The band started the show with the bouncy “Turtle In The Clouds”. This Kasvöt Vaxt tune has found a familiar spot at the top of shows, of the 11 times it’s been played, the 2018 ballad has found itself in the opener slot seven times. After Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon bungled the choreography, the band regained it’s footing and closed it out.
Bust-outs and surprises have become tradition in Mexico, as Phish loves to spoil the fans willing to head down Riviera Maya. For the first time since Bonnaroo in 2012, and for only the sixth time ever, “Shafty” appeared in the setlist as something other than just a tease. By quickly falling into a spacey, layered 3.0 groove, Phish showed the potential “Shafty” has to become an interesting jam vehicle, but a few minutes were enough for Trey, and the band effortlessly wrapped it up.
Related: Phish Takes “Free” Deep, Encores With “YEM” On Night One In Mexico [Video]
“Plasma” showed up in the third slot. As the jam started, Page McConnell quickly dug into the Wurlitzer, letting the rest of the guys know to pick up the pace. They obliged, and moved quickly into the jam. At this point in the set, it may have felt as if the band had been pacing themselves a bit. But even though they were laid back, they felt totally in sync. That easiness was on full display as they slipped back into the coda of “Shafty” before cleverly wrapping up with “Plasma” and its signature rift.
Though never unwelcome at any point, “The Lizards” landed in a strange spot. Found mostly in encores these days, it’s been over 10 years since the last time the song made its way into a first set. Trey dedicated the next song to CID Entertainment and the rest of the team that puts on Phish’s Mexican festival. “Every single person has a hot tub in their room, come on! This is honor of that,” Trey said, as he strummed the opening chords to “Bathtub Gin.”
A couple minutes into the jam, Page led the band into E-flat major, which is where the foundation was laid for what it would become. Page was the quarterback here. Early, he leaned on the B3 and then eventually moved to a chorusy, delayed Rhodes that took the jam in a completely new, darker direction in B-flat minor. Eventually, Page let Trey take over and the dark “Gin” started to rage. The rest of the band seemed to know it was coming as Trey led the segue back into “Shafty”, complete with full lyrics, before properly finishing “Gin”.
“Blaze On” was up next, with Trey adding the lyrics “You’ll be dancing on the beach.” Mike and Jon Fishman were so tightly locked in during this set, laying such a solid foundation for Page and Trey to dance upon, that they faded into the background a bit. The drums and bass felt like the wave, while Trey and Page felt like the surfers. There was lots of room in this jam, and each band member had an easy time filling in the space. Some subtle “Plasma” teases showed up, reminiscent of the “Plasma”-themed Providence run from last fall. “Blaze On” was fun, but the jam didn’t materialize into anything special and the band quietly ended it.
Next, The Who ballad, “Sea and Sand” showed up for only the fourth time ever, and for the first time since 7/20/1998. Debuted by Phish during their musical costume on Halloween in 1995, the Quadrophenia tune gave the rest of the band a quick breather, as this one is all Page on piano and vocals. The song just so happens to be about a character named “Jimmy” and his affinity for the beach. Might we see Jimmy again later in the weekend?
To cap off an already solid set, the band launched into an energetic and fun “Possum”. Shortly after taking over the solo from Page, Trey demonstrated his signature sustain and held one note for 90 seconds as the band went through the form of the tune, waiting patiently for the payoff that would eventually come. More “Shafty” teases were thrown in for good measure before they wrapped up with the “Plasma” riff. The band was on the same page for this first set, but part of that might’ve been because they didn’t take on any of the more ambitious material. A relaxed, connected Phish showed up early tonight.
To open the second set was a newer tune in the Phish canon, “Sigma Oasis”. Debuted by Trey in 2018 at a solo acoustic show, and first played by Phish in North Charleston on 12/8/19, the song was short and sweet. Before it ended, Fishman kicked into the familiar beat of “2001”. As much fun as this tune is for the crowd, it’s really a chance for Chris Kuroda to show off his lighting mastery, and for the band to debut any new tricks in their arsenal. This might be a stretch, but it also sounded as if Trey was teasing “Rapper’s Delight” somewhere in there.
After an experimental “2001”, the Ghosts of the Forest song “Drift While You’re Sleeping” followed. Trey seemed to really enjoy this one, especially the rocking, anthemic outro. The mellow 3.0 rarity, “Lifeboy” came next, which was perfectly placed and just about flawlessly executed. Next up was the dancey, synth-laden Big Boat tune, “I’ve Always Wanted It This Way”. Trey left no room for the energy to dwindle and led a decisive and quick jam before steering the band back into the tune, but they weren’t done yet. After another round of Page’s vocals, Trey stepped up again and brought the band back into the jam, which eventually segued seamlessly into “No Men In No Man’s Land”.
Out of “NMINML” was a subtle transition into “Piper”. The intro was a little slower and more mellow than usual, but as the skies opened and the rain started to pour down, the tempo picked up and a proper, raging “Piper” ensued. Trey has been leaning on his whammy and wah pedals, along with an octave drop, a lot over the last year, and the result is some spooky, dark Phish that I imagine fans have been missing for a while. This set was no exception. As the wind whipped around, and the crew scrambled to protect the band’s gear from the rain, Phish launched into Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” to close the set. Trey was in full guitar-hero mode for this one, which is always a bonus at the loudest point in the night.
The band barely took a break before returning to the stage with “Sand”, which found it’s way into an encore for the very first time. This version never really went anywhere interesting, and after meandering a bit, Trey forced a sloppy transition into a surprise “Weekapaug Groove”. Around since 1988, and played almost 500 times, this was only the fifth time the song wasn’t preceded somewhere in the show by “Mike’s Song”.
After lots of delay, whammy, and a “Smoke on the Water” tease from Trey, the rain intensified and so did the band, as Phish delivered one of the longer and more energetic 3.0 “Weekapaugs”. This, of course, was capped off with another “Shafty” tease and put a bow on the 22-minute encore, and the evening. Night two was well paced, and while they delivered a handful of rare tunes and surprise placements, they kept the momentum up throughout. If there was any rust, it must’ve been shaken off on Thursday. The band is clearly relaxed, confident, and having a blast in Mexico.
Phish – “Turtle In The Clouds” – 2/21/20[Video: Phish]
Phish – “Sigma Oasis” – 2/21/20[Video: Phish]
Set one: Turtle in the Clouds, Shafty Plasma Shafty Plasma The Lizards, Bathtub Gin Shafty Bathtub Gin Blaze On, Sea and Sand (The Who), Possum
Set two: Sigma Oasis 2001 Drift While You’re Sleeping, Lifeboy, I Always Wanted It This Way No Men In No Man’s Land Piper Good Times Bad Times (Led Zeppelin)
ENCORE: Sand Weekapaug Groove Shafty Lyrics changed to “you’ll be dancing on the beach.