Phish Offers A Tidal ‘Wave Of Hope’ For 1st Full Show Of Riviera Maya 2024 In Mexico

Check out Benjy Eisen’s recap, the setlist and The Skinny for the quartet’s first full two-set performance of 2024.

By Benjy Eisen Feb 23, 2024 6:32 am PST

In Phish‘s first full two-set show since Gamehendge, they put out a statement of intent for 2024: It’s going to be a very good year.

For Phish’s seventh (“séptimo”) return to the Mexican Riviera, they appear to be sticking to the formula that they perfected and cemented after just a few revisions (and a change of venue) — a reception party on day one and a matinee show on day four. What comes in between is, usually, the meat.

Advertisement

Opening with what could have been the previous night’s closer, “First Tube” was a nice, if unexpected, way to establish continuity, picking up right where they left off, before diving into “Free” and the first aquatic themed tune of the night. The middle section wasted no time in getting to its bump and sway, Trey Anastasio leading the beach crowd into wah-wah land with ease while Page McConnell alternated between piano and clavinet, sometimes with one hand on each. Mike Gordon looked to Trey for cues but before this ship went too far from shore, sure enough Trey gave the other kind of cue and the band was right back into the landing. They never launched free from “Free” in form and yet they still splashed delightfully in the sea … as did some concert goers on Mike Side, Ocean Side. As is tradition in these parts.

It didn’t take Trey more than a moment before calling for “Roggae,” a late-1.0 heavy rotation ballad that has aged incredibly well and which now sits comfortably in its “always-welcome, once-in-awhile” slot; its breezy arrangement was made especially relevant with the actual presence of a sea breeze, even with a few minor struggles ironically around the “If life were easy…” refrain. Trey hit upon a melodic theme that took this Phish version of a power ballad home on the breeze.

A fourth slot, mid-set, pre-peak “Driver” continued Phish’s easy breezy approach to the set, and the ocean winds that blew through Trey’s hair offered a visual contrast to the band’s collectively relaxed demeanor. The highlight of “Driver” was Page on the ivories, revealing some hidden Vegas-ready schmaltz that infused the night’s biggest bust-out (after a two and a half year absence) with a wonderful air of whimsy.

Addressing the crowd with a casual “Thanks, everybody, thank you,” from Trey, the band then slunk into “hey stranger,” from Trey’s second of two solo pandemic albums, Mercy. With a little more rust than the previous night’s soft opening, “hey stranger” was still a good showcase for a song that Trey cares a lot about and that has yet to be fully — or, at least, enthusiastically — embraced by the fanbase … and also, that has yet to be fully realized.

In what felt like a song-oriented set just halfway through, with very little indication of it turning into anything else, Trey almost opened up “hey stranger” with just a few foot moves, stepping on the extra sauce pedals to turn what would appear to be a standard arrangement into a slow burn with room to grow. It’s a thought that was then emphasized when Page temporarily moved to clav for supplementary timbres and tones. While, in the end, it never left form, “hey stranger” built to a mini peak that may have been a satisfying, small surprise for those not super versed in the song.

In a set that was still without a proper peak song, Phish launched into “Gumbo,” providing the biggest wildcard of the set so far, even with the “Driver” bust-out. That’s because you know exactly what you’re going to get with “Driver,” but every “Gumbo” has inherent choose-your-own-adventure potential, even if the song itself isn’t traditionally a jam vehicle. It’s in the dark horse class of “Halley’s Comet,” “AC/DC Bag,” and “Free.”

And like the “Free” that came four songs before it, this particular “Gumbo” stayed on path right through Page’s typically gorgeous piano break, before abruptly turning into “My Soul” via that song’s signature opening lick.

Different song, same page — err, same Page — as he went right back to the grand piano for some bluesy swagger that would make more than a few chicken shacks and barbed wire blues bars blush.

“My Soul” was also, notably, the first cover of this Mexican run.

