[We would like to thank users Scissortail (Matt) and phorbin007 (Cody) for recapping last night's show. -Ed.]
We’d be remiss to recap the final night of Phish’s 2023 Mexico run without taking a moment to note the obvious: Phish Mexico is pure joy, plain and simple. There is absolutely nothing like it.
I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I know it’s expensive. I know from countless .net threads exactly the kinds of vacations one could take for the same cost. But when it comes to Phish runs, this place is truly magical. If you like lounging in a pool with a cocktail in hand, making instant friends with every single person you meet, and ending each day with a concert on the beach by the greatest band in the history of the world—you just might like Phish Mexico.
Out of four shows this run, Friday night is a clear, undeniable standout. It’s firmly in the tier of Mexico classics like 2/25/22, 2/26/22, 2/22/20 and 1/15/17. It was the kind of show that makes you remember what Phish can do. And it was the kind of show that could make you scratch your chin and wonder: What gets into them on nights like that? Why can’t they do that all the time?
These are existential mysteries of the universe we will not solve today.
As for the other three shows of the run, they were great fun. They do not stand up to the bar set by last year’s powerhouse run. (See the thread by @RubyWaves for an excellent rundown of Mexico 2022.) Each one had highlights worth revisiting. But they were not shows that cohered the way truly special Phish shows do. Sunday night’s show fits that description—but of the three “lesser” shows of the run, it was the best by far in terms of energy and flow. In fact, it was an absolute blast from start to finish.
[A quick note regarding the start of the show: Nighttime is the right time for a Phish show. For the love of all that is holy, stop having afternoon sets in any situation, ever, forever. Not only do we miss Kuroda’s brilliance, but it’s just too hot to start the show in the afternoon.]
We begin with “Sigma Oasis” (9 minutes), which is a song I quite like. It gets a standard run-through, and then it ends. Fishman starts up the hi-hat and we have a welcome surprise with “David Bowie” (9 minutes) in the two-hole. Trey struggles a bit with the heavily composed section at first but I think he eventually gets his bearings quite nicely. This Bowie gets a mostly standard outing. It’s high energy and the crowd is very into it. After some pointed criticism from fans recently that Mike is not loud enough in the mix, we’re happy to report this was not a problem from where we stood, as he was dropping bass bombs throughout this Bowie.
Next up is “Wolfman’s Brother,” (11 minutes) which is always welcome to these ears. Wolfman’s keeps the energy up exactly as intended. At one point the band drops into the chord progression of “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” and for a moment it seems we’re in the midst of the smooth, buttery goodness of a slow-developing segue. Alas, it is not to be. Still, Wolfman’s rips, it’s a first-set superstar, and I’m never sad when it shows up.
On the other hand, as he seems to do with rising frequency, "Wolfman’s" was our first big dose (tonight) of Trey engaging his “Broadway singing voice.” I wouldn’t mind if this trend would go away, forever, but Trey seems to be enjoying it, and a happy Trey makes for good Phish, so who am I to criticize? This was an interesting point of contention for many fans over the weekend. It was a hot topic at the pool in the afternoons. Did Trey get singing lessons and accidentally become a worse singer? When he hits these higher octaves it seems to hurt the other band members’ attempts at harmonies. It might work for TAB, but it doesn’t seem to fit in Phish.
Then “Tube,” (8 minutes) which may have clocked in at a standard length, but is anything but standard. This "Tube" has springy bass lasers. It has bouncy synth robots. And Trey starts in with the pedal effects that turned this “Simple” into a spaceship funk machine. When you’re at a show and everyone around you is dancing, and then the music does things that make people involuntarily hoot and squeal—that’s the kind of Phish you like to see. Although I would’ve liked this "Tube" jam to extend for about another 20 minutes, Trey gives the nod, we hit the blues section, and we say farewell.
Next up, we’re treated to a “Prince Caspian” (8 minutes) that is appropriately rousing. People are indeed floating upon the waves. There was a section that got a bit funky, which is a fun Caspian twist. Then a “Mull” (6 minutes) that gets more full-band love than a Mike tune typically seems to get. This is one of Mike’s better written tunes; it has a great groove. Trey, would it kill you to give one of these Mike tunes a chance at prime time with a mid-second-set exploration?
“Ghost” (12 minutes) is up next, transitioning quickly to the major-kay bliss space that some people grumble about because it’s “overdone” or it’s a “crutch.” To those people I say: Why do you hate the thing you love? Phish does major-key bliss jamming better than any band has every done anything. Why deny the bliss? Gimme that bliss!
