As we were doing our HF Pod review of Mexico, it made me want to share some additional thoughts on the last weekend of incredible music, relaxation and fun. I have a lot of thoughts on the music, but I also did a lot of thinking about what makes this so incredibly unlike anything else Phish does.
Important disclaimer up front: I realize how fortunate I am for being able to go on this trip. Even though it was a big expense for us, I was able to pay for the trip, arrange childcare for my kids, do my work remotely and take a few days off, and generally experience the beauty—which is a huge privilege.
Musically, post-”The Lizards,” I was immediately struck by how in control Trey was the entire weekend. He’s always in control, in a lot of ways, but the way he played all weekend was from the front—leading jams, playing fills and riffs where you don’t always hear them, and constructing these unique and interesting setlists. I got my first “Peaches en Regalia” in 27 years of seeing Phish, and the “I Never Needed You Like This Before” was a fiery trip. Add a 20-minute “Tweezer” and what I thought was a great combo of “Shade,” “Evolve,” “Tube,” “Sigma Oasis,” and “Sand,” and you have a great start to the weekend.
On Friday morning, we started to really get into vacation mode at Moon Palace. For me, it always takes a couple days of being away to really get into the mindset of relaxation. That’s when I started to think about what made this truly relaxing. And it took me until I got home, when I realized that I wasn’t as tired as I would be from any other Phish run, despite having seen four shows on the beach and staying up late with friends for five nights.
Of course, the setting is perfect—from the arrival at Moon Palace to the room service to the multiple pools and restaurants to the beautiful beach and ocean, it’s the lap of luxury.
But then I start to reflect on the past two years, and how insane they have been. There have been countless articles on how we all have been feeling exhaustion and fatigue due to the pandemic. Even if you’ve been lucky enough to not have contracted COVID-19, you’ve likely felt exhausted, overwhelmed and stressed all the same. I find myself feeling exhausted by stress, but also by decision-making: about my kids’ schooling, about the safety of social interactions, about doing or not doing things in public, about running a business during a pandemic…the list goes on and on.
And it was then that I realized what made this weekend so special. You are removed from the stress of decision-making. The biggest decision you have to make is which pool you’re going to, or which all-inclusive restaurant you’re going to dine at. (Or, if you’re my wife, which kick-ass outfit to wear.)
But the resort, and the weekend, are all planned to remove these variables, so that you actually can kick back and truly relax. The staff is so incredibly accommodating and friendly, you could literally lie in bed all day and you’d still get three good meals and whatever else you need. The point of this trip is to leave everything behind, however briefly, and surrender to the flow of the vacation. We were able to travel to the shows with six of our new-ish friends, all neighbors we moved close to in 2020. We hadn't all seen shows together, so that was pretty great. And combining that with seeing many longtime friends, and the community is growing even brighter now.
It’s also helpful that the WiFi that’s available throughout the resort is pretty spotty on the beach. As a result, I didn’t have the opportunity to send or receive messages during the shows. I left my phone in the room for two of the shows, and that was also freeing and relaxing.
Lastly, reconnecting with the Phish community in a largely safe and spaced environment was really awesome. Positive vibes, no judgments about anything, encouraging and reinforcing people everywhere, you walk into an amazing environment.
So, do you have attendance bias if you go to Mexico? Absolutely. But it’s deeper than the music. If you’re lucky enough to be able to go, you should try to get down there.
Okay, back to the music, briefly. Friday night was the first full show, and from the start, it was excellent and strong. The “Ghost” jam was great, but to me, the “Halley’s Comet” > “S.A.N.T.O.S.” > “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was the highlight of the set. During “Satisfaction,” you could see the band slowly realizing that they know how to play this song, and they just drop into it perfectly. Not just a tease, but a full playing of a verse or two and a chorus of a song that they all clearly grew up playing. One of those great organic Phish moments.
The second set, only the second four-song second set since 2004, featured a beautiful, flowing combination of “Down with Disease,” “Backwards Down The Number Line,” “Carini” and “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing.” The jamming was thematically connected but diverse—things got deep, then they got melodic and blissy. They got funky, and then they got ambient. This is the 2021 sound with a little more refinement. Throughout the weekend, I was impressed by how tight the band was and how fluidly they went between these styles. I can’t wait to hear the MSG and Summer shows.
Saturday was a wonderful day. If you can believe it, we sat by the pool all day eating great food and drinking watered-down but satisfying drinks. I was able to go to the fundraiser for The Waterwheel Foundation, and then settled in pretty close to the stage for the show. It immediately got heavy with an Axilla (I and II!), which was a bit reminiscent of Vegas. The “Twist” didn’t let up, and by the time we hit the “Wolfman’s Brother” we were all floating in space.
I thought the “Wolfman’s” was emblematic of their sound right now—effects-heavy funk with lots of textured synth sounds from Page, Trey, and Mike. The jam was like “Your Pet Cat” but with many more layers. And then back to the blissful grooves where “Carini” and “DWD” left off the night before. What a wild journey.
The second set delivered a full segued six-song adventure, with “Set Your Soul Free” bringing the alien landing directly onto the beach and threatening to absorb us all, before dissolving into “Simple,” bringing us back above ground. The “Scents and Subtle Sounds” brought us even further up with the lovely melodies. And “Crosseyed and Painless” picked the blissful direction back up yet again. If you haven’t heard the stunning “Slave to the Traffic Light” in the encore, please listen now.
Sunday was taco bar day. We sat at a pool and ordered tacos for five hours. Over and over and over. And with the early start time, suddenly it was time to head to the show. I took some shit for tweeting that Sunday night was an instant top 20 show for me. Let me briefly elaborate.
Almost the entire first set was spent in the ocean, frolicking with friends and moving to the music. Once I got back to the beach, I was able to fully appreciate another alien landing with “Split Open and Melt” just as it was getting dark. A one-of-a-kind first set.
The second set featured my favorite jamming of the weekend. The “Everything's Right” > “Prince Caspian” > “Beneath a Sea of Stars Part 1” > “Golden Age” > “Lonely Trip” was a perfectly played, perfectly balanced, and uplifting journey to end this weekend. I still think “Sea of Stars” is one of Phish’s most interesting songs, and this improv, although it wasn’t super long, was one of the most creative things they did all weekend.
Anytime we get to see Phish, we’re lucky. We’re lucky they’re still happy and healthy and playing, we’re lucky we can figure out a way to get in the door and be with our friends. But this experience is beyond anything I’ve experienced. I felt like the most fortunate person on Earth. And I can’t wait to go back next year.
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