“Birds of a Feather” was the third song of the set that promised true jamming potential. But would it be the first to do so? Page fell in line, moving over to organ, while Trey fired off the kind of chunky rhythmic leads that are so anthemically characteristic of the tune. Lighting designer Chris Kuroda turned down the bright lights to highlight the row of palm trees behind the stage, which now served as decorative living wallpaper for the band’s first true deep dive of the night, the breeze giving way to Trey’s fiery licks, adding emphasis by going up top, and Trey’s bopping head a sign of the band’s commitment while triplets flew from his fingers.

The landing jam turned into a brief space exploration with Moog accents to make it extra shiny. Those dancing in the crowd (or on their couch) have Fishman to thank for keeping the beat bop-able while Trey, Page and Mike took the form to its outer reaches, on its way to an ambient orbit around the song’s scripted ending, extending out into the ethos where Trey pulled strings of melody into an eventual return to the song’s signature lick … and then back out again, taking the lead while the rest of the band offered up their support and a bedrock for Trey to riff of of, all the while circling around the song’s ending, taking the jam out for few extra laps, wailing not flailing, soaring not flooring, building into a final crescendo, nearly shapeshifting into another song but standing its ground through repeated returns to the final theme before the band finally gave in to the song’s finish, twenty minutes after the start.

A practical “Axilla (Part II)” to punctuate the first set followed and finished with the “Don’t shine that thing in my face man!” jam that is now safely and securely a part of the song’s modern day revival. And, like the “Birds” that came before it, the stretch here was in the final approach, as opposed to a mid-journey adventure. Page turned his back on the audience to insert some “Shipwreck” samples from the Nord and things temporarily became appropriately weird.

With Mike exploring a new bass that offers extra-wallow, he has been subtly dropping teases and extra licks underneath the music’s breath during perfect moments, while he gets acquainted with his new instrument — and that can only lead to creativity.

The kind of creative exploration that Phish as a whole engaged in during the final two songs of the set showed an eagerness to improvise even in a set of standards and sans most of the obvious jams. The first set didn’t rage per se, but it caught some waves all the same.

The bigger set of waves, of course, would be in the set to follow. Including a rogue wave or two and a certain tidal wave that serves as this show’s headline.

Read on after The Skinny for the rest of the recap and more.

The Skinny

The Setlist

Set 1: First Tube > Free, Roggae, Driver, hey stranger, Gumbo > My Soul, Birds of a Feather, Axilla (Part II)

Set 2: A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing > A Wave of Hope > Oblivion > Tweezer > Tube -> Runaway Jim > Tube

Encore: Bug > Tweezer Reprise

Driver was performed for the first time since July 30, 2021 (131 shows). Shipwreck was quoted in Axilla (Part II)

The Venue

Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort [See upcoming shows]

12 shows
2/20/2020, 2/21/2020, 2/22/2020, 2/23/2020, 2/24/2022, 2/25/2022, 2/26/2022, 2/27/2022, 2/23/2023, 2/24/2023, 2/25/2023, 2/26/2023

The Music

9 songs / 7:52 pm to 9:11 pm (79 minutes)

8 songs / 9:46 pm to 11:30 pm (104 minutes)

17 songs
16 originals / 1 cover

2000

13.94 [Gap chart]

None

All

Driver LTP 07/30/2021 (131 Show Gap)

A Wave Of Hope 35:01

Tube (Reprise) 3:06

A Picture of Nectar - 2, Hoist - 1, Billy Breathes - 1, The Story of the Ghost - 2, Farmhouse - 2, Undermind - 1, Misc. - 7, Covers - 1

The Rest

73° and Partly Cloudy at Showtime

Koa 1

Want more Phish stats?
Visit JamBase’s The Skinny Hub
More Skinny

The second frame opened with the setting-appropriate “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” a move sure to please the Mike Side, Ocean Side beachcombers, and not the first time the band opened a second set with it on this very beach, albeit way down the road at the event’s previous host resort.

