After finding a groove and greeting fans fans with a welcome set on Thursday and wading into improvisational waters on Friday, Phish was all warmed up and ready to dive in head first on Saturday at Moon Palace Resort in Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell, and Jon Fishman wasted no time as they took the stage and plunged into the deep end with a sprawling “Gotta Jibboo”. The groove remained calm throughout a brief opening jam much like like the surface of the nearby ocean, which looked placid and empty compared to the buzzing human fractal on the beach beside it.
Setlist staple “No Men In Man’s Land” kept a similar pace while adding a bit of attitude. The crowd gave a cheer of appreciation when the band sang, “You’re happy that we’re here,” confirming that they were eager and ready to follow wherever the band might wander. Phish’s vocals seemed particularly on point—not just on pitch, but with extra passion and vibrato—the potentially awkward shift to using in-ear monitors seems to be paying off. A solid and groovy jam section proved the band was feeling more than comfortable on the foreign shore. They continued moving as a unit, grooving out together rather than supporting a single soloist. At this point, they were beyond testing the waters and beginning to catch waves.
Phish – “Gotta Jibboo” [Pro-Shot] – 2/25/23
The band let off some “Steam” next, sticking with a grooving feel while taking the set in a funky direction. Even as Trey took the lead at the start of the jam, he left ample room between phrases to be filled in by Page on organ and Mike on bass. The band’s close listening came to a climax as Trey and Fish coalesced on a single rhythm before finding divergent streams. The group-mind magic that keeps Phish at the top of the jam pantheon was on full display as lighting designers Chris Kuroda and Andrew Giffin joined the conversation.
“Poor Heart” reared its head next for the first time since the summer of 2021, adding a bit of bluegrass twang to what would prove a stylistic gumbo of a setlist. The band exchanged a few awkward smiles as Mike lost the time for a moment at the end of the song, but they ultimately converged once again and finished strong.
Mike’s voice boomed as he bellowed the bass line of the a cappella intro to “Halley’s Comet”. After more effortless group improvisation, a sudden change in the groove from Fish signaled the start of “Saw It Again”, a song originally debuted in 1997 by Trey’s New York! project featuring jazz musician James Harvey and members of alt-punk band The Pants during a one-off performance at Burlington’s Club Toast. Fish’s frightened-sounding background vocals and audio samples added color to the unabashedly dark tune. After having percolated over funk and picked over bluegrass, the moody head-banger once again highlighted Phish’s impressive stylistic versatility.
The tone remained strange as the band transitioned to the aquatic “Theme from the Bottom”, complementing the wave theme of the previous night. Next came “Maze”, another song about the anxiety of finding yourself somewhere you don’t belong. The band kept a steady pace through uptempo improvisations with spirited solos from Trey and Page and finished the song on a high note, but they weren’t ready for set break just yet.
“About to Run”, a song from Trey’s 2019 Ghosts of the Forest album, took the first set’s penultimate slot. The extra spacious rendition was a stark contrast from the high-voltage “Maze” that came before it, helping to ease the crowd back down from the set’s energetic climax. The band couldn’t help but ramp things back up, though, with a psychedelic guitar solo that packed a punch of its own.
Page took the helm for a set-closing “Most Events Aren’t Planned”, the signature 2002 song from his Vida Blue songbook that was not debuted live by Phish until the Baker’s Dozen in 2017. A high-energy rock jam brought the first set to close.
Phish again wasted no time upon returning for set two. The improvisational floodgate opened early with a slow-building “Down With Disease” jam that stretched past 25 minutes, making it the longest exploration of the night. The band seamlessly glided through sections of dreamy bliss before gracefully fading out and leaving the initial composition unfinished.
Phish – “Down With Disease” [Pro-Shot] – 2/25/23
The jams continued with a cover of TV on the Radio‘s “Golden Age”. The crowd clapped in unison when prompted and gave a cheer to confirm they felt they were “in the right place.” Another strong group improvisation flowed into “Soul Planet”. After reminding the tropical beachside audience that “the ocean is love,” Phish launched into some improvised space funk that dissolved into ambient experimentation.
“Runaway Jim” offered some levity ahead of a sublime “Light” jam that transformed gradually into a slow-building “Piper”. The band seamlessly sped up the tempo together before reaching the explosive jam section. Phish settled down from there into a grooving “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, striking a celebratory mood as if to say, “Hey, it’s a party, after all.” Mike and CK5 led the way on the ensuing spacey funk jam that ultimately gave way to “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.”, which finished the set on a high despite being one of the least jammed-out songs of the night.
Phish – “Light” > “Piper” [Pro-Shot] – 2/25/23
After a short encore break, the opening drum beat to “Fee” elicited cheers from the crowd. Trey laid back on guitar as he used a megaphone to sing the verses. The band then capped off the show with the first “The Wedge” since last summer.
Phish definitely hit a stride on night three in Mexico, the four musicians deepening their group improvisation and showcasing their ability to play as one. With three nights in the books and only Sunday’s early-evening show remaining, the Phish Mexico 2023 finale is sure to be a good one. Tune in via LivePhish tonight to catch night four.
Setlist: Phish | Moon Palace The Grand | Cancún, Mexico | 2/25/23
Set 1: Gotta Jibboo, No Men In No Man’s Land, Steam, Poor Heart, Halley’s Comet -> Saw It Again, Theme From the Bottom > Maze, About to Run, Most Events Aren’t Planned
Set 2: Down with Disease > Golden Age (TV on the Radio) > Soul Planet > Runaway Jim > Light -> Piper > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.
Encore: Fee, The Wedge
“Down with Disease” was unfinished.