Pharewell My Friend: Phish Says Farewell At Coventry

Advertisement

We figured this was the last time we would write a Phish feature and we all had different things to say so… Today’s class will feature a Phish review in the "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure" style. Of course, the beauty of this method is that you can choose multiple adventures and keep reading. Regardless of what your choice will be, it is all yours. Without further adieu, JamBase bids pharewell to Phish…

It’s over a week after Coventry and it’s still quite painful to listen to my favorite band. I have had the MP3s downloaded for days now and have finally mustered up the courage to run through the six sets of the phinal Phish days in Vermont and tell you all my thoughts on the subject. Still fighting the tears and anxiety attacks, in searching for one word to sum up how I feel, it would have to be bittersweet.

Before we begin to retell the end, let’s go back about 20 years to that little one-roomed cabin in West Charleston, Vermont, where a snot-nosed Trey spent a summer writing music for his new band called Phish. Was he just some crazy kid who isolated himself with only his dog in the middle of nowhere? At the time, was he escaping some reality that didn’t quite fit with the world that he created in his mind? (Gamehendge IS a state of mind, after all.) Perhaps he saw a vision of 65,000 people dancing in a field in the next town over chanting the words from his song. Maybe he saw the beginning and then end right there in that cabin knowing that whatever comes and goes in life, to never have regrets.


Phish in the Hampton Muthaship
singing "All of These Dreams"

Phast phorward to the pharewell tour of two-thousand phour (sorry – getting a bit "ph" happy here). It was not a dead man’s walk. I ventured to Hamptonand the two shows at Great Woods before trekking up to the farmland in Vermont. For the most part, until the final show day in Vermont, the boys looked like they were having a blast. The Hampton show was a bit strange with the sets seemingly flip-flopped – the first set a five song heavy rager and the second set many mellow songs – and the general feeling was somber and dark. Both Great Woods shows had a wonderful spirit with lots of fun and games – bringing that girl on stage for "Tears of a Clown," the last vacuum solo ever with a vote about whether Fishman song makes or breaks a show – and great sets including unsuspectingly the last "Divided Sky," "Tweezer," and "2001." While this last run featured a parade of "last evers," there were a lot of firsts too: Trey saying "Play it Cactus" instead of "Play it Leo" in "Yamar" (and Mike proceeding to drop bombs at the call), the barrage of non-musical guests pulled out on stage at Coventry (the techs, Paluska, the Trey and Mike YOUR MOM jam).


Nice work, Kuroda!

The most amazing musical "first" I saw the band do this week was the duets between Mike and Trey. This was going on all week. Mike and Trey would end up practically nose-to-nose, eyes locked, just playing around each other’s notes like young boys. It was something new but there was a nostalgic quality to it as I imagined the two talented, young, and weird guys from years ago in a small room enjoying the sounds that were coming out of each other. Speaking of Mike, I hear rumors of a WWMD [What Will Mike Do] club forming. I digress…


Coventry corn

Traveling along through the beautiful Northeast Kingdom of Vermont… Is there a more peaceful place in this universe? As a young super hero, I spent many a winter vacation in the softly rolling mountains and every time I crossed state lines, breathing was a little easier, life a bit slower, and the air somewhat magical. This mellow Vermont vibe was the perfect backdrop for the insanity that people went through to get into the festival. You’ve heard the stories: 15, 20, 39(!) hours of traffic with two kids in the car, huge farm tractors towing vehicles into the mud one-by-one, hurricanes and storms along the East Coast. One of the most inspiring things I saw was driving out of the festival on Monday morning and seeing Highway 91 littered with cars neatly parked on the grass shoulders and medians. Just what does one do when Phish gets on the radio and says that they are so sorry but they just cannot allow any more cars into the venue? Well, you get out of your car, put on those walkin’ boots, and get yer ass to the show! The band was so touched by this and repeatedly thanked the hikers.

Ok, is it time to talk about the music yet? Botched riffs, wrong keys, missed lyrics, yes. Overrated? You’re not gonna make me fall for that one again, bug! The beginning of "Reba" was pretty darn shaky, wasn’t it? And oh how they screwed up that "Glide." Get this… WHO CARES?! What we witnessed was four men totally exposed which made the music we were hearing so real.

Everything was just perfect from where I was standing (and sinking in mud). Man, I even developed a relationship with the song "Friday." They were playing the music that was already there. In the recent Trey interview in Guitar World (which I recommend everyone read – especially those expecting a reunion tour in 5 years), Trey was describing the "sound of life" and how listening to that sound and playing it will cause people to respond because they are hearing it too. Trey tells GW, "And when I’m playing onstage, I find myself looking out, not usually into people’s faces, but over their heads and up. And the endless possibilities, the depth of it all, occasionally will come to you." I can only imagine what the space above 65,000 heads at the concert field on these final days was like and what possibilities were made available.


Hood blimp at Great Woods

There was some absolute face-melting sickness too. In true Phestival style, jams were drawn out but this time it felt more like prolonging, as if they were trying to hard code each song into our souls for all time. Jam highlights for me would have to be the ones out of "Stash," "Drowned," "Down With Disease," and "Split Open and Melt." Difficult goodbyes were "David Bowie," "Taste," and "Mike’s/Groove. Especially difficult was saying goodbye to "Harry Hood," "Reba," and "Slave to the Traffic Light." These songs are the musical equivalent of true love for me and to have them ripped away, never again to be experienced right there in the moment… well words cannot describe how disheartening that is. These songs became our friends through the years and tours; familiar yet unique and evolving every time we heard them.

From my words you may think I’m coming from a gloomy place but in truth, I really am hopeful and optimistic for the future. As I said in my high school yearbook when I was feeling sad and scared about leaving my friends on Long Island for the mysterious cornfields of Indiana, every end brings a new beginning. The post-Phish world will be exciting and fun and adventurous and nurturing. It will be all that Phish was because we learned how to live a certain way: not taking life too seriously while placing value on truly important intangible matters and doing it all with creative intelligence. We learned how to take care of our shoes as well as our phellow phriend. We learned how to surrender to the flow and live while we’re young (even when we’re getting older). We learned that you can live under the mainstream radar and still have a profound effect on this planet and its creatures. Would we have learned all of this without Phish? Perhaps. But the soundtrack would not have been nearly as kick-ass as it has been.

So, fine, life will move on after Phish. Life is great! There is fantastic music popping out of every small town and big city in the country. Time, money, and energy are now freed up for travel, family, and tons of other stuff that I don’t know about yet. I’m happy for Trey, Mike, Page, and Jon that they were lucky enough to be in the center of our collective experience together through the years. I’m happy they got to say goodbye the way they wanted to and that they always had the upper hand in the decisions for their careers. I’m happy that they still have music in them and we will absolutely see them all again.