Having shed his button down for just a t-shirt during setbreak, Trey attacked the song’s first opening with appropriate seriousness, stating his intent to explore while keeping the path as loose as a walk home in the sand, free to stop and inspect, aware of the destination without any rush whatsoever to get there. Sparkly lead lines woven between his rhythmic chopping set the song in motion in the way that most Phish fans usually hope for, if not outright demand.

It was a reassuring start to an important second set, where a win felt necessary. Trey’s solos here offered comfort for those few still concerned, even as the jam devolved into a different kind of drum and bass jam, while Page offered Moog effects to complement Trey’s effect-drenched psychedelic swirls. With Mike offering a different bottom to the song than the established take, the music felt especially buoyant, moving from lead licks to more textured territory, building, morphing shapes and traversing sonic landscapes, giving the feel of an underwater exploration as much as a raft set adrift on top of it. Hence, the song kind of melted into ambient space instead of soaring to a more traditional finish. Mike successfully fit in a few Phil Lesh-inspired runs right before the ripcord came crashing down, bringing “A Wave of Hope” from out of the chaos.

Anyone paying attention these past few years would tell you that a second set, second slot “Wave of Hope” contains enough potential to make an entire set, even on nights when the aquatic theme doesn’t play directly into the actual setting. And there were signs from the beginning that this one would live up to that potential. Page took the first charge here with a grand piano exercise that he then tossed to Trey for the lick that leads back into the chorus.

Trey began to improvise verbally on the refrain, repeating “I am flying” as both a mantra and a proclamation, perhaps even a statement of intent. Fishman’s frenetic beats beneath deceptively offered the song an anchor, while Trey started his push for expansion. Repeated listens will reveal the micro jams that came roaring through on this one, each one a potential foundation for its own architecture. The band was in sync, listening well to each other while each exploring their own corners of the song’s ocean floor. Moments of precariousness were carried lightly by Fishman’s persistence on movement and a steady beat while Mike continued to look in the direction of Terrapin Crossroads. And sure enough, the moment that Trey came through with a soaring lead, the entire soundscape was woven together in a cohesive way that, from up above, formed a picture perfect image of the best that modern Phish has to offer, where the jams are continually creative and explorative without a constant need to shred at a younger man’s clip.

Intentionally disjointed spears of sounds shot through Trey’s rig while Page went to the Prophet Rev2 to draw in additional strains from outer space. Fishman’s continued freneticism rescued the exploratory jam from accidentally veering into any meandering topography, instead chugging along in its wild experimentation both above and below the waterline in territory that Dr. Gonzo himself would have felt at home in, once he put his game face on.

Wah-wah woven leads and additional Yamaha CS-60 sounds from Page laced this excursion with additional decorum, as it evolved into a more cohesive build of rock bombast and a rolling wall of sound cascaded into a spurious peak, while the song continued to have new things to say before finishing its sentence, err, paragraphs.

Moving full steam ahead with a headless arsenal of ideas, Trey took one cinematic lead after another, aware of the fear and loathing that threatened to bring the whole thing down if it didn’t have such a fearless leader and a unified band of well-decorated sonic astronauts by his side, willing to leap those leaps.

A new theme emerged more than 25 minutes into it, which the band entertained for maybe a minute before deciding to ride the wave right behind it — all this density gave the real time notion that this jam would have lots to unpack upon deserved multiple relistens. A reggae tinged idea from Trey got a literal second glance from Mike, who then offered his support while Trey disguised the inclination with tricks from his toy box, never actually changing the underlying reggae principles. Doubling down on it, in fact, Trey decided to sit on it for a spell, visibly (and happily) trapped inside its trance. When it shifted again, back en route to its final destination, Mike took the opportunity to explore his fretboard some while the song evolved yet again into what felt like its seventh or eighth jam, if you count them a certain way. Maybe more. Perhaps having that same thought himself, one sustained note from Trey signaled the return to form in the shape of “Oblivion” and the entire band quickly fell in line to launch into it proper.

The Internet will make much of the fact that this was the longest version of “Wave of Hope” yet, weighing in at 35 minutes, but that’s not what makes this song such a heavyweight. That title was earned by the fact that it is indeed 35 minutes in length … and, yet, felt like a fraction of that in the here and now, when fully present inside the walls of its jam.


