Thinking Back to Coventry

Coventry (Boston Globe)

Coventry (Boston Globe)

Coventry. The mere mention of the word makes any Phish fan cringe. But here we are, ten years later, on the heels of Phish’s sixth summer tour since their return and on the brink of their fourth fall tour in six years. One can say we’ve come a long way from the mud ridden disaster that was Coventry in 2004. Sometimes the universe just provides the exact combination of elements to match a particular mood, and between the traffic debocle, the mud-soaked concert field, and fans being turned away from the site in cars while others hiked in, everything about this weekend was an absolute fucking trainwreck. And then we had the band. In what was supposed to be their swan song, the came out in arguably the worst form of their career—in every way. Despite a few highlights over two days, the music, overall, matched the vibe of the festival as well—an utter fucking mess. Calling Coventry a travesty would be the understatement of the century. It was really that bad. If you need any memory of just how bad it got, watch some footage of the final night. Viewer discretion is advised. There wasn’t much takeaway from that weekend in Vermont, other than Phish was gone, and this time it was for good.

And somehow, I was ok with it all. I was devastated when Trey announced that they were done, but at Coventry, everything was already a foregone conclusion for me and I wasn’t all that traumatized by the events. I just knew things couldn’t be right with the band, because they just played their farewell festival without dropping “Tweezer.” And that’s not a joke, but a funny truth. There was no stepping into anything that weekend except mud, and lots of it. I remember walking back to our RV after the final show and just seeing abandoned shoes stuck in the mud, and somehow it felt like an apt analogy for the entire weekend. You had to just let go to enjoy yourself at all, even if it meant leaving your shoes behind. Phish was done and this was one last hurrah. But the irony was that there was very little joy at Coventry, and it was hardly a hurrah.

Coventry (

Coventry (

When they say the crowd went the way of the band in this era, its no joke. I didn’t have to look further than my own RV and my closest tour friends to see the effect that oxycontin and other hard drugs had taken on our scene. I was always someone who kept it lighthearted, I got spun and smoked weed all night, but I never saw the point in the “post-show” drugs. At some point, things shifted for some of my friends, as I’m sure they did for the band, and the entire tour experience became intertwined with hard drug use that went far beyond any recreational habit. Band members, my friends and way to many people in our community were in the grips of the same drug that had its grips on the nation, the semi-synthetic opiate named oxycontin that had become easily attainable in America during this time. It is a drug that chips away at one’s character and zest for life as quickly as it does their health, and in retrospect, it’s amazing Phish cranked out the music they did that summer. Leg one was solid the whole way through, and they had even played a fairly strong two-night stand at Great Woods just before Coventry. Through all the substances and internal issues, the band could still jam. Their composed playing had gone the way of the wind, but those guys could jam up until the end. Just about.

Many people say that they knew Phish would be back. I wasn’t one of those people. I took it at face value. Phish was done. I had to in order to put it all behind me and move on. After a little bit, it almost became easier to live a normal life without Phish, because I didn’t want to leave town every couple months for weeks on end. I didn’t have to make excuses to families, employers, schools and beyond in order to sneak off onto the astral plane with Phish. But throughout the band’s five year absence, I never found something that spoke to me as personally as Phish had, thus when I heard they were coming back, this entire blog began as a place to simply process my thoughts. I guess those people were right, because Phish came back, and they came back in a big way. Though it took a couple years to shake off the rust, Phish had climbed back to prominence, adding chapters upon chapters to their legacy that few dreamed possible. Thinking back to Coventry now is like remembering a bad dream from long ago. I can still relate to the emotions of the weekend, but they don’t sting any more because we are six years into a new era. Now we can all legitimately say, imagine what our lives would be if Phish hadn’t come back? And that, my friends, is pretty damn sweet.

Coventry (

Coventry (

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1,437 Responses to “Thinking Back to Coventry”

  1. bobby weird Says:

    “NY inferiority complex.”

    ^ guilty as charged, and every single one of us knows it.

  2. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Good man, Bobby!

    Agree with C re:Ebola. If the docs treating victims aren’t worried, neither am I.

  3. MrCompletely Says:

    funny we’re talking about ebola and some motorsports thing when all that missouri shit is going on. pretty white demo here though so that’s cool.

    Nah just kidding!!!! Do not want to talk politics.

    Good people everywhere. Bad people everywhere. Plenty of sweethearts in the northeast and assholes on the west coast. Massholes and guidos are just recognizable stereotypes and there are a lot of them. I’ve had plenty of great times in and around Boston, especially Cambridge. Never saw shows in Boston, by a twist of fate they weren’t playing there in my days, just Foxboro, which wasn’t really any different than any other big dumpy spot.

  4. bobby weird Says:

    yea, i watched a detailed panel discussion with several docs who treat this stuff. they were unanimous in just about laughing at the risk of spreading disease here by treating the Ebola patients.

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    I mean I had a terrible time with stereotypical massholes in Foxboro in ’87 but that’s one out of three and really just a random fluctuation, nothing to do with that city being “worse” than any other. Also had jerky run-ins in other cities all over the country. That was just a weird day. 4th of July brings out the worst in a certain type bonehead and it happens that was who I ran into.

