Phish hit the beach on Thursday for the first night of the band’s 2022 Riviera Maya Mexican destination event. The single-set performance at the Moon Palace Resort in Cancún saw a surprise encore sit-in from Dave Matthews, his first time joining Phish onstage in over a quarter-century.
Even those sitting at home got a taste of Mexico as the pre-show messaging on the LivePhish broadcast read “Mantente En Sintonía” in lieu of the usual “Stay Tuned”. The lights came down and the band came out, opening with “The Lizards” for the first time.
Page McConnell immediately asserted himself the star of the show, plunking down syncopated runs on his grand piano. Meanwhile, Trey Anastasio filled in gaps with rhythms as choppy as the waves themselves. The song’s closing, ascending melody acted as a welcome phrase both for the lucky travelers and those watching from home.
Another theme-friendly song choice came with “The Moma Dance” and its oceanic references. Jon Fishman took the helm on this one, with the bearded, scruffy-haired, bespectacled drummer evidently attempting some sort of Jerry Garcia cosplay. Page once again manned the jam, pushing the song through a clavinet-crunchy vamp.
The moment eventually ended and segued into a triumphant “Peaches en Regalia”, the first take on the Frank Zappa composition since 7/22/17. The pandemic-induced stomper “I Never Needed You Like This Before” followed, further cementing its place in the songbook with its sixth performance in just seven months. Trey then coined new lot lingo by rebranding it “Gord side, shore side”, ahead of Mike Gordon taking the lead on Son Seals‘ “Funky Bitch”.
Page once again retook star of the show in the ensuing jam, taking his B3 organ for a spin and playing up the tropical vibe that ensconced the band. Like any return following a long break, the first show back sees Phish shake off the dust—or sand—with a show light on jams. That’s why it was so surprising, five songs into the four-night run, to see the band rip into “Tweezer”. Any nervous naysayers were hopefully temporarily abated as Fishman pulled out his trusty samples to ease the tensions with the 2021-gvintage “Yeah” and laughing samples.
Phish quickly launched into space, destination unknown. Page pushed the jam along with intergalactic phasers, before bringing things back down to the Earth’s atmosphere with a switch over to the grand as the jam took shape around Trey’s hands. The guitarist and Fishman soon connected to gradually ramp up the energy, only to turn the whole thing back around and blast off into the cosmos. With Trey utilizing his octave pedals and Page on the Hohner, the jam inched toward the 20-minute mark, sneaking just past it before segueing into “Piper”.
Phish – “Tweezer” – 2/24/22
[Video: Rich A.]
Though the “Tweezer” may have been a little shallow for some and the “Piper” built a little too quickly, if nothing else the two vehicles appeared to have sufficiently warmed up the band. Was it worth it to knock The Big One off the board this early? Only time will tell. However, the band’s sync was palpable coming out of the end of “Piper”—including lighting director Chris Kuroda, who became fully in-tune with the musicians.
The jam kept rolling on through an exceptionally brief “Soul Planet”. The band took audiences out of the murky depths fostered by the two preceding jams and encouraged by Kuroda, bringing us back to the surface of the “Soul Planet”, where the ocean is love. The ensuing microcosm of improvisation heard teases of “Tweezer”, inspiring hope that maybe Phish had more planned for the jam (they didn’t).
Mike G took back the mic for “Meat”, which heard more “Yeah” samples from The Wolfman’s Brother behind the kit. Then came the second-ever telling of “The Howling”, debuted on Halloween as part of the Sci-Fi Soldier set. Outside the at-times overwhelming construct of the band’s ambitious 2021 Halloween show, the song took on a natural groove akin to “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” from 2018’s Kasvot Växt. The groove-based composition with simplistic lyrics seems a natural addition to Phish’s live repertoire, ripe with opportunities for extended improv.
After nearly 90 straight minutes of music, it was time for a breather with “Shade”. Somewhere they were dancing and we were singing a tune, as Trey’s ballad led to the first stop in play in nearly an hour. Another light, breezy song arrived with “Evolve”, another Trey quarantine track performed for only the third time.