00:00:00
Phish (See 253 videos)
Phish (See 4,054 videos)

No longer the easy breezy Trey from the first set, but rather all tuned up and tuned in, he gave “Oblivion’s” first instrumental break — while still within its lines — an energetic sense of purpose from the start. The Moog One was Page’s vehicle of choice, sometimes coupled with the Wurlitzer, while Trey filtered his way through the lead guitar filth that one reasonably expects from “Oblivion.” Still, when Trey went back to his written roadmap, with the band all aboard, it felt like an abbreviated jam … but almost anything would, in the immediate spot behind the first +30-minute “Wave of Hope” jam. Even in Phish’s younger days when the band members were in peak athletic form, a monster like that would have been paired with a comedown song (which, of course, “Oblivion” is not).

And then along came “Tweezer.”

This late in the set, and on the heels of the 51st longest jam of their career, a “Tweezer” means one of two things. I’ll only say which way this one went — filled with presence and purpose from the start, the “cold, cold, cold” gave immediate way to a funky opening that Mike punctuated while Trey explored, but they weren’t even in the jam section yet. Some teases, some well placed everythings… you sometimes know before they even get to it when Phish feels on a tear. And certainly they were riding another wave here, catching it early on in their traditional improvisational showpiece. But when the beat gave way to flourishes, and Mike called up the drill for assistance, it started to feel like maybe a steamless entry would build to an inevitable triumphant peak. Of course, it would be the most Phishiest move of the night to do so.

But before we could get there, Trey had better notes to shred and butter notes to shed, lively lead fragments tied together by the band’s incredible cohesive ad hoc tapestry and needlework. All that work in “Wave of Hope” led to the empty-head meditative state necessary to achieve full hose, which is exactly what then happened in the “Tweezer.” Trey opened up the hose from those lead fragments, building in intensity and freneticism until the band saw his reach and encircled him in a matrix, allowing Trey’s circular theme to ferment, devolving into dissonance and then soaring into flight, all the while staying steady in its intensity and listener satisfaction level.

T-shirt Trey decided to bait the beach, showing off until just the right moment when the band coalesced into “Tweezer’s” loose form, never faltering or slowing down but rather segueing spectacularly into “Tube.” It may not have been a record-breaking “Tweezer” and it didn’t finish in the top five, given the very long list to choose from … but it was an entirely Tweezer-worthy “Tweezer” that stands on its own merit even outside the context of this standout show. Which is kind of incredible, given its placement and what came before it.

“Tube” continued the band’s creativity flow, finding new folds within its folds, with all four Phish members tirelessly exploring, supporting each other through second-long diversions and micro flights of fancy, all before the song’s actual jam … which it never got to because the band suddenly found themselves in “Runaway Jim” at Trey’s prompting. Ease on down the road, guys.

A vibrant but by-the-numbers “Jim” that most would have predicted would morph back into “Tube” instead came first to its customary conclusion … then morphed back into “Tube” — and confidently and masterfully, at that, giving the set the triple donut-shaped punctuation marks it deserved.

A “Bug” encore immediately felt like the sort of engineered comedown, back-to-earth grounding that the best encores serve, when following the best sets. It’s a function of closure. Anthemic and grounding at the same time, allowing jaws to be found in the sand, returned to their owners, and sent home for the night.

But wait! There’s more! Phish decided to preserve the natural order of things and rather than save “Tweezer Reprise” to cap off the run, they smartly placed it in its proper show closing slot, giving even the encore its own punctuation mark. Trey took off his guitar and Phish said their goodbyes for the night, knowing that there were going to be a lot of happy campers making the long beach walk back to their resort rooms, with strangers high-fiving strangers and shit-eating grins all around.

Phish: Riviera Maya resumes on Friday and concludes on Saturday with additional two-set shows. Livestreams are available for purchase via LivePhish.com.

Advertisement

Phish From The Road Photos

Posters

Advertisement

Loading tour dates

JamBase Collections