Phish Burns Synapses In Mexico With Monster ‘Chalk Dust Torture’: Setlist, Recap & Skinny

A 40-minute “Chalk Dust Torture” was one of just five songs played in the second set at the Moon Palace in Cancun, Mexico.

By Scott Bernstein Feb 24, 2024 12:53 am PST

Phish rode the momentum of Thursday's masterful show in Mexico last night by turning in another barnburner. If Thursday was “a statement of intent for 2024: It’s going to be a very good year,” as Benjy Eisen asserted, Friday was further proof.

The penultimate performance of Phish: Riviera Maya 2024 was an instant classic filled with memorable moments including an outrageous “Chalk Dust Torture.” The “Chalk Dust” was a prime example of the diverse jamming the band has delivered over the past year and the eclectic improvisational styles were showcased throughout the night.

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The quartet opened the show with “Set Your Soul Free.” Phish quickly blew through the progression and began exploring evil terrain before settling in on a blissful pattern. Keyboardist Page McConnell crafted beautiful melodies that guitarist Trey Anastasio picked up on and used to build the jam to a rolling boil. Drummer Jon Fishman kept a steady beat as bassist Mike Gordon anchored the pretty excursion. Gordon then fronted a move back to the darkness that gave the band runway to deliver a spot-on transition into “Ghost.”

Phish was feeling it in “Ghost” as they hosed the audience with a euphoric progression. Anastasio utilized effects that made it seem like notes were coming out of his Languedoc backwards and at one point sounded more akin to a violin than a guitar. McConnell alternated between multiple synths and his Wurlitzer over the course of the short — well, 12 minutes for “Ghost” is short — but sweet jam.

Another impressive segue birthed the rare “Fast Enough For You.” The Rift ballad was last played on July 23, 2022 and had only appeared three other times since 2014. Next, the band looked to Anastasio’s pandemic album, Lonely Trip, for “Evolve” ahead of the Gordon-captained “Mull” featuring its fitting reference to a taco. Both were ripe for exploration yet were kept within the lines.

Trey pulled the trigger on “46 Days” as the Gordon composition ended but worked a few “Mull” teases into the intro. “46 Days” took an early turn into a swagger-filled, high-energy romp. The ensuing “Kill Devil Falls” followed a similar path until Phish broke through into Type-II territory. The egalitarian affair saw Page focus on synth, Mike wobble the bass with a wild effect and Trey layer in dynamic riffs while Fishman’s steady groove kept the improvisation from falling apart. “Wading In The Velvet Sea” arrived out of the madness. The second ballad of the set was followed by “Sigma Oasis,” the title track from what currently stands as the band’s most recent studio album. “Sigma Oasis” was in similar form to “46 Days” as it contained a powerful if not adventurous jam to bring the frame to a close.

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

The Skinny

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The Setlist

Set 1: Set Your Soul Free -> Ghost -> Fast Enough for You, Evolve, Mull > 46 Days > Kill Devil Falls > Wading in the Velvet Sea, Sigma Oasis

Set 2: Blaze On > Chalk Dust Torture [1] > Beneath a Sea of Stars Part 1 > Backwards Down the Number Line > Harry Hood

Encore: When the Circus Comes, Character Zero

Trey teased Mull in 46 Days. Chalk Dust was unfinished and contained a Shipwreck quote. At the end of the show, Trey quoted Buffalo Bill from the film The Silence of the Lambs, saying “It puts the lotion on its skin.”

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 9:07 pm (75 minutes)

7 songs / 9:42 pm

16 songs
15 originals / 1 cover

2006

13.5 [Gap chart]

None

All

Fast Enough For You LTP 07/23/2022 (75 Show Gap)

Chalk Dust Torture 39:54

When The Circus Comes 5:01

A Picture of Nectar - 1, Rift - 1, Billy Breathes - 1, The Story of the Ghost - 2, Round Room - 1, Joy - 2, Big Boat - 1, Sigma Oasis - 1, Misc. - 5, Covers - 1

The Rest

77° and Fair at Showtime

Koa 2

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“Blaze On” kicked off last night’s second set and lived up to its title thanks to the aggressive handiwork of Trey Anastasio. A brief bit of form-breaking spaciness gave way to “Chalk Dust Torture.” Phish blew open the “Chalk Dust” outro by engaging in a bliss-laden trip. The band patiently wove creative ideas together during the dreamy foray. Out of nowhere, Trey kicked into overdrive and the foursome was off to the races in building the jam in energy as Page added Clavinet swampiness to the arena rock mix at the 15-minute mark. Fishman picked up the beat for hard-driving funkiness in the fourth distinct movement of a standout “Chalk Dust” fans could only have dreamed of back in the ’90s when the staple was rarely extended. Anastasio put a ring modulator to use for wild, extraterrestrial tones amplified by Gordon’s synth bass and Page on Moog. Chris Kuroda used the exploration to make the most of his lighting rig in emphasizing the otherworldly music wowing those on the beach and on the couch.

The final movement was sludgy, deliciously evil and more akin to “Split Open And Melt” than any previous “Chalk Dust.” All told, the Picture Of Nectar number spanned a hair under 40 minutes, the longest version in Phish history. Fans in Mexico were treated to two +30-minute jams in two nights following the massive “A Wave Of Hope” on Thursday. But don’t just take this writer’s opinion on how epic the Phish: Riviera Maya “Chalk Dust Torture” was as others weighed in with such comments as:

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“Beneath A Sea Of Stars” was a fine choice after the outrageous “CDT” in giving the band and audience a chance to pull their heads together yet leaving space for a more improvisation. Phish then picked up the pace by diving into “Backwards Down The Number Line.” The straight-forward rendition was followed by “Harry Hood.” The beloved classic featured a massive peak driven by Anastasio’s searing guitar to punctuate the five-song set.

While Phish had avoided covers outside of “My Soul” in Mexico this week, they began Friday’s encore with their stirring take on Los Lobos’ “When The Circus Comes.” The potent “Character Zero” was tacked on for good measure.

Phish: Riviera Maya 2024 ends on Saturday with a two-set concert scheduled to start at 6 p.m. ET. Watch a livestream via LivePhish.com.

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