Yet still, when that “Curtain” came down, I closed my eyes and wished for just one more song…

SuperDee
JamBase HEADquarters
Go See Live Music!

THE KAYCEMAN COMETH

There was no choice. There was never any choice with Phish. From those days in the early ’90s up to their phinal shows ever, there was never any choice whether we would be there. I clearly recall those nights in 1995 when we would walk out of the show, there was never any question if we were going tomorrow night, it was simply a matter of, “what time do we have to leave to make the opener?” And so it was with Coventry, and this time you REALLY had to want it… No, you had to NEED it.


Trey Anastasio : 08.15.04 : VT by David Vann

On Thursday night in Camden (the site of the last real Phish show–which was white hot by the way) prior to the now infamous weekend in Vermont, leader of Phish (and for many the entire universe) Trey Anastasio told me to wait until Saturday to enter the rolling hills and open fields that would serve as Phish’s goodbye. He said it was very wet and they needed some more time to prepare, and as he repeated the fact that nothing was going to happen before Saturday we were easily convinced. And when the leader speaks, you listen. Thus we put the drive off, we slept a bit more and we let the time pass laughing with dear phriends as we prepared for the end of an era. Fast forward to Saturday morning, we’re but a few miles away, it’s about 9 a.m., we’re listening to Phish’s “Bunny” radio station being broadcast from the festival grounds. In some way similar (allow me to be melodramatic here, it was very emotional) to when the radio bled news of JFK’s assassination, bassist Mike Gordon took the mic and “officially” told “everyone” to turn around. We pulled over; we parked our caravan on the side of the road as a full spectrum of emotions began to turn purple and red in my mind. “Shut up for a second. He said ‘no cars’ can come in.” And like the “Secret Language” we all learned ten years ago, Mike was secretly telling me to park my car and get my ass in there any way possible. He didn’t say, “Coventry is canceled.” (Even if he had I was going in to find out for myself). I grabbed the radio by its collar and screamed, “Listen Mike, I love you, but we all know Trey is in charge. Trey said to come Saturday. It’s Saturday, and I’M COMING!” I had just completed a 20 year course, I wasn’t about to miss the final exam.

left by Jen Katz :: right by Rie Kasahara


Coventry by Mary Grace Dunn

And so it began. Our long, ominous, arduous pilgrimage to Mecca was under way… And like all those stories you read in Sunday school, the religious pilgrimage would be grueling, and some wouldn’t make it, but the most devout would simply not be denied. This connection to religion is not simply a nice metaphor. For a generation of 20-, now many 30-something’s who have been disaffected by the mass religious commodity, where everything is sterile business and nothing is spiritual; in a time when religion equals hate and war is sacrament; in a day when the most holy of men, the priests of our congregations should be slung on a cross for what they have done to the youth behind closed doors–it should come as no surprise that our generation has turned to music, and specifically, we have put our Phaith in Phish. I never saw God in a book, but we have seen the holiest of holies in the rafters of Madison Square Garden, in the summer skies surrounding Trey’s Languedoc.

We have tasted something much larger than life in Phish, and in bringing our community together and performing rituals, in bonding us all together in something that was far greater than our daily lives we truly found spirituality. As the great writer Kurt Vonnegut said, “MUSIC FOR ME IS PROOF OF THE EXISTENCE OF GOD” and in late 2004 Trey and Phish are God’s prophets, and Coventry was the phinal coming. Yes, I realize that is a lot to digest, and perhaps that is part of why they simply had to pull the plug, why they had to end it before the weight of it all imploded and killed us all… It was time to touch the heavens once more and then swim into the sky, it was time to say goodbye.


Page and Trey : 08.14.04 : VT by Tony Stack

Goodbyes are always messy. Like leaving a love you simply don’t want to let go of, but simply know you must; they’re full of emotions, of tears, of cracking voices and weak knees. Phish was my first love, they taught me everything about what music could be. They opened the doors that are still flying open at a rate my ears can only hope to keep up with. They say you never forget the one who first took your heart, your virginity, and I will clearly never forget Phish. And if that goodbye to the girl you first met in high school was hard and cluttered, this, the phinal goodbye to four men who have served as friend, lover, and father to us all would prove to be muddled, raunchy, and messier than imaginable, yet it would also be exactly as it should be. It would be a microcosm for all that Phish was, and in turn, all that life can be.

There are some things you simply cannot control, things like the weather, the mud, and traffic. Things like when your cat dies or what songs Phish will play, or if they will ever play again. And that, like Phish in some ways, reflects our existence on this planet, and this one time, these last moments were simply not about notes and transitions, flubs and miscues, it was about being with phamily and saying goodbye. If you wanted to see Phish in their element, doing what they do best, you should have been in Camden (or countless other shows over the past 21 years). Coventry wasn’t about that at all–that was over. Coventry was about bidding pharewell to our heroes.


Trey Anastasio : 08.14.04 : VT
By Tony Stack

Saturday August 14, the first day of Phish’s two-day pharewell concert was a whirlwind. If you were able to negotiate the maze of traffic and traverse the mass of land, if you actually managed to get into Coventry on Saturday, you had already won. More so than any other night with Phish, just being there was enough.

I’m leaving you a message
I’m leaving you a trace
I’m leaving thoughts for you
I hope that time will not erase

-Walls of the Cave

To think that these final six sets were not scripted, from the first song to the last note, would be naive. This was 20 years in the making and you can be damn well sure that Trey carefully placed each song his band would play. And so the opener was “Walls of the Cave”–leaving us this final message that time could never erase. This was the final offering we would be given, and it was underway with the ever-so-perfect words to fit the moment.

Perhaps even more so than on Sunday, the first day of the festival was plagued by rough spots and wrong notes. Imagine the stress this must have put on the band. To have to turn phans away, to almost have to cancel their festival, to have to deal with the weather, the police and the safety of us all, I can’t even imagine what such headaches did to their level of focus. And again, to just be there was all that was needed, nothing else mattered anymore. This is a band of absolute pros, and in turn their fans are professionals as well. Similar to making the long trek from Alpine Valley to Hershey Park in one night, fighting the forces of nature and unthinkable consequences, getting into Coventry was the light at the end of the tunnel, to have made it was enough.


Trey Gives Away the Trampolines
08.14.04 by Libby McLinn

One of the most telling (and of course scripted) moments of the weekend came during what very well may be the band’s signature song “You Enjoy Myself.” After Trey and Mike enjoyed the trampolines for one last time Trey walked out across the rocks that lay in front of the stage. He stood in front of his disciples some how akin to Moses in front of the Hebrews. In a symbolic sacrificial offering that said more than words ever could, Trey gave us the trampolines. He handed the sacred instruments out to hungry hands and in doing so he made it clear: “That was the last time you will ever hear ‘Y.E.M.’ I no longer require these bouncing devices. They are yours. It’s over.”

