¡Viva Los Pescados!
Just two weeks after wrapping up a four-night stand in what is arguably the United States’ most iconic concert venue, Phish traveled South of the border to Riviera Maya, Mexico, for three more nights of music. A first-of-its-kind for Phish fans, the “destination” concert has been something of an emerging trend in the jam band scene, as moe., Gov’t Mule, Widespread Panic, My Morning Jacket, and more continue to host their own wintertime, tropical events.
As to be expected of Phish, the band truly made the destination event there own. Entering in through a magnificently illuminated walkway, one was immediately swept away into a land of crocheted palm trees, cotton candy, sea and sand. From the giant sand sculpture in process (a “Mexican Wolfman’s Brother”) to the cartoon-esque projections in the sand, this was truly a unique setting for Phish. With both Chris Kuroda and Jefferson Waful on lighting duty, the stage was set for magic to happen.
Naturally, as Phish does, the band came alone and got to work on the sandy shores of Mexico for a rockin’ and rollin’ opener to the run. “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing” came as a fitting opener with the waves crashing behind, and the compact version served to lock the crowd into the groove. Next up was “My Soul,” marking the band’s first cover since before the Madison Square Garden run. The bouncy blues number carried on the playful, beachy vibes of set one, complimented by spectacular lighting projections on the ocean throughout.
The set continued with the opening narration of “Martian Monster,” bringing some funk to the first frame. Page McConnell was certainly having fun sampling the narration throughout the jam, which stayed in a relatively straightforward spacey groove. “Ya Mar” kept the beach vibe alive, with McConnell taking some extra efforts during his “Play It Leo” solo to really make this is a standout jam. A rocking “Halley’s Comet” was played well, accented by light projections on the sky that connected the stars in an ethereal way. As the band sharply shifting into “Fuego,” they simply were en fuego, in Mexico no less!
Some great “Fuego” jamming brought the group to “The Wedge,” another bright and bouncy number for the beach. After the song, Trey Anastasio took a moment to address his surroundings, saying, “Well this doesn’t suck!” He proceeded to thank the audience, and point out how he enjoyed the lighting display reflecting off of the paddleboarders in the ocean. He dedicated the next song, “Theme From The Bottom,” to those paddleboarders who were “swimming by” in the back of the crowd, before delivering a thoroughly enjoyable rendition of the tune.
“Theme” segued seamlessly into “Free,” a tight funky version with killer bass work from Mike Gordon. As the first set came to a close, the band was absolutely locked and loaded, though no one was quite prepared for the ensuing transition, as Jon Fishman laid down the opening beat for the song “David Bowie.” Naturally, with the passing of David Bowie just a few days prior, Phish fans were wondering if their band would acknowledge the lost legend (aside from Gordo’s lightning bolt shirts). The chants of “DAVID BOWIE!” in the song were simply cathartic, an combined expression of grief, respect and tight musicianship.
Was this the best “David Bowie” ever played? No. But it will certainly go down as one of the more memorable and special performances. It was the ideal tribute from Phish, giving the fans a chance to enjoy their own rendition of “David Bowie.”
After a brief hiatus, Phish returned with a cover of The Who’s “Drowned” to open set two. The song not only fit the beach-side theme, but somehow brought the rain as well. The precipitation would fall throughout the majority of set two, though no one in the crowd seemed to mind all that much.
The “Drowned” itself was a tasty rendition, as Gordon managed the vocals with ease. The improvisational section quickly launched into “type-II” uncharted territory, and the soft mellow jam eased into “What’s The Use?” The instrumental has been given a new life as of late, having been played at Magnaball and Madison Square Garden, but the slow-motion melody never fails to capture the crowd.
After a tender moment, the band went back to the beach with “Sand.” The funk train left the station, picking up “Ghost” and “2001” (aka “Also Sprach Zarathrustra”) along the way. It’s not really fair to talk about any of the three songs individually, as they merged together for a gorgeous 30-minute funk-a-palooza. Tight work on the clavs from McConnell, great peaks from Anastasio… it’s the stuff Phish fans live to hear.
“Wolfman’s Brother” followed suit, as McConnell rocked those classic piano chords with a passion. Another rock and roller, the “Wolfman’s” certainly did not disappoint. After a peculiar metal-esque transition, the band built up the intro to a rockin’ “Possum.” Your end is the road! Finally, the group closed out the set with The Rolling Stones’ “Shine A Light.”
The band returned with their fifth cover of the show, Velvet Underground’s “Rock And Roll.” An interesting selection, considering the abundance of classic rock throughout the set, but no one can really complain when the band gets down to “Rock And Roll.” It was much more than aaaall-right, that’s for sure.
With two more nights of music to go, Phish fans can only wait in anticipation for what’s in store. Check out the full setlist below:
Setlist: Phish at Barceló Maya Palace Deluxe, Riviera Maya, MX – 1/15/16
Set 1: A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, My Soul, Martian Monster, Ya Mar, Halley’s Comet > Fuego, The Wedge, Theme From the Bottom > Free > David Bowie
Set 2: Drowned -> What’s the Use? > Sand -> Ghost > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Wolfman’s Brother > Possum, Shine a Light
Encore: Rock and Roll
Photos by Chad Smith. Full Gallery: