Phish waded into the tide of improvisational waters and rode a ruby wave of hope on the second night of the band’s annual destination weekend at Moon Palace Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

After beginning Thursday’s singular welcome set with the first “Harry Hood” opener in two decades, the nostalgia of #Phish40 continued on night two as Phish reached back to its 1989 self-released debut album, Junta, to retrieve “Dinner and a Movie”, played for the first time since 2017, a gap of 177 shows. The surprising selection signaled a subtle pattern that would define the evening’s setlist—a retrospective look back on 40 years of Phish that began with band’s New Year’s Eve broken time machine gag. Whether intentional or not, the band would go on to recall songs from throughout its extensive catalog of under-appreciated studio albums. Now considered elder statesmen of the jam band world, Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell, and Jon Fishman were happy to wade gently into the improvisational deep end, rather than splashing into the unknown all at once—it was only night two, after all.

Phish – “Dinner And A Movie” [Pro-Shot] – 2/24/23

The band’s vocal harmonies sounded strong on “Dinner and a Movie”, perhaps the result of the recent shift to in-ear monitors, which allow the band members to hear themselves and each other better with fine-tuned, personalized monitor mixes. The throwback opener suggested a swelling wave of Phish 40 nostalgia, but the song ultimately gave way to a second surprising choice, “Loving Cup” by the Rolling Stones. Typically reserved for the second set closer or encore, the upbeat Stones cover elicited cheers from the crowd as Leo’s piano announced the opening chords and again when Trey sang that he played a bad guitar, but the song truly hit its stride when Fish did his best to channel the late Charlie Watts, whose tastefully spacious drum fills elevate the song with their understated simplicity.

Trey started in with a laid back lyrical guitar solo as the band began its first real improv of the night, followed soon after by Page, who jumped in to play off of Trey’s soulful licks with bluesy piano. The two went back and forth a few times before melding their voices into an airy crescendo. The song’s improvisational peak offered an early preview of things to come; the band was still just saying hello.

As the crowd clapped and took in what had just unfolded, Phish launched into next tune, “A Wave of Hope”, which would start a pattern of wave-themed songs in a nod to the ocean tide crashing on the shore: “We are flying, we are flying, / Over the water, / We are diving, we are diving, / Into the water.” Page’s piano solo was one of the high points of the tune, which ultimately morphed into a mellow jam. The four members of the band listened closely and interacted with each other as lighting designer Chris Kuroda joined in the conversation, announcing himself as the group’s fifth member. Trey began exploring increasingly spacey effects as CK5 projected a sparkling, starry sky like a planetarium above the band, who continued digging, searching for a few more moments before returning to the end of the song.

After welcoming the audience and identifying “the real party room” across the beach, Trey launched into “Stash”, eliciting more cheers from the crowd. The audience played its part perfectly in the call-and-response sections of the song, and the jam took a turn in an interesting direction right at the start as Trey and Mike experimented with otherworldly effects. The music teetered on the edge both rhythmically and in terms of key before ultimately finding a groove. Fish started firing off samples on his pad and things stayed weird and psychedelic until all of a sudden the main “Stash” groove returned, though only for a moment. A soulful piano solo and a little more improv followed before the band returned to end of song. Though aggressive at first, the band was wading into the improvisational waters with care. The crowd roared in approval of the experimentation, seeming to ask for more.

Next, things got lighthearted with the ironically upbeat “Heavy Things”. Page’s organ solo was the highlight of the otherwise rather forgettable number (but hey I’m sure it’s someone’s favorite song).

3.0 Cactus thumper “555” then reared its head for the first time since last summer. Mike seemed to take more risks than usual during his vocal runs, perhaps the result of being able to hear himself better with IEMs, but the jam was nothing to send a postcard home from Mexico about.

More funky rock followed with “Axilla (Part II), another song full of fun, but little else of note. Sauntering, relatively static improv capped off the tune from 1994’s Hoist.

“Joy” then added a bit of levity before a set-closing “Split Open and Melt”, which dissolved into a blissful atmospheric jam that gradually developed into a psychedelic maelstrom aided by CK5’s technicolor visualizations. A sloppy return to SOAM marked the end of set one.

Phish – “First Tube” [Pro-Shot] – 2/24/23

Trey Anastasio Band favorite “First Tube” provided an intense if predictable start to set two. Even Trey’s Jedi magic at the end of the song seemed a little too rehearsed. “Waves” lifted the tide, however, with a buoyant nod to the nearby saline behemoth. The first jam of set two remained calm at first. Cool blues washed over the band as they stretched out momentarily before returning to song, but the real magic came after they played the end of the tune and settled into a slow building ambient jam.

Trey ultimately led the transition into “Ruby Waves”, another nod to the proximal tide. The band continued probing into the improvisational waters and found a footing several minutes into the jam before finishing strong with added ambiance from CK5 and a tease of “Dave’s Energy Guide” from Trey.

Phish – “Ruby Waves” [Pro-Shot] – 2/24/23

After the first break in the music in quite a while, Phish slowly made its way into “Shade” off the band’s most recent studio album (not including Sci-Fi Soldier‘s Get More Down), 2020’s Sigma Oasis. The slow and straightforward sentimental number completed the band’s journey from the opening song off its 1989 debut album to the present day, but Phish wasn’t done just yet.

The energy picked back up with a rollicking “Chalk Dust Torture” that featured some of the most creative improv of the night. The meandering jam ultimately gave way to crowd favorite “Bathtub Gin”, leaving “Chalk Dust Torture” unfinished. Like many Gins before it, last night’s rendition proved a reliable jam vehicle, stretching past the 15-minute mark.

The crowd seemed satiated at the end of the exploratory second set, and after a brief encore break, “Golgi Apparatus”, another song off the band’s first album, kicked off a two-song encore that continued with a straightforward singalong of “Character Zero” to cap off the night.

Click below to view a collection of fan-shot videos from the second night of Phish’s four-night stay in Mexico, and tune in via LivePhish tonight to catch night three.

Phish – “A Wave Of Hope” – 2/24/23

[Video: Trove Mens Provisions Rescue Squad]

Phish – “Axilla (Part II)” – 2/24/23

[Video: Chad Sclove]

Phish – “Split Open And Melt” [Jam] – 2/24/23

[Video: Gregory Marcus]

Phish – “First Tube” – 2/24/23

[Video: Trove Mens Provisions Rescue Squad]

Phish – “Shade” – 2/24/23

[Video: Trove Mens Provisions Rescue Squad]

Phish – “Golgi Apparatus”, “Character Zero” – 2/24/23

[Video: Chad Sclove]

Click to view more fan-shot videos.

Setlist: Phish | Moon Palace The Grand | Cancún, Mexico | 2/24/23

Set 1: Dinner and a Movie, Loving Cup (Rolling Stones), A Wave of Hope (Trey Anastasio), Stash, Heavy Things, 555 > Axilla (Part II) > Joy, Split Open and Melt

Set 2: First Tube, Waves > Ruby Waves (Trey Anastasio), Shade, Chalk Dust Torture > Bathtub Gin

Encore: Golgi Apparatus > Character Zero

Dinner and Movie was performed for the first time since August 4, 2017 (177 shows). Trey teased Dave’s Energy Guide in Ruby Waves. Chalk Dust Torture was unfinished. Mike and Trey teased Sundown in Bathtub Gin.