Musically things hit a fresh stride when Trey decided to “blow off a little steam” for the first time during the Set I closing “Fire.” It would be the end section with feedback and ethereal white-grey-black-red noise swallowing the crowd that would find those rare moments when things get a little strange and the music takes on a life of its own. Yes, “Y.E.M.” and “Antelope” had moments of glory, but it was the final minutes of “Fire” that screamed success.


Mike Gordon : 08.14.04 : VT
By Tony Stack

Taking off where “Fire” had ended, the Set II opening “AC/DC Bag” would be a highlight of the entire weekend. Like all of us, I trust Trey has an easier time opening up when the sun goes down, and the back of “Bag” was as good as anything Phish has done in recent years. A botched “Yamar” (shit, I’m still glad I heard it) led to a discussion about Phish. Trey took the mic and told us about the ancient cabin with no electricity that he holed up in only 15 miles away. He spun a tale of candlelight writing sessions and searching his mind for what his legacy would be. He explained the tenets of his writing; he told us there were two songs that exemplified all of this, one he would play now, the other tomorrow night. Trey explained his need to find out, “How far can you push it in the harmonic and rhythmic language and still have people dancing?” He was talking about a prototype for what their music would be. He was talking about “David Bowie.” Matching the “AC/DC Bag” in intensity, “Bowie” was awesome, darkly inspiring and satiating.

The third set began with “Twist,” a song that the band worked and reworked over the past few years from a barely enjoyable throwaway to a deathly nasty jam platform. A painful “Wedge” followed (again, very rough, and at times hard to swallow, but for some reason still enjoyable?) and a very deliberate and drawn out “Stash” rescued the band. To match the “Bag” and “Bowie” of night one, the “Drowned” we all knew was coming (due of course to the torrential down pours, hurricane conditions, and mud bog that threatened Coventry) had a hard time getting on path, but the jam that ensued was full of life and sweaty passion. It was enough to erase the skid marks, it was all we needed.


Trey and Mike on the Rocks
08.14.04 by Libby McLinn

The encore of “Harry Hood” found Trey and Mike on those same sacrificial rocks in front of the stage, inches apart, face to face, working the sections of one of the band’s most beloved movements. Was it the best, tightest, most uplifting “Hood” I’ve ever heard? No, not even close. Was it the way I would have performed my final “Hood?” Certainly not. Does any of that matter? Not in the least. It was how Trey wanted to bid “Harry” goodbye, and that, my friends, is good enough of me. It damn well should be good enough for us all.

It was a strange, emotional, overwhelming, and very heavy sensation to know we were about to witness the last show from our band. To know beforehand that it would be the band’s final show is unprecedented in rock ‘n’ roll. No one knew when Jerry would die, and no one knew the day Mikey Houser would be unable to go on. No one can predict helicopter crashes and drug overdoses, so to have it marked on the calendar and go into August 15, 2004 with the knowledge that Phish very well may never play again created a sensation that will likely never be duplicated. I’m not even sure we have the words in our dialect to describe exactly the mix of emotions that were swimming inside as the band took the stage and launched into the last opener ever: “Mike’s Song” > “I am Hydrogen” > “Weekapaug Groove.” Again there were miscues and the set was far from perfect, and from afar, from simulcast and downloads I’m sure it was magnified, but somehow in its imperfection it was just at it should be, just as it had to be. It was what it was, and we loved it.


Trey & Page : 08.15.04 : VT
By Tony Stack

The “Reba” that hadn’t been touched the entire mini-tour was a much needed sound, the “Chalkdust Torture” fierce and grinding with a massive heated section on the tail. “Wolfman’s Brother” found Trey again giving explanations, offering tidbits some of us knew and all of us wanted. He told how Fishman is the Wolfman’s Brother, and he related the tale of that phone ringing. Trey and Mike brought their moms out and did the “Sexy Bump” with them. Page jumped on the clavinet and brought Phish’s version of dub-rock to fruition. The set ended with a hot “Taste” and more borderline angry interaction with their instruments.

The second set of the second and final night was the moment of complete connection and elevation I needed from the weekend. It was the last time I would be completely tapped into the frequency, it was the last time I would completely give myself to the band receiving the message via the mainline.

Coventry : 08.15.04 by David Vann

Waiting for the time when I can finally say
That this has all been wonderful but now I’m on my way

-Down With Disease


Playing the glowsticks : Down With Disease
08.15.04 by Libby McLinn

You knew it was coming. You knew the day Trey posted that note on Phish’s website telling us all that it was over that this was coming. And I’m very happy to report that when they decided to open Set II with “Down With Disease” it was completely over the top. With all the glowsticks that have ever glowed flying through the air and Trey even picking a pair up and using them to manipulate his guitar, the hinges began to come unglued. Phish was summoning the spirits from above and sending the UFO into hyperspace. As if too much for even them to handle they pulled the levers back and placed us firmly in the emotional mud of “Velvet Sea.” With a completely exposed, raw Page fighting tears and damn near having his own meltdown, it was the genuine emotion and heartfelt look into their souls that actually made “Velvet Sea” bearable for me. It was actually the one and only time I cheered during this song. No, I wasn’t even really cheering for the song, but for Page, and his fully open wound that was spilling over the masses.


Page McConnell : 08.15.04 : VT by David Vann

Trying to work the delicate “Glide” after the crying and clearly overwhelming emotions of the moment was hard to watch. “Glide” was butchered beyond repair, but as Trey fought back his own demons, his own weakness and emotions, he told us not once, but twice that it was yet again time to “blow off some fuckin’ steam.” And as the skies threatened rain, dropping a few morsels of water and showing ominous clouds over the hill, Trey took the Phish stake and drove it to the core of the earth. The band stopped playing music and became a conduit of the earth’s energy spouting vibrations into the sky and forcing Mother Nature back into her abyss, clearing the skies as if to proclaim, “No, not now. You have made it hard enough. You rained for weeks leading up and you will rain when we are done, but you will not rain now. You will not ruin this. You will go away and we will open up the earth.” And with that “Split Open and Melt” would be the unequivocal moment of glory that I needed in my final Phish experience. Dark and nasty, full of all the grit I once depended on, “Split Open” melted into “Ghost” as the band continued to ride the devilish ambience of their time-space continuum. Those 45-odd minutes when all life stood still and Phish held the energy of music, Mother Nature, and existence in the air, it was all happening, Phish had complete control of our psyche and took us to an elevated state of being.


