The Coventry Festival
The Conventry Festival had been billed as what would be Phish's final shows, August 14-15, 2004, at an airport in Vermont. The word "coventry" means a state of ostracism or exile, comes from Coventry, England, which is where Parliamentarians sent and held Royalist prisoners during the English Civil War. To send to Coventry is to exclude from society; to shut out from social intercourse, as for ungentlemanly conduct.
Fittingly... it didn't go so well. As the New York Times wrote several years later (7/6/11):
Phish’s most recent East Coast festival, Coventry in Vermont in 2004, was an outright disaster of horrendous weather (think oceans of mud), insufficient logistics preparation, drug abuse and poorly played music. It other words, it was a bad trip on many, many levels.
Phish donated proceeds from the event to a host of local organizations, including AWARE (Aid to Women in Rape Emergencies), Bread and Puppet, Burke Recreation and Education Fund, Burlington Emergency Shelter, Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf, Committee on Temporary Shelter, Coventry Parent’s Club, Coventry Village School, Dairy Farmers of Vermont, Ducks Unlimited, Frontier Animal Society of Vermont, Newport Center Volunteer Fire Department, Newport City Elementary School, Out of School/After School Program, North Country Coalition for Justice and Peace, Northeast Kingdom Community Action Inc., Northeast Kingdom Tourism and Travel Association of Vermont, Northwoods Stewardship Center, Orleans Elementary School – Project Playground, Salvation Army, Spectrum Youth Services, and Vermont Foodbank.
The festival was broadcast live to theaters nationwide - both nights in some markets, only the second in others.
- The Vermont State Police's Coventry site ("Festival traffic is expected to begin arriving very early Thursday morning and will continue steadily through Saturday afternoon ... The roads should be relatively clear Saturday night and throughout Sunday.")
- CNN story, posted friday afternoon ("Phish concerts are known for their carnivallike atmosphere, but on Thursday -- four days before the jam band's final performance -- the event showed little of that hallmark festiveness. Driving rains the night before turned the concert site and adjoining farmland into a soggy, muddy mess and left the air thick as soup. ... Phish devotees consoled themselves by thinking of the happier times that would hopefully lie in store during the two-day festival this weekend. ")
- Rolling Stone review ("Though a triumph for the many who slogged through hell to get there, Phish's three-set performance on Saturday underscored why they are breaking up. ... The band's final sets on Sunday were an extraordinarily human 'goodbye' mostly unknown in rock & roll. Early on, Anastasio confessed his nervousness to the crowd. Later, both he and keyboardist Page McConnell broke out in tears, the latter during an emotional rendition of 'Wading in the Velvet Sea.'")
- Billboard Article, inc. comments from Great Northeast Productions principal Dave Werlin ("To us this was a frustrating decision because it was not our call," he offers. "It was not our desire to do things this way, but it became a public safety issue." As it stands, Coventry will end up grossing about $10 million, up from $8.25 million from the band's It festival last year. And Werlin has no regrets about the band's final performance. "We were blessed with clear skies on Saturday and decent weather on Sunday," he says. "The band played incredibly well, production was great, the sound was great, and there was a real emotional interaction with the fans")
"I've never ever been nervous going onstage at a Phish concert.
Tonight I'm a little nervous." - Trey on stage, 8/15/04