[We would like to thank user @Phish_tank Andy Zellinger for recapping last night's show. -Ed.]
Everyone entered the venue looking relaxed and sun-kissed as they did the stingray shuffle past psychedelic art installations and street tacos, margaritas in hand. Tonight was the first full show of the run, following a funky dance party Welcome Set last night. The lights went down around 7:49 pm to start night two of this four-night run at the Moon Palace Cancun.
Trey must have seen the crowd wearing a lot of white and understood this was Kasvot Växt night. The band started playing something vaguely between the opening of “Ghost” and “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” that left us wondering which one would get performed (think of the hi-hat intro similarity between “Maze” and ”David Bowie”). The moment came into clarity as the band played “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” to kick off the first set. This was the first time S.A.N.T.O.S. was played as a show opener and it worked as a slow blues warm up. It was tight and quick but certainly not a memorable version like what we recently heard out of “L.A. Woman” during their fall 2021 visit to Inglewood. hat kind of pairing with a classic rock cover could happen at any moment at a Phish show and there was a lot of potential left in this show.
The band moved immediately into Ghost as the pressure of the opening tease was released. Mike and Trey locked-in for a soft jam around the nine-minute mark, and things got a little juicy with Page on the grand piano, Fishman driving the rhythm toward the peak, Trey on the high pitch notes and Mike helped finish "Ghost" with a perfect segue into “Free.” This version was standard but cohesive. Some great effects from Trey echoed over the beach, as half my group left to splash in the sea. This "Free" felt mostly standard but was still enjoyable, and offered the first tastes of jamming for the night. The ocean theme came back, as it usually does when Phish plays Mexico.
Then came “Back on the Train.” Page took us on this familiar ride for a well-placed folky Phish song to dance to after the bluesy opening segment. This 'train had a bearded Fishman working as its scrappy conductor. Page moved from moog to grand piano as Trey hit some cool slide licks for a finish that was my favorite moment of the night so far.
Mike wasted no time after BOTT and quickly led the band with the vocal bass line that certainly meant “Halley's Comet” would blaze into focus. The crowd sang-along for the composed portion. The "Halley's" jam had Trey attack-solo: he held a beautiful sustained note as Page worked the grand piano some more. CK5 worked on a sweet night sky motif with the lights. "Halley's" featured a major progression bliss-out jam that brought a little "Ghost" tease. Trey then sang “This is what space smells like” and the S.A.N.T.O.S quote quickly brought us back into a full-on “Say It to Me S.A.N.T.O.S.”
The vibes were like the "L.A. Woman" into "S.A.N.T.O.S." sequence, and the short reprise acted a launch pad for Trey to work into “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones. This organic cover might not have been as high-energy as the recent "L.A. Woman," but it left everyone knowing space smells like satisfaction. This first-time cover of an all-time classic from a band they have once embodied on Halloween is inherently must-listen Phish, and should be enjoyed with the full context of the "Halley's" jam -->into "S.A.N.T.O.S." for the bluesy launchpad. The anthemic lyrics from Page and Trey brought all smiles, the crowd included. Fishman on the Charlie Watts tribute to finish, and Trey held a sustained note hinting toward "2001." Fishman understood what he needed to do, and dropped into the driving and iconic drum intro for “ Also Sprach Zarathustra” aka “2001."
While there was a unique synth lead-in from Page, this was a quick and standard version of "2001" that brought us a predictable peak from the band accompanied by CK5’s white lights.
The close for set one was a ripping “Chalk Dust Torture.” Mike was the MVP of this, as Trey trilled and Page stuck to familiar territory on the grand piano. Although the opener and closer of this set were standard, the set felt cohesive, and everyone in attendance seemed to get some satisfaction.
Around 9:30 the band came back. Mike Gordon signaled the opening ooze of “Down with Disease.” Dancing on the sand and dancing on my beach lyrics reminded everyone exactly where we were, and how much it Did Not Suck. Juxtaposed to the first set---which was a very song forward set---this second set came to JAM. This "DWD" jam was the first deep "Type II" exploration beginning around the nine minute mark. A sweet mood for this "Disease," the band moved into a major jam. This was extended into slow, beachy-bliss vibes for a wonderful second set opener that found Trey lead the sweet melody with Mike thumping hard, driving the bass line. Trey held another sustained note, which got some whoops of joy from the audience. Fishman then led the band to what was almost a "Piper"-like build between 14 and 17 minutes, and Page then busted out some Sci Fi Soldier effects for a hint at an alien invasion. Fishman teased "Ruby Waves" and this spacey jam then came in for a landing.
Trey ripped softly into the opening notes of “Backwards Down the Number Line.” The jam goes backwards down to recently familiar territory---which I will admit has been impressive in the second set placement that I once had bemoaned. While not the standout of the set, BDTNL was still an extremely solid version. Next up was a dark, headbanging "Carini." As it's one of my personal favorite songs, I couldn’t have been happier with where this set was going.
Trey attacked early on in the "Carini" jam. It sounded similar to the theme we heard from that amazing "Carini" encore at the Chase Center in SF last fall, and last night's version is one I'll have to revisit often. Some low end synth and bass land this ship. Fishman then takes us into "A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing," with that badass drum line. The band played an incredibly tight composed opening to start it out, and then got into something very interesting for what I would consider the jam of the night. Around seven or so minutes in there is a great synth behind Trey doing something which sounds like a future song, or something which will at least live rent free in my brain until tomorrow. The ASIHTOS jam continued to wobble past some tweezery energy, with Jon Fishman again leading the pack to remind us this was his song choice. The song peaked around the 10 minute mark and this peak was a peak life experience---as Phish usually bring us every time we are in Mexico. This jam felt more like fall 2021 than the opening night funky dance party. ASIHTOS then got a trilling peak from Trey and weirdo Page for some must-hear Phish. More sustained notes from Trey---this time thick with the salt air that fit the ocean theme of the night. This was a four song second set that KILLED from start to finish and served as a reminder of why we love Phish!
Before the encore, Trey thanked the Moon Palace staff. THANKS MOON PALACE!! Trey thanked the balcony nearest the venue for putting on a light show, and CID for hosting this incredible event. A standard “Wading in the Velvet Sea” followed (more ocean references to complete the theme), and it was in turn followed by a somewhat sloppy “Antelope," which nevertheless left everyone with a smile on their face. Not an all time great show, but still FAR above average, with extended improv that kept everyone very satisfied. A standard show in Riviera Maya may still rank as the best night of my life, as it is hard to shake the attendance bias of Phish Mexico.
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