Anastasio & Gordon : 08.15.04 : VT by David Vann

Five sets down, and just one more to go… this was it. It almost seemed like a race to find out what that final song would be. They already played “Reba,” they already gave us “Hood” and “DWD.” What could it be? Where would they go? But before the end, they opened one more set with the perfectly fitting “Fast Enough For You.”

“Seven Below,” one of the few “later-era Phish” songs of the weekend was strong, featuring a never-before-seen psychotic vocal section. After a swirling “Piper” the band did something so quintessentially Phish that in some ways it was the key moment of the set. Instead of simply thanking their crew and dropping the necessary names, Phish created a song to give thanks unto their monitor engineer Mark “Bruno” Bradley. As Trey explained, we (the universal “we the Phish community”) had never once uttered a word about the exceptional, absolutely crucial work Bruno does behind his monitors. So to properly acknowledge this they wrote a song called “The Bruno.” This was the quirky, dorky, ingenious Phish that grabbed me ten years ago. This was the band that can improvise like none other; this was the sense of humor that was always so critical to their delivery. This was another side of Phish, perhaps not as head-splitting heavy as the “Split Open” or “DWD,” but certainly a vital part of the organism.


Trey Anastasio : 08.15.04 : VT
By David Vann

After an emotional, tear-jerking, last goodbye to our nemesis “Wilson,” Trey led the band into the cathartic, marvelously played “Slave to the Traffic Light.” As powerful and moving as anything they performed all weekend, “Slave” released the shackles and made up for any and all errors we may have heard. Whether it was perfect or not, IT WAS PERFECT. Tears were flowing and hugs exchanged, fireworks lit up the sky and if I may dare to speak for 70,000–it was 100% surreal.

One song remained. The weeks of speculation were about to pop, we still had no idea… for some reason I couldn’t even wager a guess. “The Curtain With.” Are you fucking kidding me. How could I not have ever put my finger on it? It was the most obvious, most perfect song for this situation any band could ever have dreamed, and it was in their arsenal. This was the second song Trey was waiting to play that was tied to “David Bowie” in that cabin in the woods, the other song he believed was the prototype for all of Phish’s future. It was as if Trey knew 20 years ago this would be the last song they would ever play. This was the one he was saving, thank God. And this one time it just didn’t matter that they had to restart the jam because they were out of key. I hardly noticed. This was it, and it was absolutely perfect. To spell it out, we were granted the imagery of the curtain coming down after the show is over, the ultimate sign that the show has reached its conclusion. But that is only a third of the equation. With our show-ending imagery we hear our leader’s voice uttering, “PLEASE ME, HAVE NO REGRETS.” Could there be a better phinal phrase? Absolutely not. And finally, on top of the imagery and the words we have “The With”–the jam, the critical musical component that Phish was spawned on. “The Curtain With” and time stood still one last time. “The Curtain With” and all was at peace. “The Curtain With” and that was it.


The Phinal Bow : 08.15.04 : VT by Libby McLinn

After all was said and done, what was Coventry? Coventry was the exclamation point on a 20-plus-year career that has proven that we were the lucky ones who witnessed what very well may be the most influential band of our lifetime. Coventry was also the ultimate testament to the band we love. As Jon Fishman said on that final day, “For all you people who walked in here–(long pause)–that’s the greatest compliment that we could ever have. Thank you so much. That’s just unbelievable.” What greater statement could we have made than to literally do WHATEVER it took to be there with them. To walk up to 18 miles. To sit in up to 50 hours of traffic. To fight every odd imaginable, but yet to be there NO MATTER WHAT. What greater thank you could we have given them?

As I sit here days later, still contemplating and digesting, I am left with one complete notion of satisfaction. They have satiated my thirst and left me where I need to be. They did it. Somehow they made me love them again (which I did not think was possible) and then they quit. I hope they never come back. This is the taste I want in my mouth, this is how I want to remember Phish.

In the end all I can do is send love and thanks to all the people who made it possible. To all those wonderful people in Vermont who opened their yards and their hearts to the thousands of us stranded in a foreign land. To the Bruno’s and Kuroda’s, the bus drivers, Paluska-Colton managers, to the moms and to the dads, to Ernie Stires, and to all of you. And of course, most of all, THANK YOU to Mike, Page, Fish and Trey for showing us the way and giving so much. Thank you Phish, thank you. Pharewell my phriend.

The Kayceman
JamBase | Worldwide
Go See Live Music!

AARON STEIN FROM THE FRONT ROW

How many metaphors can one weekend produce? How much symbolism should we look for in acres of mud in northern Vermont? Can the entire Phish experience be whittled down to a single song?


Take Care Of Your Shoes : Coventry by Rie Kasahara

I believe it can be, but for each of us it will be a different song. For me it will be “Reba,” the first Phish song that I heard and thus the bookends to my personal Phish saga–high school to graduate school to the working world and family life. It was 12 and a half years of “Reba” for me, so that’s what I was screaming for and that’s what they gave me and doesn’t it just sum it all up? A bouncy melody with catchy lyrics that don’t make sense in any context; a long twisting composition featuring an over composed cat-and-mouse between not two, but four musicians. Yes, a mighty struggle to get through this late in the game, but they make it nonetheless, never as good as we remember it once being; a glorious jam that seems like it’s completely driven by devilish guitar licks but probably gets most of its fuel from the other three hangers-on. It sums it up perfectly for me.


Trey : 08.15.04
By Tony Stack

Maybe for you it was the “Piper.” The beginning was slow and somewhat uncertain and while we expected it to build and build at a linear pace, it abruptly hit its stride seemingly way, way too soon. Then before we could catch our breath, the guitar was wailing at a pace only an NRA apologist could appreciate. Faster, faster, more and more out of control… Glazed looks on that guitarist’s face shot in this direction and that. And then those crazy eyes catch your crazy eyes just like they have so many times before and yet this time it’s the last time and so you move your body like it hasn’t moved in a decade. For just that brief moment you are dancing with a ghost. The rest of the band barely keeping up until finally letting up just as abruptly as it had started. The crowd not sure if it wanted more and if it did if they could handle it. Who knows what the band was thinking.