Following some humble thanks from Trey, the band dove straight into “Tube”. Hopes of a jammed-out “Tube” were fanned when Trey once again teased “Tweezer” as the song’s mid-section opened into a sprawling space with boundless musical opportunities. A “less is more” aesthetic ensued before the band wrapped it up at the nine-minute mark. Don’t take it from me, @DidTheyJamOutTube gave it a simple “Not tonight”.
The set wound down with a segue into “Sigma Oasis”, another song that will forever retain its pandemic relevance (though lyricist Tom Marshall reminds us the song was written in 2018). On the topic of relevance, the set closed with “Sand”. Winding down the clock of night one, Phish was as warmed up as the sand will be on the Riviera beach come showtime on Friday. As Trey lit off musical fireworks in the closing finale, those watching the monitors were greeted with Big Red’s lip-biting face reminiscent of the spark shown in the 20th century. With any luck, that spark will be fanned into a roaring flame over the next three nights.
A suspiciously lengthy encore break brought the band back to the stage with the addition of Dave Matthews. The adult contemporary star hosted his own Mexican getaway at the same resort last week, during which he welcomed Trey to the stage. Though this is becoming something of a tradition for Trey to join Dave in Mexico—he also did so in 2020—the same cannot be said the other way around. Thursday’s sit-in marked Dave Matthews’ first time joining Phish onstage since 6/17/95.
Armed with acoustic guitar, Dave walked Phish through its debut of his Some Devil track, “So Damn Lucky”. The rest of the band filed in behind the acoustic accompaniment, with Trey grinning from ear to ear. Dave stuck around for a take on “The Maker”, Phish’s second-ever telling of the Daniel Lanois‘ track since debuting it on 10/15/94, also with Dave.
For those who maybe weren’t too thrilled about Dave Matthews coming out for the encore, “The Maker” felt like an olive branch. Whether intended as a nod or not, the song carries a clear connection to Jerry Garcia’s solo outfit for many fans as JGB performed the track dozens of times.
Phish, Dave Matthews – “So Damn Lucky” – 2/24/22
[Video: Rich A.]
The uneasy peace between the doting fans and the melting fans came crashing down as Dave Matthews, armed with acoustic guitar, launched into the riff of “Tweezer Reprise”. Playing a Dave Matthews solo tune and collaborating on a cover dialed up the laid-back, beach vibes that permeate through the sand of Rivera Maya and onto the screens of thousands of fans streaming at home. But Phish de-fanged one of its hardest-hitting compositions by giving it to the guy who showed up to a party with an acoustic guitar. The polite thing to say would be “if you like Dave Matthews and Phish, you’re in luck,” but for the rest of us: take the nasty ending to “Sand” and call it a day.
Phish, Dave Matthews – “Tweezer Reprise” – 2/24/22
[Video: Jessica Kaufman]
Scroll down to check out a gallery of images courtesy of photographer Peter Wallace.
Setlist [via phish.net]: Phish: Riviera Maya | Moon Palace Resort | Cancún, Quintana Roo, MX | 2/24/22
Set One: The Lizards, The Moma Dance > Peaches en Regalia, I Never Needed You Like This Before, Funky Bitch > Tweezer -> Piper -> Soul Planet -> Meat > The Howling > Shade, Evolve, Tube > Sigma Oasis, Sand
Encore: So Damn Lucky, The Maker, Tweezer Reprise
 Phish debut; with Dave Matthews on guitar and vocals.
 With Dave Matthews on guitar and vocals.
This show featured two bustouts: Peaches en Regalia, which was performed for the first time since July 22, 2017 (138 shows), and The Maker, which was performed for the first time since October 15, 1994 (997 shows). So Damn Lucky also made its Phish debut at this show. Tweezer contained Freddie’s Dead teases from Trey and The Lizards teases from Trey and Page. Trey teased Tweezer in Soul Planet and Tube. Trey teased Smoke on the Water in Meat. The encore featured Dave Matthews on guitar and vocals.