Phish Riviera Maya 2019 Begins In Mexico: Setlist & Recap
Phish kicked off the third installment of their Phish Riviera Maya destination event at Barceló Maya in Riviera Maya, Mexico on Thursday night with the first of three full shows. The quartet was less than two months removed from the best New Year’s Run in recent memory and fans were eager to see if they would keep the momentum going in Mexico. By the end of the evening, the answer was a resounding yes.
One aspect that must be tough for Phish is that each fan has different wants and desires from their concerts. Some focus mainly on the jamming, others want to see every song played perfectly and then there’s the contingency of song chasers who love bust outs and rarities. Most Phish fans look for a mix of the three elements in varying amounts. Thursday’s show was one that appealed to many of the quartet’s followers. There were three huge bust outs, the band played well and there were versions of multiple songs which were top-shelf when it comes to jamming. Phish set the bar high on night one in Mexico.
Attendees were treated to a huge surprise to start, as Phish dusted off Mike Gordon‘s “Spock’s Brain” for the first time since July 30, 2003 – a span of 429 shows. While Phish hadn’t performed the song in nearly 16 years, Gordon played “Spock’s Brain” with his five-piece 32 times between 2014 and 2017. The quartet did a nice job with the rarity, which features a title that won out in fan voting at Lowell Memorial Auditorium in Lowell, Massachusetts on the night it was debuted (May 16, 1995). “Twist” came next and didn’t include much in the way of jamming or a peak. The most interesting part was Page McConnell leading the improvisation on grand piano for a minute or two before guitarist Trey Anastasio took control.
Drummer Jon Fishman wore a new dress for the occasion with neon green donuts. He provided a powerful backbeat on a typically fierce rendition of “Free.” While “Spock’s Brain” was quite a bust out, it wasn’t even the biggest of the night. Phish followed “Free” with their first version of The Velvet Underground’s “Who Loves The Sun?” since they performed Loaded in its entirety on October 31, 1998 – a span of 602 shows. Anastasio then told the crowd, “you know it still doesn’t suck” in reference to his banter at the inaugural Phish Riviera Maya when he said, “Well, this doesn’t stuck.” Trey added, “Still unsucky all these years later” before counting off “Everything’s Right,” the first song of the event that went deep. After jamming on dark motifs, Phish made a move led by Page into blissful territory. Trey wailed away while Page provided counter melodies as Fish and Mike held down the bottom end. Eventually, the quartet made an awkward transition into the end of “Everything’s Right.”
On Halloween, Phish donned the musical costume of a Scandinavian band they invented dubbed Kasvot Växt and performed 10 new originals. The quartet played nine of those songs for the second time during the New Year’s Run at Madison Square Garden in New York City. “We Are Come To Outlive Our Brains” was the opener on December 28, 2018 and went on to become the first Kasvot Växt tune performed in Mexico. Phish stuck closer to the Vegas version on Thursday than the extended take at MSG. Next up was Anastasio’s “Rise/Come Together” with its introductory lyric of “the ocean is only a lot of drops of water.” The quick take was followed by a straightforward cover of Son Seals’ “Funky Bitch.” A Trey-driven “Sand” featuring ample use of wah and a slew of eerie riffs as he led a build to a climax ended the first set.
“Soul Planet” seemed like a sure bet to be played in Mexico due not only to the frequency in which Phish performed the song in 2018 but also thanks to the “ocean is love” lyric. The four-piece came out of the gates with the tune to start the second set. Page focused on distorted organ blasts, while Trey went right back to the wah pedal he used frequently in “Sand.” A few minutes into the jam, Anastasio led a stellar segue into Little Feat’s “Spanish Moon.” Phish hadn’t performed “Spanish Moon” since October 31, 2010 – the night they played Waiting For Columbus in its entirety. McConnell continued his otherworldly organ work while Anastasio capably handled lead vocals. Page, who was the lone soloist on “Spanish Moon” revved into “I Always Wanted It This Way,” his synth-heavy original from 2016’s Big Boat.
Once again, the keyboardist was in the spotlight when it came time to begin the jam. The surprise was how quickly he moved back over to organ. After a few exploratory minutes, Trey settled in on a chord sequence the band used as the basis for the next movement of the improvisation. Page played a riff akin to Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There.” The guitarist then strung together powerful licks in the climb to a euphoric, crowd-pleasing peak. All four members got in on the action as part of the first must-hear “I Always Wanted It This Way” in the song’s history thanks to one peak after another. The 20-minute “IAWITW” ended with a dark and dirty passage before Phish segued into “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” from the Kasvot Växt set. Jon Fishman was particularly into his vocals on this one and was screaming by the end of the song.
In a sign that the band was having a blast, they fit “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” teases into the “2001” that followed. And what a “2001” it was. The quartet provided a long and wild dance party for their fans with particularly cool interludes between the song’s main theme. Phish took their time grooving hard on the tune in a way they never had before. At certain points Fishman dropped out which made for sweet breakdowns. So let’s also throw “2001” into the must-hear pile, as there’s a new contender for best version since 2009 on the table. The band went with “Bathtub Gin” next and while it didn’t reach the heights of “IAWITW” and “2001” it was a ripping rendition with Trey and Page both playing what seemed like 100 notes-a-piece over the course of two minutes. With McConnell having an incredible night, it seemed only right “The Squirming Coil” would close out the frame. Page was left onstage at the end of the song to conclude the set with a beautiful piano solo. The keyboardist then thanked the crowd and told them how happy he was they came down here and spent time with the band.
The quartet went the ballad route to start the encore as Anastasio led his mates on “Waste.” Yet the band still had one trick left up their sleeve as they said good night with a spot-on rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Bold As Love,” their first cover of the song since August 4, 2017. Phish Riviera Maya continues on Friday night in Mexico. A live webcast is available via LivePhish.com.
Barcelo Maya Resort [See upcoming shows]
6 shows — 01/15/2016, 01/16/2016, 01/17/2016, 01/13/2017, 01/14/2017, 01/15/2017
9 songs / 8:07 pm to 9:21 pm (74 minutes)
9 songs / 10:00 pm to 11:30 pm (90 minutes)
18 songs / 13 originals / 5 covers
81.17 [Gap chart]
Who Loves The Sun? - 602 Shows (LTP - 10/31/1998)
I Always Wanted It This Way - 20:23
Who Loves The Sun? - 3:14
Lawn Boy - 2, Billy Breathes - 2, Farmhouse - 2, Big Boat - 1, Misc. - 6, Covers - 5
78° and Cloudy at showtime
Mar Mar, KOA 1
Second Set & Encore Pro-Shot Video
Phish From The Road Photos
Tour Dates for