After a very odd and awkward opening, “The Squirming Coil” (8 minutes) comes alive, and for my money there is no better way to close a set on the beach at sunset than with Coil. I see you Trey, and I appreciate you. Probably a couple of hiccups with the intricate compositions, as there will be with any of the songs that are extremely difficult to play, but those hiccups matter far less on the beach than they do in some headphones someday in the future. "Coil" hits exactly the way it should, the band begins to exit the stage, and Page does what Page does best: He creates beautiful, poignant sounds with his piano. This is an understated Coil outro, and I mean that in a most complimentary way.
Also I like Page’s new shirt. It’s so nice.
To setbreak we go. The sun is disappearing. Kuroda is ripping cigs, ready to get in the game. The line at the churro stand swells.
Set two opens with a curious selection of songs—almost like we started the fourth quarter before getting to the third. Still, I have no complaints. If you’re going to play standard songs in a standard way, the best way to make it fun as hell is to play high-energy classics that everyone likes to dance to. Which is exactly what we had throughout much of set one, and it’s exactly what we have in “Possum” (8 minutes) and “Julius.” (8 minutes)
Then we get to the real meat of this show. “You Enjoy Myself” (20 minutes) has had a bit of a renaissance lately, and tonight’s version continues that trend with vigor. The “weird part” after the intro is enjoyably weird tonight, and all the dramatic notes and tension-releasing transitions hit just the way they’re meant to. Regarding the jam, my notepad says: “Watery space funk,” followed by “EXTRA MUSTARD.” Kuroda is shooting rainbow laser beams all over the beach. Trey was even cuttin’ up with some mouth noises long before the vocal jam kicked off. The vocal jam itself has its charms with some joyous hooting and hollering. ‘Twas a gem of a YEM, and it led directly into the centerpiece of this show:
“Everything’s Right” > “Simple”
A song that I thought got unfairly maligned as a sequel to “More” by people who don’t like that song, “Everything’s Right” (20 minutes) has quite simply become a juggernaut. Outside of “Tweezer” (wherefore art thou, "Tweezer"?) it may be the most dependable workhorse in the repertoire. You are unlikely to be disappointed by ER, unless you are among those who stubbornly dismiss anything new. This jam, while maybe it didn’t put me in a groove trance the way “Ruby Waves” did on Friday, was still a gorgeous piece of music. Trey patiently builds from a quiet place, with the entire band locked into his vibe. Again, Mike is up in the mix and making the most of it in every way. Similar to the aforementioned "Ruby Waves," this is one of those building jams that doesn’t just hit a triumphant peak—it hits a triumphant groove and stays locked into it for some time. It’s a good example of why Phish is the best, and is 100% worth a listen if you missed it.
The transition back into the lyrics, which are in a different key than the jam found, is quite awkward, but it leads to the riff that also portends greatness. We’ve got “Simple.” (12 minutes)
After the opening, Trey does a bit of the blissy noodling typical of "Simple," and then we’re off into the reaches of spaceship disco town. Page alternates between his electric piano (my favorite of Page’s toys) and some synthy flourishes while Fishman creates a driving groove. Soon, Trey deploys the low-end gooey effect, Fishman gets even more insistent with tumbling fills, and all of a sudden we are being pummeled by rock and roll. This barrage persists, whipping the crowd into a frenzy, and then—unlike the ER transition—Trey and the entire band hit the "Simple" riff like they planned it a week in advance. Just a perfect swerve back into the song.
Following this segment of inspired improv, Trey takes us “Backwards Down the Number Line” (9 minutes), a version of which was particularly rocking and was a perfect exclamation point. I thought it would’ve made a strong set ender, but I also won’t complain about more Phish. A standard, high-energy “Suzy Greenberg” is welcome any time.
In the encore frame, “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” (8 minutes) gets a big thumbs up from Cody and a big yawn from me (sorry, not my bag). “Waste” (5 minutes) gave the couples on the sand a chance for a little “couples skate” cooldown.
And then there is “Slave to the Traffic Light” (13 minutes). To me, "Slave" is among the holy trinity of Phish songs (along with "Tweezer" and "Hood"). Because I love it so dearly, and because the best versions of it are some of the most beautiful music Phish has ever made, versions that miss the mark are a bummer. Tonight’s version was not a bummer. I almost don’t want to relisten to see if it holds up, because in the moment it was everything a glorious "Slave" should be. There is not much more to say about a run-closing "Slave"—it filled me with gratitude, and was a perfect ending to a wonderful weekend.
Finally, we must give endless shoutouts to everyone at the Moon Palace. The staff here—from the poolside servers (special shout to my main man Arturo!) to the cleaning staff to the shuttle drivers to the hibachi chefs, and all folks in between—these people are truly excellent. I hope everyone here is leaving much lighter of currency than when they arrived, because everyone at the Moon Palace deserves to be taken care of as well as they always take care of us. So much love here at the beach.
Until next time, adios amigos.
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