totally understandable. And the crunchy funk comes right back in for a transition into “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long." (Yup, that’s another Kasvot Växt song). An absolutely smoldering “2001” comes next. This version is super patient and builds slowly, reminiscent of the cow funk of ’98.
“Bathtub Gin” follows and the bliss hose continues. I love a fourth quarter “Gin” and this is no exception. Inspired shredding from Trey while Page continues to absolutely slay the keys, and it occurs to me just how hard Page has been slaying all night. “Squirming Coil” is my new encore call. But no! “Coil” shows up early to close out the set. The seemingly constant chatter is all but silenced when Page is left in the spotlight, sweetly serenading us. “We’re so happy you’re here," he says as he leaves the stage. So are we, Page. So are we.
“Waste” comes in the first encore slot, another meta-lyrical selection, as we gleefully waste our time in the tropics with our favorite band. “Bold As Love” closes out the show in typical blazing fashion, sending us all off into the breezy evening, ready for whatever comes next.
In the end this show is very indicative of where Phish is at in 2019. What they lacked in setlist construction and flow they made up for with rarities and deep jamming. And while the song selection may have been odd for folks watching at home, dancing in the sand, with the waves crashing over our toes, there was one sentiment we all shared. This continues to not suck.
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