Phish launched its 40th year as a band on Thursday with the opening night of its annual fantasy jaunt to Mexico; the quartet’s sixth year crossing the border south and third year in a row at Cancún’s Moon Palace. For those keeping score at home, that means there have now officially been more Mexico resort runs than Phish festivals in the 21st century. I’ll let you process whatever frustrations or celebrations that fact brings to your mind, but I think that all fans would agree that Phish… on a beach… in Mexico… sure sounds great in theory.

Thursday’s extended one-set Phish welcome show in Mexico found “Harry Hood” taking a very welcoming top slot—its first time opening a show since the 20th anniversary gig in Boston on 12/2/2003. Could this be a continuation of celebrations of the past like the band showcased on New Year’s Eve? Could 2023 be a journey of nostalgia? Jaded vets worldwide await with bated breath.

Trey Anastasio loves to throw “Moma Dance” into the two-hole. It’s always a great way to get the groove locked early, and on this night it would never really leave. “Moma” also served as a solid confirmation for everyone shivering at home that the issues with the stream mix from other recent runs had been properly addressed. The full presence from all four band members was strong and crisp.

“Back on the Train” found Trey taking full advantage of the entire band now using in-ear monitors by using his talkback mic to direct the jam early on. This “BotT“ wouldn’t go full Type II, but the jam broke free of its normal constraints and found a rolling confidence before sighing a great natural decompression into “My Friend, My Friend”.

Next, “Sand” became the first song to claim the coveted “played at every Mexico run” title, one that only five other tunes still have the possibility of claiming. Despite some monitor issues from Trey, this “Sand” held a warm pulse that brought the rare content grin to Mike Gordon. The normally stoic saguaro really seemed to be in his happy place, or maybe he was just thinking about how his bass was back up high in the mix.

“Sample in a Jar” started right as “Sand” ended, but unfortunately didn’t contain any of the extended jams we saw the band take it out on last summer. “Ya Mar” was warmly embraced next because everybody loves a calypso on the beach, and it had Page McConnell get thrown his first “play it Leo!” of the night.

“Roggae” followed and hopefully rode the warm breeze down some spines. If you’ve never felt the wind brush the nape of your neck during “Roggae” at an outdoor Phish concert, then I highly recommend giving it a try.

“Cars Trucks Buses” cast the spotlight on McConnell again and highlighted that the song has really evolved from the John Medeski-adjacent groove it originated as into more of a crunch-rock instrumental. It’s worth noting that at this point deep into the broadened set the newest song played was 24 years old.

But then “Blaze On” kicked down the Gen Alpha doors, as well as kicked off what felt like the beginning of a second set. The overall sentiment of the tune really makes it feel like the defacto Phish in Mexico party theme song, but this one lept out in a manner that demanded it be taken seriously. Riding a “Plasma”-esuqe vibe early on, the jam found its way through a variety of tangents without ever slowing down. Jon Fishman was architecturally mesmerizing—rapidly building upon any idea his bandmates threw at him.

Bits of “Blaze” jam debris were cleared away until full hive syncopation was reached. And truly, there’s still no other band out there who can come close to making it look so easy. That attack then went into a quick nesting mode that the band could/should have played for another 20 minutes, but instead rolled gently into “Twist”.

There was a patient opening to “Twist”, and the whole tune stayed mellow but fierce. Gentle but threatening, Trey gave up on it a hair too quickly and instead brought in the first “Bouncing Round the Room” played on Mexican soil (sand). He also kept his vocals in that new lower register that he obviously feels more comfortable singing in, but it really messed with the overall feel of the tune. When the whole magic of the song is derived from overlapping vocals in a round, one voice straying so far from normal really quells the overall strength of the cut.

“Free” would close out the two-hour set, becoming the second tune of the night to join the “every Mexico” club, and settled nicely into its traditional stomp-funk. At one point Trey made his guitar sweep in a deep-space scream—almost something you’d hear in the intense sections of Pink Floyd’s “Careful With That Axe Eugene”. Whatever depths the sound arose from though, its presence was all too brief and I’m pretty sure every single person listening immediately thought, “more of that please.”

The ”46 Days” encore felt like it was trapped in a curfew squeeze, and didn’t get the legs it is usually, deservedly granted. The tepid crowd reaction at its conclusion hinted that most folks were ready for another set, but with six more sets of Phish on the beach still to come, this was the ideal tone-setter of an evening.

Check out a gallery of images from night one of Phish in Mexico courtesy of photographer Peter Wallace as well as a collection of fan-shot videos. Phish returns to the beach tonight, February 24th, for a full two-set show beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. Information on LivePhish‘s nightly webcasts from Phish: Riviera Maya 2023 is available here.

Phish – “Sand” – 2/23/23 – Partial

[Video: Gregory Marcus]

Phish – “Blaze On” – 2/23/23 – Partial

[Video: Gregory Marcus]

Phish – “Blaze On” – 2/23/23

[Video: Gregory Marcus]

Phish – “46 Days” – 2/23/23

[Video: Gregory Marcus]

Phish – “All of These Dreams” – 2/23/23 – Soundcheck

[Video: Gregory Marcus]

Click to View Videos

Setlist: Phish: Riviera Maya | Moon Palace Resort | Cancún, Quintana Roo, MX | 2/23/23

Set: Harry Hood, The Moma Dance, Back on the Train -> My Friend, My Friend, Sand > Sample in a Jar, Ya Mar (Cyril Ferguson), Roggae, Cars Trucks Buses, Blaze On > Twist > Bouncing Around the Room, Free

Encore: 46 Days