Thinking Back to Coventry

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 14th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
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)

Tags: , ,

Dear Phish: Words from Coventry

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on May 13th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Coventry 2004

This weekend I received an email from George Pratt, a stagehand and musican that was part of the crew hired to work Coventry. While breaking down the stage long after the band had left the mud-filled site, he found a notebook that a bunch of fans had filled with letters to the band and thrown onstage. With their band crashing and burning, none of the guys saw it or cared to pick it up. George has kept it through all these years and has recently made arrangements with a Phish.net moderator to send the book to the official Phish archives. However, he also scanned the entire thing to share with fans, and he has already done so on Phantasy Tour and Phish.net.

When I began to read this, I was fascinated. All of these people, none whom I know, were telling Phish what they’d always wanted to tell them—deep emotions from the heart. Laced with clever comedy, these letters provided an emotional throwback for me, and halfway through I found myself in tears. But these weren’t tears of sadness—for Phish is alive and kicking, but tears of awe at the power of band. So many strangers shared my powerful emotions, and to see these notes that were written down as Phish was bowing out felt nothing short of magical. A predominant theme throughout of the letters is how Phish changed lives and provided people with unmatched happiness and the experiences of a lifetime. Take ten minutes of your day to read through the notebook yourself. You won’t regret it.

FAN NOTEBOOK FROM COVENTRY (PDF) 

We also have a way we can show George appreciation for this priceless piece of Phish history. Here’s an anecdote from his email that explains how.

In 2003, one of the companies I worked for was hired to provide all the labor for “Coventry” so off we went. We spent nearly a month in that town on that land both before and after the show building the venue, setting up the site, building the stage, and setting up all the lights, sound and video, and eventually all the band gear. The community of stagehands backstage was a show all on its own. We had various types of lodging. I was housed in a ski lodge nearly 45 minutes away but it was very nice. Since we are all crazy and were used to getting little sleep, each night turned into a party. Our house being the largest often played host. One particular night when all the stagehands were there, I grabbed my guitar— as I always do—and started playing some songs that I had written along the way. One of the guys there had a 4-track recorder and he quickly set it up. One of the songs I played that night was titled “Piss Wall.” It’s all about the giant wall we built that surrounded the entire corn field-turned-venue and enclosed the performance area.

I have had this song and book for years, and recently pulled this all out as part of my plan to win a contest for free studio time. I have made it to the finals in large part from the help I received from a lot of Phish fans on various forums. But I have fallen back to 3rd place and could use more help. Voting goes until Tuesday, so I still have a chance. I thought that since your blog is all about Phish, perhaps you might be interested in this book and song. People are really loving it and I hope you enjoy it as well.

Here is a link to vote for George in the contest. Hook it up!

=====

Jam of the Day:

Scents and Subtle Sounds” 7.23.03 I, Noblesville, IN

The opener of night three of three at Deer Creek.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Tags: , ,