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 (sensiblereason.com)

Coventry (sensiblereason.com)

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 (fredshead.org)

Coventry (fredshead.org)

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1,437 Responses to “Thinking Back to Coventry”

  1. MrCompletely Says:

    Elmina is an ok tune. Otherwise this album a dud for me.

    Got four McCoy Tyner albums recorded around 68-70 that I’ve never heard: Expansions, Cosmos, Extensions, Asante. Based on a quick sampling I suspect this shit is going to be absolutely fucking excellent.

  2. MrCompletely Says:

    ha! okay! yeah there’s a lot of fear mongering going on. I figured you caught some talk radio or something. no offense or nothin’

  3. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Mr.. What is the date of the legendary “Warlocks” Hampton show???

    Also, Jerry’s first post -coma appearance was _____? Was it JGB or GD and what was that date? Want to spin those, or better yet, watch video.. Thanks

  4. MrCompletely Says:

    Lotta Gary Bartz, some Wayne Shorter, some Alice Coltrane, some Ron Carter and Elvin Jones on these albums – very promising. First one opens very strong with Freddie Waits, a name I don’t know, killing it on drums in an uptempo piece. This is dank late-model “real jazz” – post ‘Trane, post Miles sextet stuff but not fusiony at all

  5. Mr. Palmer Says:

    ^^^ Mr C obvs…

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    Warlocks were 10.8 and 10.9, there is a fine sounding box set release. Shows a bit overhyped musically but obviously historic.

    First public appearance post coma was a JGB show in early Oct. 86. Not sure the date. Lucky Old Sun debuted, which I think is interesting somehow.

    First GD post coma Oakland Col mid Dec ’86, 12.15?

    First east coast appearance Hampton 3.22.87

  7. MrCompletely Says:

    IIRC the first musically really interesting show at all is 12.30.86 but I haven’t heard the JGB stuff in years and years

  8. Stoney Case Says:

    no offense taken. I do enjoy me some AM radio. Just haven’t had a chance. Been catching a few Democracy Now podcasts. If they discussed Ebola, I missed it. Mostly middle east stuff.

    I miss the Cold War. This Hot War in the dessert sucks.

  9. MrCompletely Says:

    two tunes in and this Tyner shit is crazy good

  10. MrCompletely Says:

    middle east is completely fucked

  11. Stoney Case Says:

    C, the “Attics” night 2 was probably overkill

  12. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Thanks for the 411..

    Here is 10/8/89

    Set 1
    Foolish Heart
    Walking Blues
    Candyman
    Me & My Uncle
    Big River
    Stagger Lee
    Queen Jane Approximately
    Birdsong
    Promised Land

    Set 2
    Help On The Way
    Slipknot
    Franklin’s Tower
    Victim Or The Crime
    Eyes Of The World
    Drums
    Space
    I Need A Miracle
    The Wheel
    Gimme Some Lovin’
    Morning Dew
    We Bid You Goodnight

  13. MrCompletely Says:

    ha!

    don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad at all and parts of it are musically great. The Dark Star is pretty legit. The Death Don’t (not a bustout, but still) was insane, probably the best played thing. Attics was the legit jaw dropper since my friends and I all knew Help – Slip and Dark Star were coming.

  14. Mr. Palmer Says:

    C- Were those Warlock shows also the first time JG busted out the “Wolf” in more than a few years? Yeah, I’m a sucker for bizarre, useless info like this stuff.

    Didn’t realize they put out a Box set for these shows… Cool.

  15. MrCompletely Says:

    help – slip the only bustout night 1. kind of a meh first set to me. Birdsong good but not exceptional. AWBYGN was fresh for a lot of people still.

  16. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Oops.. link to video of show…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=459QWNmg0FU

  17. MrCompletely Says:

    no Palmer I think the Wolf came out at the Shoreline shows. he was using it because they modded an outboard MIDI rig onto it. was a big deal though! first time it had been played since ’79

  18. MrCompletely Says:

    night 2 def smokes night 1 warlocks wise

  19. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Looking forward to the day when “Space Antelope” does their 10 day run at the Capitol Theatre…. Gonna be the sickness.

    Kaveh- thinking about coming up for a weekend for Phil this Fall?

  20. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Walkin Blues is close to top of list for my most hated Bobby tunes… I think i caught this at 3/4 of the 25 shows I saw..

  21. MrCompletely Says:

    such a boring song

    it’s not even really offensively bad usually except for the incredible boringness of it

  22. Selector J Says:

    Sorry, corncob. “Black Byrd” may have been Blue Note’s best selling album for many years but that is definitely no longer the case.

    - All of Norah Jones’ albums went at least platinum with “Come Away With Me” reaching 10x Platinum and earning the title of Blue Note’s best selling record of all time.

    - US3′s “Hand On The Torch” went Platinum due to the success of their single ‘Cantaloop.’

    - Stanley Jordan’s 1985 release, “Magic Touch,” went Gold in 2002.

    - Coltrane’s “Blue Trane” achieved Gold in 2001.

    “Black Byrd” has yet to achieve Gold status.

    Source:
    https://riaa.com/goldandplatinumdata.php?content_selector=gold-platinum-searchable-database#

  23. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Yup, that’s it… boredom…

    CandyMan- another great Jerry “ballad” that remained a set 1 song… Never made it up to the big leagues and the late set 2 “Jerry Ballad Slot”.

    Non-related- Never forget finding my Dad’s vinyl copy of the “Skull Fuck” record in my basement.. Love everyone of those songs always ,as a result of spinning it a ton as a youngster. Bertha and Wharf Rat both hit sweet spots in my early musical brain…

  24. MrCompletely Says:

    Oh man my wife is going to absolutely love this Tyner stuff. Rippingly good but not too out there/aggro. Fucking crazy piano. Unleashed.

  25. MrCompletely Says:

    Candyman def a kind tune among the first set standards. Every once in awhile he’d next-level the solo. Kinda like Loser that way.

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