There are hundreds of choices and Phish only gave us a small sampling of them over the course of the weekend which of course is disappointing but was inevitable nonetheless. This band has always been about the music to me. At its core it was the music, the musicians, the music. And yet Sunday, it really didn’t matter what they played or how they played it. This is what made it strange. We struggled a Jobian struggle to get to Coventry and in the end it didn’t matter that they reward our persistence. The reward was already meted out over a two-decade long stretch of album covers, mid-week Midwest bustouts, sets that lasted all night and crested two millennia, small-venue vacations in Europe or jams from flatbed trucks or airport control towers, long trippy narrations in the middle of bits of a college thesis, guest trampolinists and long, scrotum-rattling vacuum solos. We’d already reaped the rewards of travails through traffic and manure-stenched mud baths: before the fact! Now it was their time. We were only there as observers. If they told you the setlist in advance you would have still done it, right? That was the gift: we knew it was the last one. We were given a chance to say goodbye if we were willing to endure and improvise just as this band has endured and improvised every time nature or the authority has said it shan’t. As it turned out, they put on a pretty good show as well. Well, that isn’t quite true. For me it was one of the best.


Coventry By Tony Stack

You have to understand that I am the most critical Phish fan on this planet. I have seen the mountaintop and it was perfection I came to expect and frowned when they didn’t make it there. And those six sets were anything but perfection, believe you me. But they contained perfection and I learned, maybe too late, that that was all that really mattered. It was the best of times it was the worst of times, but it was quintessentially Phish and you really had no choice but to love it or go home. There’s so much to talk about between the rain and the turning away of dedicated travelers, but I won’t comment on them. I was lucky, I know that. I empathize with everyone who wasn’t, but I cannot sympathize. We were lucky.


Trey : 08.14.04
By Tony Stack

From my point of view, they could not have ended the trip any better than they did this weekend. Yeah, no bustouts, no craziness, unbelievable sloppiness at points, etc… But who cares? I can’t bring myself to complain about one thing from these shows. It was the best Phish has to offer and the worst Phish has to offer all at the same time. They showed us why they were so great, displayed all the reasons we loved them for all these years and most importantly they showed us in full Technicolor why they undoubtedly, please stop saying otherwise, need to stop — all in the context of six sets. Six sets with only three covers, only a few post-hiatus tunes and only one song from their new album. Yet there was plenty of sick, sick sickness, plenty of silliness, more missed guitar sections than could fill one side of a 90 minute tape, plenty of Trey’s self- indulgent ramblings, a final show that featured “Reba,” “Slave,” and the “Curtain With.” I can whittle down the entire show to these three songs and feel as remarkably buzzed about it as I ever will be and yet it was so much more than just songs. These shows had to be for the band and not to appease the needs of the crowd; anyone bitching because they didn’t get a (sure-to-be-botched-miserably) “Fluffhead” doesn’t get it. The amount of negativity surrounding the resulting shows is beyond my comprehension. Never has there been a grander challenge in the history of rock and roll… has there? Did the band deliver? Take it from this whiny bitch – they did! We had 1200 Phish shows to see our songs, complain about mistakes, get sweaty to head-kind jams, have them make us laugh and try to return the favor, learn the Secret Language, wait in traffic, discuss the socioeconomic implications of Gamehendge, trade tapes, DAT’s, CD’s and SHN’s. These shows had nothing to do with any of that and most of all the band didn’t owe anyone anything.

left by Tony Stack :: right by Dave Vann


Mike Gordon : 08.14.04 : VT
By Tony Stack

Saturday was a party, a marathon of survival where exhaustion was the only emotion I am sure everyone was feeling. It was Gordon’s night for me. As would be the case, Mike would be a bit subdued on Sunday and I can only believe that he laid it all on the line Saturday for a reason. This was his last show and he played beyond himself, beyond where any bass player could ever hope to have played. Would you laugh if I said it was the single greatest show put on by a rock and roll bass player ever? I don’t care, I’m saying it anyway. Everyone sees this band in a different way. This much I have learned over all these years, we are all listening to the same band and yet we are all listening to a completely different band. I listen through Mike and Trey – Page and Jon played as well as could be expected both nights, I love those guys, don’t get me wrong, but these shows, for me were about Mike on Saturday and Trey on Sunday. For me all I need to know about Saturday night was that Mike Gordon was over the cuckoo’s nest insane on the bass guitar. Oh, that and best “AC/DC Bag” ever?

I can find no comparative event for what we saw on Sunday night. No precedent in any forum or venue that could illustrate the weird black magic floating in the mountain air. I can think of no “it’s as if…” that would do justice to the bizarre juxtaposition of raw human emotion and raw musical energy that manifested itself from the Coventry stage. I was lucky enough to be front and center for the finale on Sunday and while it was further away than I’m used to being, I never felt more a part of the band-as-community spirit than I felt that night. I’ve always known that Trey is Phish and Phish is Trey, but this truism became so much more crystalline on Sunday in so many ways. I won’t comment any further on his state of mind despite the plethora of commentary available on mailing lists and message boards everywhere. I will say, in light of the Trey = Phish phenomenon that, for me, it was absolutely tears-of-joy to see a man excise the thing that he loves, that he is, live in front of 65,000 people, break down to almost nothing, and then return to provide us with the music he provided over the course of the last 1.5 sets of the show. He called it “blowing off steam” multiple times during the weekend. I’m not sure that phrase does it justice.


Fishman & Trey : 08.15.04 by Dave Vann

“Slave.” I remember my first time seeing this, how we all called for it from the rail desperate to get into Trey’s brain. He obliged and flipped our cerebra forever. Well, not forever, because Sunday night the band flipped it back for me. Howlingly intense, full-band voodoo of the nth degree – this was a building intensity that no hurricane could muster; this was torrential rains that no mulching could absorb; this was thick, gooey mud on the toes of our soul that no shower would ever rinse away. How this band reached down and mustered some of the magic they mustered that night is beyond me. There were moments where I wasn’t sure they would make it through a song, let alone the set, let alone the night. I feared a stumble to the finish line, or even worse a Mary Decker Slaney biffing in the limelight so many paces from the goal. Yet they/Trey wiped the tears from his eyes and the clouds from his mind and they did it. The band reached deep within themselves, across 20 years of history and pulled this “Slave” across time. It was music through a cosmological wormhole and the laws of physics bent just a little for this band one last time. If they had ended it here I would have been happy, I was actually thinking “no encore” at this moment and one of the “security” guys up front even said as much. I have to say I’m glad they had one more in them, because one of my all-time favorites ensued, the one song that always seems to come out during those truly great sets…


