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:

    2003 was the first time I saw tour girls whoring themselves for tickets. “all three holes for your extra”. Kind of a bad sign overall.

  2. MrCompletely Says:

    ah so thus the pelvis thing eh @dorn? that’s a tough lesson. glad that you’re a glide

  3. CPTMURIKA Says:

    Coventry…did that Really even happen?

    I’m glad, glad, glad that we’ve Collectively (re)arrived!

    Thanx to the Boys, their health and choices…and to ALL of Us…WOMBAT!!

  4. MrCompletely Says:

    cool @verno yeah that list is gonna all be good ones in that style you like, except 5.2.70 which is just a must hear oldschool version. Of course after I posted that I thought of a few more but that seems like enough for now

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    anyone have lossless of the 1.25.72 JGMS with Tupelo Honey? @heady? I can’t find my disk of that set

  6. verno329 Says:

    I’ll second C’s Tupelo Honey lossless request. Visited that one before and after Other One’s last night as a form of palate cleanser.

  7. RicksFork Says:

    “2003 was the first time I saw tour girls whoring themselves for tickets. “all three holes for your extra”. Kind of a bad sign overall.”

    ^ Kind of a bad sign? I would say that is the definition of a bad sign. Did stuff like this really happen? Most of me is almost glad that I missed the tail end of things in 2.0. If I saw something like that I think I would question what I was doing there.

    More and more content with where things are now. Complaints about predictability, first sets and ripcords seem trivial when compared to a scene that had deteriorated and a band that was on the brink of something really bad. Viva la 3.0!

  8. dorn76 Says:

    Thx, C.

    Talk of Coventry raising catharsis from the ashes.

  9. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    new caribou album leaked… 2 months early. feel a little guilty listening to it but fuck it’s good

  10. Kaveh Says:

    abandoned shoes stuck in the mud,

    ^ whatever you do, take care of your shoes!

  11. butter Says:

    Miner sounds like we were in a very similar place around Coventry

    I didn’t care/ was almost happy it was done if this is what it had turned into and was going to be

    Thought they were gone for good and was ok with it

    Couldn’t even remember what 1.0 was like it had gotten so bad

    MDMA was the hardest powder or drug I did and in a funny way I didn’t realize at the time, it dumbed down my trip enuf to put up with the numbed out scene

    I started doing Jamcruise the January after for something like 5/7 next years and it was a much more vibrant rainbowy scene

    Like everybody so stoked to have such a healthy band/scene in 3.0

    Even is it were to end sometime soonish we can remember how amazing a band and trip this all is

  12. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    @kaveh that’s what i thought miner meant by analogy for the whole weekend.

  13. Kaveh Says:

    Alpine was my good bye to the band, and what a great way to close it all down for me. I remember after the second night ended…the band just stood there…as if this was a rehearsal for Coventry where they would take their final bow. And then Trey went over to Mike and gave him a hug. It was a very strange moment…but I left on a emotional high. No sad feelings, but thankfulness. And to make it the perfect weekend, Alpine security didn’t ask us to leave until 3am…we, everyone for the most part, just hung out and post-showed together…in the land of cheese.

  14. Kaveh Says:

    Did I miss talk of the new Allman brothers release here? Complete Fillmore east set

    ^ reading back…what is this?! :) Man…Friday just keeps getting better and better.

  15. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    kaveh, complete fillmore east shows. full shows. up on pirate b in flac

  16. butter Says:

    ^now tons of 1.0 memories have come back to me during 3.0

    It helps with shows at venues like Glenn Falls, Wooster, Red Rocks, Gorge, Telluride

    And new 3.0 dream venues like Indio, Bill Graham and Portsmouth

    Here here to Fall 14!!

  17. tela's_muff Says:

    amazingly i think the music was worse at the Vegas ’04 shows. although i haven’t listened back to them. at least DC and Alpine were decent that summer for me.

    i was fine with the breakup at that time. i needed to move forward in life. had a kid, got a degree, got a real job. listened to a lot of new music.

  18. dorn76 Says:

    Little taste of TTB last night. Keep on Growing!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AD9ZGpNeiLM

    Really nice to find a mutual point of musical joy with the lady, and a “new” band we can share in.

    #MomandDadRock

  19. MrCompletely Says:

    Kinks live ’73
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1J2OkCPqk8

    Tony Rice, JD Crowe, Grisman, Mark O’Connor
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTu50v3aAio

  20. MrCompletely Says:

    and now for something Completely different

    1983 US festival Heavy Metal Day:
    Motley Crue
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jh8Zh7SdMVs

    Quiet Riot
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV16fjwR5qc

    all courtesy of /r/listentoconcerts/

  21. cal Says:

    Cool post, Miner.

    My thought walking out of the movie theater in some northern suburb of Chicago was ‘they can’t end it like THAT.’ But it was more of a defeatist lament than a premonition. The flip side was ‘if this is what it’s come to then it’s GOT to end.’ I hadn’t realized how bad things had gotten until seeing Trey up close on that screen. It was incredibly disturbing to me. I was pissed beyond belief. Others cried; I just felt resentment. Last show ever and THIS is the best you can do?

    I don’t understand drug addiction. I can acknowledge that. I’ve dealt with it with some of my closest friends but not myself personally, so I’ll probably never know. I’m more sympathetic now (I hope). I dabbled in oxy during those days and any of the other lesser such pills I could get my hands on, and felt incredibly guilty when the phase ended for me and not for some others. It never seemed a danger to me but subsequently opiates nearly robbed me of one of my best friends. I never felt the darkness of the scene except within the music, and I LOVED that. Too mollied up most shows to pay any attention to what was really going on, plus surrounded by an overwhelmingly positive crew. Nowadays just incredibly grateful we all came out of it ahead and have our band back.

    Still miss the darkness of the music, though. That was there before the hard drugs but I guess there’s no going back for Trey. I can live without it.

    Happy Friday, y’all!

  22. MrCompletely Says:

    @ricksfork

    yes that absolutely happened. That was on the way into the Gorge in ’03. And yes that is definitely the worst, I was understating it. She was young, too.

    The second worst part is she was offering all three in a campground without easy access to showers. that’s so wooked out I can’t even…

    The worst part is that it was the Gorge and extras were cheap that year & sometimes free, I saw some on the ground closer to the gates.

    So….yeah.

  23. Kaveh Says:

    @df: thanks! weekend project.

  24. MrCompletely Says:

    @cal – somehow like you I was born without the addiction gene. We are SO LUCKY. I’ve always been able to dabble and stop. Has nothing to do with willpower, I don’t really have any of that. Things just don’t grab me the way they do others. My dad for one, lots in my family actually, so really just total blind luck!

  25. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    2003 was the first time I saw tour girls whoring themselves for tickets.

    ^hampton ’98 i was offered a blow job for an extra. my girl at the time looked at the girl, wiped her mouth with her wrist, held up her ticket and said, “i got to him first.” it was so funny. most of the woman i have dated have had wonderful senses of humor.

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