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    yeah all the ebola talk is just pure paranoid fearmongering IMO

  7. Stoney Case Says:

    I love to be wrong, believe it or not. I hope I am in this Ebola case. I have zero confidence in our govt.’s ability to carry out anything. Didn’t LilUmb post a link this morning regarding mistakes in the health industry costing many lives? Anywhooo

    Where did I hear he’s the one that accelerated, rather than braked? SportsTalkRadio. Ask Palmer, it’s never wrong. People in racing, that aren’t beholden to the NASCAR brand have written and spoken after watching the film. They were under a yellow cautionary flag bro! Tony Stewart was by far, unquestionably, without debate, the most experienced driver on the course. Several cars avoided the kid, Stewart, the driver that rode Ward into the wall causing him to crash in the first place, did not! Ward is not the first person to walk across the track in auto racing after a wreck. Apparently it is as common as throwing helmets in pit row when you’re pissed.

    FTR, I have no idea if he did it on purpose. Based on what I’m hearing, it’s far from a foregone conclusion that he is not culpable in some way. Obviously Ward is as well. That goes without saying.

  8. bobby weird Says:

    C, so many Foxborough shows… heady drum/dance circles on a woodsy hilltop above our usual parking lot/campground. rich times indeed.

    Area is as ritzy as a sports stadium can be now, surrounded by high end restaurants, 4 star hotels, shopping mall, etc.

    but still that water tower rises above it all: yes the same one the Heads used to climb every year and adorn with huge Stealie. always wondered how they did that.

  9. Stoney Case Says:

    C! You asked for it.

    I’m the one talking Ebola! If I’m a paranoid fearmongerer, so be it. Bunch of stuff come to fruition that I’ve been paranoid about the last 20 years. Been called worse!

  10. bobby weird Says:

    whadda ya know! one of the Heads involved in the water tower paint job copped to it years later on!

    July 4th
    I was there that whole weekend…was part of a group that spray painted a steal your face on the foxboro watertower…narrowly avoided arrest. May not have been the coolest thing to do since it gave the Foxboro town council ammunition to not have the Dead back, but at 3am, half out of my mind it seemed the thing to do at the time….

    Still remember standing on the port o lets dead center on the field all the way back watching the “Knocking on heavens door” as the sun went down llike it was yesterday. Great times, great summer to be 18…

  11. MrCompletely Says:

    you’re not the paranoid fearmonger @stoney. I meant the media and pseudo-media types who keep banging that drum

  12. MrCompletely Says:

    and of course they did have the Dead back just 2 years later. that show was cool. underrated. 2nd set opened with an incredibly uptempo and super extended Friend of the Devil?!?!? 2 Jerry solos yo! Sick!

  13. MrCompletely Says:

  14. MrCompletely Says:

    LOL some people are tired of the downer stories

  15. phlorida phan Says:

    Sprint cars are like a waverunner, you steer with the throttle/gas pedal. My guess is Tony was getting close like watcha gonna do about it, but ward kept coming at him. I think heeven grabbed the car which caused him to get tired. 2 wrongs never make a right, and now a yound kid is dead.

  16. Mr. Palmer Says:

    on Stewart… He is the only person on this earth that will ever know what really happened.. Everything else is pure speculation.. They may charge him with something, but I can’t see anything ever sticking.. No way any of the accusations are provable in a court.

  17. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Incredible video footage fo the great 7.30.03 Camden Scents…

  18. Calpain Says:

    Catching up on comments from the last 3 posts…it’s been a long train ride through the dirty jerZ.
    Some amazing jazz/fusion rec’s. Gracias.

    Got our hospital’s Ebola protocol yesterday. Pretty basic in terms of isolation, which is why it is so proliferaive in ‘other’ countries that do not possess such $ for supplies to do it the right way.

    Treatment is not so simple. It’s a virus, so cannot be cured. Vaccines are still in clinical trial phase in the US and places in Africa do not even have facilities to produce the vaccines. Current treatment is early fever management, fluids and infection control.

    The screening protocols at airports seem pretty good. I would not worry about people who are transported here w the virus, since transmission prevention is quite basic and only certain companies w proper protection are allowed to transport.

    Just throwin in some facts, but y’all know how they are…still waiting…

  19. MrCompletely Says:

    thx @calpain. I would say this is an example of a case where David Byrne was wrong in that instance…

    It depends on what you mean by “treatment” right? The treatment is basically, try to keep the person alive until it passes. The success rate in a modern setting is over 50% for that, isn’t it?

  20. Calpain Says:

    Headed to the “shore” for time with the parents. Maybe catch a swell or 2 at about knee height. Yay east coast!

  21. Calpain Says:

    Exactly at @C. can cure the symptoms but not affect the cause(hopefully in the next year there will be a prospective vaccine available).

    Haven’t read the WHO data on survival stats. But a coin flip sounds to be in the ballpark.

    I would be more worries if you lived in the moracco or south of Spain where there are large amounts of refugees from Africa.

    Department of state has been pulling their research fellow and peace corps from Africa. So at least we aren’t leaving folks behind (I hope).

  22. verno329 Says:

    After spinning some of the ’95 PJJ this afternoon I can confirm that Fall ’95 ripped. From the word go, every jam just shreds from all 4 members. I know we all know this, but damn, sometimes it just bears repeating.

  23. MrCompletely Says:

    so wait the Donald Byrd track from 1969 “Kofi” is basically a yazz flute tune, and Kofi Burbridge is a flute player, right?

    kinda weird.

  24. Calpain Says:

    Best part of this ride is cruising past Bader Field. Love that little slice of an estuary

  25. Stoney Case Says:

    Mr. C, hilarious. I literally saw two tweets, basically saying ‘First Ebola patient arrives at Atlanta hospital. Second patient arrives’, with a photo of the ambulance. All I needed to see to figure we are screwed. Literally zero news coverage for me the last few weeks.

    bobby, thanks for carrying on. i don’t get to talk with lawyers in real life very often. only here on mr. miner’s site.

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