Coventry : 08.15.04
By Dave Vann

…”The Curtain.” when they played this at Brooklyn I thought to myself, “This perfectly describes the present state of the band, how did Trey know so long ago?” When they started it up again for the encore, a left-field surprise to me and yet as everything that occurred that weekend, it was the right thing, the only thing they could have played. And yet here, the last few minutes of the existence of a band, a phenomenon, a religion… even as they tried to bring down the curtain it bumped into trouble – everyone was out of key on the last song they’d ever play. At first I was disappointed that the majesty of the tune up until that point had been jarred by Trey’s taking the microphone to correct it. As if someone had burst into the door during a hypnosis session, like someone had belched during a solemn moment of silence for a fallen friend. But again, it became clear that this was the way it had had to end. Blissful, majestic bliss > OOPS! > Blissful, majestic bliss. After botching and butchering so many other songs over the course of the weekend, over the course of the last few years, without stopping. As if stopping even for a second to make it right would break the spell. As if there were a spell to begin with. There was something to be said for creating perfection from imperfection. Something even more to be said for doing things the way they (he?) felt they should be done. This weekend was all about making perfection out of imperfection. The most perfectly imperfect band ever. They made it right, as Trey spoke the final words to his faithful that they’d ever hear from a Phish stage again [Something along the lines of “I really want to play this right.” You wanted a special gift from the band? This was it.], the band entered perhaps the most beautiful stretch of music I have ever heard them play. All pretense and history and interview subject matter seemed to dissipate into the rainless skies. Four friends melted into a single entity, oozed out over the audience, the airwaves, the movie screens, the collective consciousness of something bigger than anyone ever imagined it could ever be and delivered note after note of sheer, happy Phish. Stillness met movement in that short flurry of music. It was always just about the music. Maybe my ears were overcome with the goosebumps that had popped up all over my body, but I won’t put it up for argument, it was as gorgeous as it ever was. As the chills overtook my body and the last notes lingered on our dampness I could whisper just one word: “perfect.”

Aaron Stein
JamBase | New York
Go See Live Music!

BGETZ’S ERA ENDING EVENT

The myriad of emotions of a whirlwind week were stirring inner canals, feelings dormant since era ending events like the end of high school, or the last day of summer camp. The prevailing emotions seemed as imminent and intense as the aforementioned chapter closings. However as a young adult, the thought of such melancholy immaturity normally would elicit a laugh or chuckle for the drama of yesterday. But at once it becomes serious, and mystifying, as one is left to truly relinquish the few trailing aspects of youthful exuberance, this in the form of the final Phish shows.


Coventry by Rie Kasahara

I should probably get out of the way to the reader that I have always been supportive, and OK with the band’s decision to retire, though it is indeed quite painful. I need to grow up, for starters, and somebody’s gotta pull the plug because I wasn’t about to stop going on tour. It’s a place I feel alive, and when it’s on, usually the force to drop whatever and go is too strong to deny. So I looked forward to, and dreaded, the final week of Phish.

It was a week of ups and downs, evidence of both why Phish took over so many people’s brains and bodies, and of why the time to call it quits is now. The promise of Hampton’s gleaming first set had me questioning just why they insisted on hanging it up? Out the gates ablaze, psychedelic, dark foreboding and methodical. It was actually a burner of a second set only played first. My mind relived the many glorious evenings in this hallowed room as the skronk-like “Gin” strutted along, and then galloping through “Jim” with sledgehammer riffage from the redhead. They had immediately brought us into the zone… In atypical post-hiatus fashion, my question was answered with a proverbial dropping-of the ball. My bliss deterred, by the evaporating magic that was the second set slop. My mind would now race in other directions; I wondered about the late announced show, the hasty production of it all had a foreboding sense to it. The rumors abound, the anniversary of the last community shaking event evoked a hushed “what if?” to the equation. But the disintegrating music was contagious, the vibes permeating about the Spaceship, lent themselves to a general complacence that seems to have dogged Phish post-hiatus. Flashes of jam brilliance dampened by muddling composed sections of song (this would rear its ugly head again later that weekend).


Phish : 08.12.04 : Camden, NJ by Creskin

I didn’t feel that well late into Monday evening, soon my throat was swollen closed and I felt terrible. I made the executive decision to skip Great Woods as to finish strong at the end of the week. This turned out to be both a smart and brutal decision, of which I would like to never discuss again.

Camden, on the other hand, embodied so much of what I love about Phish and all that comes with it. A fervent, raging lot overlooking the City of Brotherly Love, a crew of hometowners and Phish friends, and a new-age venue with stellar sound and a firm place in the heart of the band and fans. Camden was primarily pure funk, aggressive and deep fried like the onions on a Jim’s Steak. From the “Ghost” to the “Moma” to the “Sally,” the pocket was locked to Fall ’97, and to dance like that one more time, all blood and sweat, (saving the tears for Vermont) was truly a righteous, upful sendoff. For the last time, I lost myself in the lights, popped and locked, stepped in the name of phunk, and strutted that shit oblivious to anything and anybody but the sound, the sights, and spirits.


Phish Phriends : 08.12.04 : Camden, NJ
By Libby McLinn

It dawned on me towards the end of an impressive set closing “Scents,” as they landed the vessel that was bleeding sonic cyberfuck, indeed the end was near. The eerie feedback rang out and the feeling went from familiar and glowing to foreign and fear. This was such an abrupt and peculiar turn in song, intent, emotion and energy. The show for the most part had been throwback crunk, sweaty gristle, and a big ‘ol house party. “Scents” beautifully transitioned the energy to embody the power of the situation. These four men onstage, so dialed in and communicating amongst each other and with me, with us. I stopped dancing and focused. Intimate and profound, the seriousness overwhelmed many who were basking in the unadulterated throwdown, and set the tone for how intense the weekend would be. A weekend full of reflection, observation, tension and release was born. The colors in the void.

Having attended many of the Phish festivals, as well as having lived in Vermont for half a decade, I still was relatively unprepared for the experience that would be Coventry. As I touch base with many different heads who attended, it is apparent that more than any other event of its kind (there really hasn’t been anything like it), each person (or crew) had their own Coventry. Not unless you began the journey with someone, chances are they lived it quite differently than you. By now the reports are in, the traffic, the turning away of fans, the walking masses, the Vermonters who hosted campers and shuttled fans, it seems very Woodstock-esque, but for a generation of creature comforts and wookiedom.


Coventry Mud by Steve Olker

“Don’t bring any clothes you ever plan on wearing again” was the call as we drove thru the night after the Camden throwdown. We hit an all night Wal Mart in Ticonderoga, NY and stocked up on water, gear, and the best $12.00 I ever spent on a pair of knee high galoshes. Made it to Burlington and then got the traffic news, the tow ins, the mud, the flood, etc. So we waited until 1 a.m. Saturday morning to depart and drove to the Canadian border, hugging the border and then following a local right up to the event. We entered the traffic line with people who had been waiting upwards of twenty hours, and after a bit of traffic drama, we were on Rt. 5 headed towards the entrance when Mike Gordon’s unfortunate announcement came over “The Bunny.” Only later did I realize how many bullets we dodged and how crucial many decisions and maneuvers were.

