On Saturday night, Phish took the stage for the third of this weekend’s four shows at Moon Palace Resort in Cancún, Mexico.
Getting things started was an unusual “Axilla” that saw the band tack on the slow, drippy, “don’t shine that thing in my face, man” closing section of “Axilla, Part II”. The first such combo in the songs’ history, this pairing marked the latest in a recent string of experiments with the Part II outro, which saw two appearances in 2021—including a 21-minute exploration last fall—after sitting on the shelf for 16 years. For those keeping track, Phish.net has the segment marked as “Axilla” with the “Part II” ending section included, while LivePhish scored it as “Axilla” > “Axilla, Part II”.
The teetering “Part II” jam eventually led into “Twist”. Though the Farmhouse jam vehicle doesn’t often pop up in first sets, it has the last two times Phish performed in Mexico, in 2019 and 2020. This “Twist” modulated early and guitarist Trey Anastasio landed on some arpeggios before the band charged into darker waters, riding the gentle wave that is Jon Fishman. Before long, they fell into a breezy, major key jam that quickly segued into the sample-heavy, Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House tune, “Your Pet Cat”. It took them a minute for the foursome to find its footing on this one, but once they detached from the song’s form it grew a nice peak, setting up the pins so Trey and keyboardist Page McConnell could knock them down.
Ever-blissful, forever-loved masterpiece “Divided Sky” landed in the fourth spot. During the song’s ever-present “pause,” Trey goaded LD Chris Kuroda to turn off the stage lights and allow the crowd to appreciate the natural wonder of the tropical coastline (and managed to throw in another “don’t shine that thing in my face” nod to “Axilla, Part II”). Following that, it was time to pass bassist Mike Gordon a taco as he stepped into the spotlight with the 4th-ever performance of his song, “Mull”. But it was Trey who dug in the hardest during this rendition, showcasing some nice, albeit short, guitar work before wrapping up. At some point, I hope they take this one for a nice Type II test drive, but last night wasn’t the night.
A deliberate and laid-back pass through the form of “Wolfman’s Brother” preceded a similar type of jam. This one seemed to shy away from the bouncy funk usually promised by the Hoist staple, and the band seemed content to let this one drift along in the mellow. That’s not to say it was disconnected—quite the opposite, in fact. It was simply patient and surprising in its leisure, unassumingly stretching well past twenty minutes in length. They couldn’t end with that, so customary set-closer “Cavern” capped the first half.
Though set on had some nice energy, song selection. and flow, it felt as though Trey, Mike, Page, and Fish were pacing themselves before a giant Saturday-night 2nd set.
“Set Your Soul Free” opened the second frame and gave the audience its first real dose of energetic, straight-ahead rock music of the night before Trey kicked on the delay and called for the band to go exploring. Explore they did as they sailed through this multi-segment, effects-heavy, 21-minute rendition.
Phish – “Set Your Soul Free” [Pro-Shot] – 2/26/22
As the last notes faded away, Trey launched into the familiar riff of “Simple”. Like many of the songs that preceded it, this one cooled off quickly but fell right into the mellow pocket in which the band spent much of the night. The bluesy pattern that followed almost felt like something they had played before, a spontaneous composition than a “jam.” Like “Wolfman’s” earlier in the evening, this “Simple” went in a different direction than anticipated, but the four members were connected and the result was terrific.
With “Scents and Subtle Sounds”, the band finally delivered the blistering assault the audience was waiting for. Fishman was the MVP on this one as his unrelenting attack buoyed the evening’s energy to new heights. Further committing to the newfound zest, the band catapulted into the Talking Heads’ “Crosseyed and Painless”. While this one showed promise, Page moved over to the Wurlizter early, which is usually a sign that they’ve throttled whatever potential frenzy was percolating.
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After a fantastic pass through “Waste”, “Blaze On” closed a second set for only the second time since its 2015 debut. This strong, relatively short version had some nice, patented, tension-and-release action, wrapping up a rather solid 6-song back half.
In its almost 30-year history, “The Wedge” had landed in an encore only twice before Saturday night. When this song pops up late in a show, it usually has a bit more oomph, and this version was no exception.
“Sleeping Monkey” came next, as teased by Trey in an Instagram post earlier in the week featuring a clip of wild monkeys walking down a road in Mexico. The guitarist, clearly enjoying his time in Cancún, dedicated it to “the beautiful beings that welcome us to this area, thank you for welcoming us to your home.” Capping the night was perennial closer “Slave To The Traffic Light” its soaring beauty accented by the serene setting for this weekends festivities.
Only one more night left for this installment of Phish: Riviera Maya 2022, and there’s lots left in the playbook. Tune in Sunday night for the dramatic conclusion.
Check out a gallery of photos from the Saturday night festivities below courtesy of photographer Peter Wallace.
Setlist: Phish: Riviera Maya | Moon Palace Resort | Cancún, Quintana Roo, MX | 2/26/22
Set One: Axilla, Twist -> Your Pet Cat > Divided Sky, Mull, Wolfman’s Brother > Cavern
Set Two: Set Your Soul Free > Simple -> Scents and Subtle Sounds > Crosseyed and Painless -> Waste > Blaze On
Encore: The Wedge, Sleeping Monkey > Slave to the Traffic Light
 Contained Axilla II ending.
 During the pause, Trey asked Chris Kuroda to turn off the lights.
 Dedicated to the people of Mexico who welcomed Phish to their home.
Axilla contained the Axilla II ending. Trey asked Chris Kuroda to turn off the lights during the pause in The Divided Sky, as well as saying “Don’t shine that thing in my face.” Sleeping Monkey was dedicated to the people of Mexico who welcomed Phish to their home.