With the sun still high in the sky, Phish took the stage early at 5 p.m. for the fourth and final night of the band’s annual stay at Moon Palace Resort in Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Having made the experience well worth the trip—and the cost of travel—with surprising selections and unforgettable jams, the band had nothing to prove on night four. It was time to kick back and catch some rays: every band member rocked shades at first, except the bespectacled Page McConnell, who happened to be the only one on a shaded part of the stage.

“Sigma Oasis” established a triumphant tone with a jam that felt like the ultimate Phish beach party. Between the palm trees, the ocean, Trey Anastasio‘s tropical resort shirt, and the wooden border around the stage that resembled an enormous hula skirt, the vacation vibes were strong.

Jon Fishman‘s hihat then signaled the start of “David Bowie”. The song’s intricate composed parts were a stark contrast from the laid-back opening jam. After finishing the composed instrumental section, the jam started off airy and light and grew progressively more intense as Trey played lead and Page comped masterfully on piano. Fish meanwhile pushed the energy and bassist Mike Gordon held down the rhythm. The composed climax of the jam arrived smoothly at the end of a solid nine minutes.

The laid-back beach party vibe returned as the sun started coming down like the “Wolfman’s Brother”. Beads of sweat dripped down Trey’s sun-kissed face as he pushed his vocal abilities to their limits, emboldened by the band’s recent shift to in-ear monitors, which has resulted in more intricate vocal lines, vibrato, and generally expressive singing due to the band members’ ability to hear themselves more clearly at lower volumes.

Fish’s playing, which has become more sophisticated than ever in Phish’s 4.0 era, was a syncopated maelstrom before the drummer in the dress settled into a regular backbeat as the “Wolfman’s Brother” jam progressed.

“Tube” lit up the dance floor with the kind of hard psychedelic funk usually reserved for after dark, though the sun—alluded to by Trey, who changed the lyrics from “fun” to “sun”—was still beating down on the crowd and band. The jam began with an assortment of affected synth sounds from Trey and Page while Mike and Fish found a deep pocket. During a seriously funky jam, one major downside to the sun became apparent: The light rig—already scaled down to accommodate the venue’s lack of ceiling—was all but ineffectual.

Most of the audience was shaded by the time the band reached the rock blues shamble part of the song and moved into the second verse. Trey delivered the lyrics coolly like a jam band version of Steely Dan‘s Donald Fagen before transitioning directly into a transcendent “Prince Caspian”. The sun had officially begun to set by the song’s peak, and the lights seemed to start twinkling more intensely behind the band. The band members were the only ones still in danger of getting a sunburn due to the stage’s orientation—Page notwithstanding.

Newer song “Mull” was both deeply funky and a well-crafted composition, with interesting movements, grooves, and harmonies—a pretty typical Mike song, in other words. Trey, Page, and Mike each riffed on one of the song’s main melodies as the jam became more expansive and the sun tucked down behind the beach-adjacent resort.

The crowd then welcomed a telling of the story of the “Ghost” with a jam that fluctuated back and forth between funky and dreamy. The stage fog finally started catching the lights, and more importantly, the band finally escaped the sun as Trey took the lead. The song’s ending was a little rough after Trey tried and failed to guide the band back to “Ghost” after a ten-plus-minute improvisation.

Still wearing his shades, Trey sang the opening to “Squirming Coil” about “Satan on the beach trying to catch a ray,”—ironic after he had been baking in the sun for an hour and just finally escaped. Leo nonchalantly pushed his glasses up his nose with one hand as he played blazing fast 16th notes with the other before the rest of the band faded out and quietly left the stage to applause as he played the song’s final tender chords on grand piano, bringing the last first set of the weekend to a close. The audience roared in approval of the set as he parted with, “Thank you so much. We’ll see you real soon.”

The sun was fully down by the time Phish returned from set break to a stage flooded with smoke and blue light. Chris Kuroda‘s light rig began to twinkle during the particularly, no, comically long build-up to the opening of “Possum”. The ensuing “Possum” jam made for a solid set opener, and of course a well-deserved tribute to our fallen friend, the possum. The colorful lights were extra impressive after a sunny first set.

Bluesy rock shuffle “Julius” came next with lots of energy in the jam as Trey, Page, and Fish battled to see who could play a quicker subdivision.

The first two songs of the set were high-energy but not too boundary-pushing. Things were about to take a turn, though, with fan favorite “You Enjoy Myself”. Nothing beats that first, “Boy! Man! God! Sh–t!” besides maybe a really good, “Wash Uffitze, drive me to Firenze.” Oh, and who can resist a good trampoline routine? Not Trey or Mike.

The YEM jam took a synthy turn after some squirrelly tones from Trey and before ultimately settling into a mellow groove with some back and forth between Trey and Mike. Another high point of the jam was a sudden break into a funky bass solo from Mike. Fish grooved along at first but dropped out to give Mike the last word before the song’s a capella ending. Trey couldn’t help but laugh as the band launched into an extended vocal jam, complemented by sweeping white lights and then lots of colors. There’s something so surreal about a sophisticated light show during a primal vocal jam. If aliens land on Earth one day, I hope it’s while Phish is making weird animal sounds into their mics for thousands of fans.

“Everything’s Right” came together after the vocal jam faded out—a tough act to follow, but what could be better than singing, “It’s gonna be alright,” on a tropical beach? The song featured one of the deepest jams of the set—ethereal, celestial wandering, like a cloud of gas in space that eventually coalesced, pulled together by the gravity of Trey’s lead guitar. Phish patiently built up the jam until the band was rocking full force.

Phish – “Everything’s Right” [Pro-Shot] – 2/26/23

The “Simple” jam that followed was anything but, going through sections of various distinct characters before ultimately building to an explosive guitar solo. The crowd gave their approval after the band wrapped up the song’s final verse and chorus.

“Backwards Down the Number Line” gave everyone a chance to reflect on the magic that had unfolded over the weekend—thousands gathered together to share in the groove over the course of seven seaside sets—and over the past four decades, “laughing all these many years.” It wasn’t over just yet, though.

No sooner did the band wrap the upbeat “Number Line” jam than Trey counted off “Suzy Greenberg”. The song’s anthemic chorus added a celebratory mood to the end of the set. Another high point came during Page’s piano solo as the band’s other members locked in on spontaneous hits, leaving space for Page before coming back in to reestablish the groove and ramp up the energy further. “Suzy” finished the set on a high note.

“Thank you for coming. We’ll see you next year I guess. Be well. We love you. Thank you,” Trey offered as the band exited the stage.

With a little gas left in the tank, Phish returned for a three-song encore. Light, jazzy guitar signaled the start of a mellow (and rare) “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters”, a bit of a strange choice to end the epic four-day weekend, with its intricate composed instrumental sections, but it wasn’t a standalone. “Waste” created one last sentimental moment—”If I could be wasting my time with you”—before “Slave to the Traffic Light” brought it home.

Four days of Phish on the beach complete with big jams and bust-outs, 2023’s destination weekend at Moon Palace Resort offered plenty to write home about. The seven-set run was a fitting celebration of the band’s 40th year, which continues with an upcoming West Coast run and summer tour including seven nights at Madison Square Garden. For a list of tour dates and ticketing details, visit Phish’s website.

Revisit Live For Live Music‘s coverage of Phish: Riviera Maya 2023: Thursday | Friday | Saturday.

Setlist: Phish | Riviera Maya | Moon Palace Resort | Cancún, Mexico | 2/26/23

Set 1: Sigma Oasis, David Bowie, Wolfman’s Brother, Tube > Prince Caspian, Mull > Ghost, The Squirming Coil

Set 2: Possum > Julius, You Enjoy Myself, Everything’s Right > Simple > Backwards Down the Number Line > Suzy Greenberg

Encore: McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Waste, Slave to the Traffic Light

Trey teased San-Ho-Zay in Wolfman’s Brother. A lyric in Tube was changed from “fun” to “sun.” Page teased the theme from Speed Racer in YEM.