(Upon reading statements from Phish manager John Paluska and GNP’s Dave Merlin, my appreciation for the circumstances was affirmed. The situation was as catastrophic as it seemed, and the decisions made were as difficult and monumental as I perceived them to be in real-time.)


The Journey by Steve Olker

So began the legend of the thousands who walked, ditching their cars and walking towards wherever. Some caught lifts from locals; others camped on nearby farms and attended the music or listened on the radio. This is where one Coventry experience deviates from the other. The weather and its consequences created such differing scenarios in terms of getting into and settled for the festival, that getting together with people was very difficult, and I unfortunately did not see or spend time with many friends integral to my Phish experience over the last decade. It was however sobering and upsetting to not know where your peoples were, if they even got in, and to not dance or party or hug them, all of which were necessary given the finality of it all. I struggled with this all weekend, and continue to as I relive it through writing.


Coventry by Steve Olker

You got in however you had to, even if you camped on a farm miles away. The maps and organization factor were in the same condition as the festival grounds, so coordinates didn’t always help if you heard your boy was in “N” or “Jackie Onassis.” The whole thing was just scrambled, and the primitive priorities rose: Camp, get your shit together, and begin the trudge to the stage area. Actually, trudge doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Robbie W.K. “It was a test.”

Test. Intestinal fortitude. Physical challenge. Emotional roller-coaster. Journey. Experiment. Exploration. Mudbath.

Dan Granite “The Suicide Funeral.”

We camped out in Q, Jackie O territory (not that you could ever find us) and set up shop on some higher ground. The rolling greenery soothed our stresses as our camp developed, and we began to take in our surroundings for the final comedown. Something about the mountain air emits a tranquility. It allows the brain and senses to function on a higher plane, my city-and-suburb bore toxicity adapted to the supernatural festival site, the mighty mighty Northeast Kingdom, land of organics, purity, spirit and untouched rolling earth. The ideal setting for a psychedelic music community and its culminative event, coming full circle as Trey would later explain multiple times from the teetering stage, his final throne. The site, however, seemed to be a shell of what it may have been, the wonder of this land, if only given an opportunity to flourish in all its grandeur.

“Oh the wind and rain, darkness falls and seasons change, we’ll see summer come again.”

By the way it was muddy. Like really muddy.


Trey & Mike : 08.14.04 : Coventry
By Tony Stack

Nearly a third of the land was underwater and unusable, and the set-up of tent-cities, vending, and RVs was as ramshackle and disorganized as I have ever witnessed. But so were the circumstances, the hand was dealt. You had to trudge through so much mud that after a while you became immune to it. The feeling of your feet squishing about in the calf-to-knee high farm sludge is one I will never forget. Many cases of trench foot, lots of abandoned footwear, aborted campsites, and the type of mud that can be applied as clothing.

From the get-go, the band was all nerves. They went on almost an hour late, and the first day was peaks and valleys. You could hear the stress in Trey’s voice, strained and throaty. I imagined him up all night in the war room, bewildered by the raining on his divine parade, screaming and ranting that “this was not how I envisioned it!” Vermont’s favorite son coming home, throwing a bash in the Kingdom and its now a state of catastrophe. What was dreamt to be the perfect homey fest (before the announcement) grew into a monster. And it stood at Trey’s feet; this was him, his baby.

And now the band had to play six sets.

For the first and last time, I felt I was grasping just how it appeared from the throne. But what would transpire was slightly beyond my imagination’s boundaries.


Phish : 08.14.04 : Coventry by Dave Vann

The foreboding “Walls of the Cave” set a dark tone for the set, and the day, which had flashes of great Phish, was mostly incoherent attempts at songs they had played a thousand times. As we murked about, the intensity of the situation began to sink in, and when Trey gave away the trampolines during “YEM,” it was apparent that the emotional aspect of the event would be running as heavy as the jamming and as high as the masses. The “Fire” to close set one was pure punk bombast, sloppy bar room blaze that seemed to exorcize the demons, at least for the time being. Many around me were confused, or weathered from the experience thus far, and there was a lethargic tone to much of the day. Some were really enjoying the choice moments, and others seemed unaffected by the music at all. Strange indeed. The setbreak gave a chance to reassess the situation.


Mike Gordon : 08.14.04 : Coventry
By Tony Stack

A crunkafied, deliberately developed “AC/DC Bag” popped off set two, and for about twenty minutes, as I traversed stage ward, it seemed the boys would soldier through the murk and redirect this ship. This was one of those “Bags.” Methodical, snake charming, razor sharp nasty chunk. Unfortunately, quite frankly, they didn’t. They just couldn’t get it together, and stay within the framework of a song. Some of the jamming was incredible (“Drowned”), a rainbow did indeed appear in the sky, but in general the performance was wrought with nerves and the stress of the last 36 hours. Jon Fishman, as always, was the glue. The guy held it together as often as Trey let it slip away. But they seldom caught that fire, none of that overwhelming tension buildup or breakneck crash course brain surgery. Peaks and valleys, without that continuity that defines the band’s sets.

“We talkin’ ’bout practice. PRACTICE. Not a game, no not the GAME… We talkin’ ’bout PRACTICE, uh huh, we talkin about practice.” Allen Iverson 2002.

A long verbal diatribe preceded a jagged, spastic “Bowie,” a taste of things to come from Trey. The “Free” and “Stash” were shells of their selves and the notes just escaped Trey, and the band could not follow their leader. It wasn’t for lack of effort, however maybe lack of practice, or perhaps all the nerves and pressure, we can only speculate. When Mike and Trey moved to the rocks at the front of the stage, for one last blissful “Hood” outro jam, I savored the gesture, and the song, for under the Vermont moon, my mind scoured through what had transpired that day, my body moved to the melody and my spirit soaked from within. I wished for a grand finale to come on the morrow, a saving grace to sew it together.


Coventry by Tony Stack

Saturday night people spilled in different directions, resting or raging, the festival spirit intact despite the elements and the harrowing trek to and from the stage area. As the sun came up over the Green Mountains, we trudged back to camp for some rest, as the day we all feared was now upon us.

A different band showed up, admittedly nervous again, however naked and cohesive in a way I hadn’t seen in some time. I wondered what transpired amongst them shortly before they took the stage for the final time. Whatever it was, it was some heavy shit. Sunday was an emotional experience like none other that I had ever known. Long ago I acknowledged the importance of the Phish experience in my life, but to examine it amongst my Phish family for one long Vermont Sunday was somewhat of an out of body experience. There was a finality to this that dwarfed summer camp, or high school, or college, or even relationships.

From the first notes of “Mike’s Song,” I grooved in my galoshes as if my future depended on it, but my mind raced as well, and I watched it all from above my body. They began to deliver the goods. “Reba” wasn’t perfect, but the blissful journey that is the outro rose above and soared like a hermit thrush. Then came the metallic groove and shrapnel shredding of “Carini,” with some babbling good fun at the expense of the song’s namesake. All sorts of explanations followed, as the “Wolfman’s Brother” is Fishman (that’s why the song is so damn fonky), and Liz, and all that shit, and in general a rockin’ good time. Moms came out to do the “Sexy Bump”; Trey taunted some girl in the audience, and at some point Page played one of the nastiest clav breaks with just Fish holding it down. Fun was had, all around.

Melt Motherfucker. Melt.


Phish : 08.15.04 : Coventry by Dave Vann

The second set was some heavy shit. By opening with “Down With Disease” the floodgates of introspection burst, all of sudden the lyrics were poignant. The chorus was belted out with a newfound authority, proudly and with valor by a massive that was by now fully engrossed in this final performance. The jam took off to the stratosphere, all that is mighty about heavy rocking Phish, machine gun shreddery underscored by a thunderstorm in the pocket. Due to the depth and concentration of the first twenty five minutes of the set, what would transpire next would surprise band and fan equally.

Though “Wading in the Velvet Sea” was the turning point, it hit them, probably sometime in “Disease” that “this was it.” And we were in Vermont. And the chaos had subsided, and the day had come, it would soon wind down. They began to see the end as the sun raced over the horizon, a truly epic sunset. And as they played the shit out of their anthem, the shit hit ’em like a ton of bricks. The tranquility and peace that serenades “Wading” was as heavy as the metallic intercourse that preceded it. Chronic Phish. So much so that Page couldn’t get it out. He choked up, and thousands responded by weeping with him. Soon, Trey had to get in on the crying, and there wasn’t a dry eye on the farm.


Phish : 08.15.04 : Coventry by Dave Vann

Trey, and then Jon, Mike, and Page all expressed to the fans, here at the farm and watching in theatres across our great nation, just how they felt about us, this, the whole thing. The guard was down, there they stood, naked and crying and thanking us all. Heavy.

You could literally hear the snot dripping down his nose as Trey said “Now we’re gonna just blow off some steam” and Fish dropped that funky stutter step drum shit and it was on. “Split Open and Melt,” the song that first caught my metal ear many moons ago, was presented, naked as the band had been moments earlier. Like an old badass mustang, it took a hot minute to get up and running, but once out on the highway, there is no effin’ with this whip. Terrorizing terrain he’s visited before, this time making his presence felt and remembered and cemented. Trey scorched the heavens with light-saber-like guitar wizardry, Cactus’ bludgeoning bottom end gutting carcass’s. McConnell darkened the picture with clav, and for this timeless dimension, it was 1994 again, and the “Melt” was metal. Unwavering, unrelenting aural assault. Phish.


Trey : 08.15.04 : Coventry, VT
By Libby McLinn

“Fast Enough,” a peculiar yet graceful choice to open their final set of music was personal for me, another tune that caught my ear when I first met the band. Again, lyrical poignancy. As they tippy-toed into a bouncing “Seven Below” I traveled back to the comeback NYE 03, and I was off. The band eff’ed around onstage for awhile, but I was elsewhere. Actually, I was everywhere. Surrounded by a myriad of friends, including those crucial who walked alongside me throughout this circus decade, I began to relive countless different tours, travel, excursions. You know how we do.

The Gorge. HORDE. The Island Tour ’98. The bacon at 6 a.m. at the breakfast buffet Days Inn in Hampton. Twenty thousand deep in Vegas. Big Fucking Cypress. Getting lost as a youngster driving to Worchester from Jersey. Car catching fire in Raleigh. Independence daze in Hotlanta, Camden. The House of Blues at the Mandalay Bay. Garlic fries at Shoreline. Fucking “Sabotage” Merriweather. Terrapin Station. Jay-HOVA what up Brooklyn. Illadelph Spectrum, Yattin at the Knick, The Pnobscot River. Halloween was given a new identity, and towns, cities, states, were invaded. I cannot even write all of the memories that came over me during this “Dickie Scotland” shit I hadn’t said a word, moved or acknowledged my surroundings for twenty minutes.

I came to as Trey was empowering us with rhetoric “You CAN still have fun,” all the while coming off “Wilson” as he effectively turned the tables on us.


Coventry, VT : 08.15.04 by Libby McLinn

As much, if not more than Phish, the band and their music, I’ma miss my friends. It was always about the joy of living, Phish the itinerary and the nightly ritual, glorious, spirited, and rock and roll. But it was also about Point A to Point B, and the madness and debauchery that took place between. It was the ultimate escape, life outside of life. Indeed we can still have fun, be it ain’t ever gonna be the same. People came up to you, told you how much they loved you, recounted a good time, and hoped to see you again sometime, somewhere. This happened over and over again. “See you never!”

In reviewing the entire Phish entity, one has to be fair, and objective. It wasn’t all fun and games. People got hurt, people died. Lives were forever altered. Our culture, like the reality we escape, is a mixture of good and evil. Life and Phish culture. It fluctuated on tour and in the lot like it does in the real world. Some summer in Nantucket, and others dance around a fire hydrant. Some toured in RVs and stayed in hotels; some sold drugs and nodded during the show or robbed your car while the band played inside. But the tour waged on, soldiered on, and in 2004, the whole Phish thing, community-wise, was in pretty good shape. Unfortunately, the shows, too few and far between, coupled with the lack of practice, exacerbated by a million other variables, lacked the juice that was the foundation of the whole shebang.


Fishman & Trey : 08.15.04 : Coventry by Dave Vann

With those thoughts, we arrived at the monumental song, “Slave.” The chestnut that delivers time and time again, one of the most passionate, emotive, sinister, and joyful songs steered us into the home stretch. Not fair to try to capture this power in a few words. Great choice, phenomenally performed. It all comes full circle; with the encore that everybody thought would be “Fluffhead.” Instead, the lyrical poignancy reared its head one last time in hopes of no regrets. “The Curtain With.” It was a given, sorta. Our lives had run away, and were now coming home. Embraced the music, and the intent, and the song and dance. As the song raged south of heaven, entering its final portion, all the way home for me, the melody dramatic; “The Curtain” was the first Phish song I ever heard.

I wandered off to rage in the darkness, to take comfort in the masses and dark liquor, to plot the future and give thanks. The night was a party, a funeral, and hedonism as if tomorrow wasn’t promised.

But then it arrived, with the rain, a few hours later. We were left to navigate our way home, and go live the rest of our lives.

BGetz
JamBase | Philadelphia
Go See Live Music!