With the final, rain-soaked Phish fest in Coventry, Vt., now in the books after a lengthy refund reconciliation, longtime band manager John Paluska will dismantle the band's Burlington, Vt.-based management company, Dionysian Productions.
"Dionysian Productions will be a non-entity as of the end of the year," Paluska, Phish's manager for 16 years, tells Billboard. "I'm taking a sabbatical and I don't know where I'll re-emerge. It may be in the music business, or it may not be."
Phish at Coventy by Dave Vann
Paluska started managing Phish while he was still in college. "My entire adult life has been consumed with this band," he says. "It has been an amazing 16 years."
Phish will maintain a small headquarters in Vermont, headed by longtime Phish archivist Kevin Shapiro. "The rest of us are all splitting off and doing different things," says Paluska. Dionysian's staff, including Phish Dry Goods, the band's merchandising company, numbered more than 25 when the band was on the road.
Jason Colton, a key executive at Dionysian, will continue to work with Phish bassist Mike Gordon as manager; Gordon is recording a second album with Leo Kottke in December and the pair will tour together again.
As previously reported, keyboardist Page McConnell just released a DVD, Live at the Fillmore, with his band Vida Blue and the Spam Allstars on Image Entertainment. Drummer Jon Fishman's side project, Pork Tornado, currently has no tour dates booked.
Sources say band guitarist Trey Anastasio is close to announcing a new management deal with Dave Matthews Band manager Coran Capshaw, but the move could not be immediately confirmed. Anastasio, who owns the most box office clout of any Phish member, will likely tour in 2005. The artist was recently visited in the studio by Gordon and Fishman while he was at work on his next project.
The last major effort of Dionysian Productions was orchestrating the mass refunding effort for fans turned away from Coventry. The Aug. 14-15 event sold out and grossed more than $8.8 million, but at least 10,000 people never made it into the grounds due to torrential rains that closed roads in the area.
Each of those ticket holders were fully refunded and also received a limited edition Danny Clinch photo-documentary about Phish. Band members hand-signed every copy.
"That in itself was quite an effort," says Paluska. "We rented space, and seeing all those books was quite a sight. It took the band a couple of solid days of signing to get it done. I hope people appreciate the gesture, because it was heartfelt. The band put a lot into it, and I think it was somewhat therapeutic."
On its final tour, Phish stayed true to its history, keeping ticket prices at the normal rate when it likely could have charged devoted fans three times as much.
"It would have been a little late to change our whole strategy," observes Paluska. "These guys will continue to have careers as musicians, and hopefully Phish fans will follow them in their new careers. So there wasn't any thinking of 'this is our last chance to squeeze every penny out before it ends.'"
-- Ray Waddell, Nashville
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