On Thursday evening at the Barcelo Maya Beach Resort, Phish kicked off their three-night Mexican run for the third time in four years. While this excursion isn’t officially considered a “Phish festival,” it is certainly in the running as one of the best ways to go see live music and take a vacation during the brutally cold winter months up north. The foursome from Vermont steadied their sea legs after a month and a half off and produced a performance most memorable for its big-time bust-outs.
For the thousands of Phish fans that experienced the fear of missing out (or “FOMO”) prior to the resort party in Riviera Maya, the band dug the knife even deeper with a colossal “Spock’s Brain” throwback for the first time since 7/30/2003. Lyrically rubbing in the fact that “you didn’t pay them for the plane on time,” “Spock’s” was dusted off for the first attempt of the 3.0 era and was finally caught by country-hopping fans hunting it down for over 15 years.
An early “Twist” found a spot in the opening half of the show for the first time since 2014 and quickly moved into “Free” before the band was able to explore any uncharted territory. For the third consecutive time, Phish opened the Mexican three-night run with a first-set “Free”, bringing smiles to faces during the “splashing in the sea” reference. An even bigger bust-out was launched in the fourth spot with the Velvet Underground’s “Who Loves the Sun?”, played for the first time since Halloween 1998, a gap of more than over 600 shows. 1998 was a huge year for Phish, and the Loaded Halloween costume was one of many highlights. While Lou Reed’s “Who Loves the Sun?” is lyrically pessimistic, the title works as the perfect headline for the band to announce future beach-front excursions and the light-hearted melody fits nicely with the resort theme.
“Everything’s Right” got a lot of love in 2018, and during the first Phish show of 2019, it appears that this year will be no different. Five minutes into the Trey Anastasio– and Tom Marshall-written tune, Mike Gordon let his bass do the talking and instigated the first real jam of the evening. After a Kasvot Växt-heavy New Year’s run at Madison Square Garden, “We Are Come to Outlive Our Brains” came as no surprise in the sixth position of the scattered setlist. The band continued practicing new material with “Rise/Come Together” before whipping out an old-school cover with “Funky Bitch.” Beach dwellers at the Barcelo had been preparing for this event for months and were delighted to show off their new, fancy clothes during this Gordon-led dance party.
To keep the funk alive, Anastasio added bubbling effects as the band eased into a Type I “Sand” jam. Gordon delivered a thick and chunky bass groove for the sand people on the beach anchored by a sturdy beat from Jon Fishman, who sported snappy new muumuu with neon green donuts for the occasion. Taking the geographically-relevant tune into darker waters, Page layered a swirling organ around Anastasio’s whaling guitar to close out the first set of randomly-placed fresh tunes and well-oiled antiques from yesteryear.
Since the 2017-2018 NYE debut of “Soul Planet”, the sunshine-daydreamer has found itself lost in Type II territory a few times. When opening the second act on Thursday, the band may have been too focused on cramming more ocean-based love lyrics into the resort set rather than taking the composition anywhere exotic. Instead, Anastasio transitioned into Little Feat’s “Spanish Moon” for the first time since the 2010 Halloween Waiting for Columbus costume. Three songs in, the crowd was treated to the longest and jammiest “I Always Wanted It This Way” to date. Not to be confused with the Backstreet Boys pop hit with a similar title, this Page McConnell-penned Big Boat tune was the highlight of the second set. The synth-heavy sound transformed into a light and beachy 20-minute jam that gave all four members time in the spotlight. Fishman communicated to Trey with an ear-to-ear grin before McConnell teamed up with Gordon to create a boisterous clavinet/bass concoction. After a noteworthy “IAWITW”, the band clunkily melted into a slow-tempo “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long”. The bluesy Kasvot Växt original served as the fourth number of the evening from Halloweens past, and it was clear the quartet enjoys playing í rokk songs outside of their October celebration.
While “2001” is not a rarity by any stretch of the imagination, hearing it started from scratch without a pre-buffer transition tune isn’t all that common. Thursday’s delivery contained an extended “DDHVL” tease that Trey fit comfortably with the faster tempo space jam. Patience was the name of the game during this 13-minute rendition as Fishman steered the sound into calmer waters before taking it full speed ahead. McConnell gave the interstellar score an extragalactic feel with a heavy synth that paired nicely with Anastasio’s echoing arcade-like effects.
“We love to take a bath,” got extra roars during the light-weight “Bathtub Gin” before McConnell shut down the second set with an always welcomed “Squirming Coil” piano solo. The ballad-heavy encore contained a “Waste” and a Jimi Hendrix “Bold As Love” one-two punch before everyone made the short commute back to their beachfront residencies for the evening. Friday’s night’s show kicks off around 7:30 PM EST and the webcast can be purchased through LivePhish.
Below, you can watch pro-shot videos from Phish’s first night in Mexico including the show-opening “Spock’s Brain” and, thanks to some technical issues with the pay per view webcast, a full video of set two. Thanks, LivePhish!
You can also view a gallery of beautiful photos from night one courtesy of photographer Eric Fefferman.
Phish – “Spock’s Brain”
Phish – 2/21/19 – Set Two
Setlist: Phish | Barceló May | Quintana Roo, Mexico | 2/21/19
SET 1: Spock’s Brain, Twist, Free, Who Loves the Sun?, Everything’s Right, We Are Come to Outlive Our Brains, Rise/Come Together, Funky Bitch, Sand
SET 2: Soul Planet -> Spanish Moon, I Always Wanted It This Way > Death Don’t Hurt Very Long, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Bathtub Gin, The Squirming Coil
ENCORE: Waste, Bold As Love