Friday 01/29/2016 by Lemuria


The following story, by Jennifer Hersey Cleveland, is reprinted from the Orleans County Record (and online there but behind a paywall) by permission of Executive Editor Dana Gray:

"Filmmakers Seek Locals For Phish Documentary"

It was one of the longest traffic jams in history, backed up for miles after thousands of Phish fans abandoned their vehicles to hike to the former Newport State Airport in Coventry for what was billed as the band’s farewell concert.

But the fans, stuck for days on Interstate 91 and surrounding roads, found comfort in the locals who fed them, provided fuel and shelter, and gave them rides into the show.

That was 11 years ago, and now, filmmakers Alex Daltas of Los Angeles and Lawrence Shapiro of Denver want to capture that giving spirit in a documentary called “Jam.”

But they need the help of locals who interacted with Phish band members and crew and the hordes of fans in order to do so.

“What is so interesting to me about Coventry is that it was the ultimate test of character - for the fans, the band, and the residents of upstate Vermont,” Daltas wrote in an e-mail. “With the stress of a crisis level traffic jam, which was also compounded by extremely bad and unusual weather, things could have easily devolved into a much worse situation like what happened at Woodstock ’99. I was impressed that didn’t happen at Coventry, not even close. Instead, people looked out for each other.”

“Coventry was unlike the typical music festival or concert-going experience,” Shapiro wrote. “At any other show, most people buy a ticket for their nice comfortable seat, drop $20 on some nachos and maybe a t-shirt, then head home and go to bed. By contrast, the average Phish show is, itself, an epic event. In the case of Coventry, it was the ultimate culmination of fan dedication, like Moses struggling to reach the top of Mt. Sinai to talk to the burning bush.”

Daltas said he’s been a fan of Phish since he was 15 years old. These days, everyone has a video camera built into their phones, but then, even digital cameras were rare.

But in August 2004, Daltas said, he got very lucky. He brought a digital video camera with him, intending to shoot some footage of his final Phish concert ever.

“But instead I ended up using all my tape capturing amazing footage of our harrowing journey trying to get into the show!” Daltas wrote.

“My wife Robin and I drove with my brother and my best friends from high school from Massachusetts to Coventry. What was supposed to be a simple four hour car-ride ended up becoming this once-in-a-lifetime adventure with triumphs and tragedies along the way,” Daltas wrote.

“Many people’s experiences were made easier by the residents of upstate Vermont. Lifelong friendships were formed. I know some people who are still exchanging Christmas cards with the folks who helped them back during that fateful event,” he continued.

Shapiro was shooting footage for CNN during the show.

“When I got back down to the ground later I found out that all these hundreds of people thought I was the DEA - because, really, why else would there be a helicopter flying over a Phish show?” he wrote.

“While Phish is often compared to the Grateful Dead, their music is actually quite different, but what’s the same is the dedication of their fans,” Shapiro wrote. “This historic event in rock & roll history really underscores their uniqueness in a very special way.”

Naturally, no film about the Coventry show would be complete without at least a mention of the conditions once inside the venue. The area of Maxwells’ dairy and the airport turned from bucolic farm fields into a shoe-sucking muddy mire.

“Everyone remembers the mud,” Daltas wrote. “There was so much to the point where I understand they are still pulling shoes and sandals out of that field to this day.”

“Jam” is independently financed, and the filmmakers are not sure how it will first be released – whether streamed online or in theaters.

Locals who are interested in telling Daltas and Shapiro their stories about the most epic event ever to hit Orleans County are encouraged to contact the filmmakers by e-mailing [email protected]. The production crew will be filming interviews with locals in late May 2016.

Progress updates will be made available on Instagram and Facebook with the key words “jam the doc.”


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, comment by fakebeave
fakebeave There is no reason to produce a documentary about that weekend.
It is best to forget that it happened.
, comment by fromsliptofall
fromsliptofall I lost my flipflop in grazing field #23. I welcome any and all aerial footage that could lead to his discovery. It's great to hear there's still hope in finding it. We want Lefty to know that Righty misses him dearly.
, comment by theghost
theghost Yeah, it's probably the lowest moment in their entire career...not people's first choice when they want to reminisce. But it's a unique sort of calamity with a unique bunch of victims. Fan loyalty tested to the extreme amidst the band going up in flames. I always find freak/straight interactions intriguing too. I wasn't there and I'm eager to check this out, bummer and all.
, comment by BigPimpinNYC
BigPimpinNYC I agree we don't need a Phish themed documentary but a film focused on the fans and residents of Coventry VT is pretty cool. That is an incredible story
, comment by ProfJibboo
ProfJibboo Cypress traffic jam > Coventry traffic jam
, comment by unclepen15
unclepen15 I hope they show raw footage of Page crying for our sins during "Wading".

Also hope to see the sick Jiboo from this show
, comment by gooball
gooball Will this be one of those videos about a Phish concert that has no Phish music because the licensing is thousands of dollars? Will it maybe have some original jammy riffs as soundtrack music instead? Maybe some funky non Phish beats for those helicopter shots? Sounds tangy! It would be great if Fungus Amongus could jam a little in this movie. Maybe throw in some Assembly of Dust, really get a jam going. Add some Percy Hill to the mix and it would just jam the F outta this film. Can't wait. So excited to jam with JAM.
, comment by GeoudaDiSaze
GeoudaDiSaze Got a ride in the back of a pick-up from the venue to the farm where I parked my car. Those locals were absolutely loving their gig as an impromptu taxi service for phans.
, comment by colphorbin
colphorbin @ProfJibboo said:
Cypress traffic jam > Coventry traffic jam

One great jam into another
, comment by flatbrimtracksuit
flatbrimtracksuit I hope the film makers include footage of all the smashed in car windows the locals broke so they could ransack all the vehicles abandoned on the highway.
, comment by jamthedoc
jamthedoc Hey there, Coventry-goers! In addition to Northern Vermont locals, we are looking to hear from all you guys who were sitting in traffic for days and walked in taboot! For more information and updates, follow and Image
, comment by TomAce
TomAce "Jam"?? How bout, "Phenomenally Phucked." Think bigger filmmakers. So many (So many!) better docs about Phish you could create. If you look back at Phish fest history, they've never been overachievers (or achievers) creating a "plan b" for parking/camping. Starting with bus service at Sugarbush. They try, and have come a long way, but getting in and out of a Phish fest... Bring extra party supplies, you're gonna need em. Stick with resorts and maybe a cruise. A doc about all the cool things created IN the festivals would be far more engaging to an audience. Especially to non-phish fans. Unless you were there, a doc on this one traffic event will remain interesting for about as long as it took to read this reply. Sure if you lived it, epic. If you didn't, it's a news story. Not a doc. Could be a good, "based on true events" movie. Add an axe murderer, who turns out to be Fishman and you've really got something. I dunno what, but it's something.
, comment by Nivals
Nivals I was at Coventry and got very lucky and missed or avoided the major traffic jam. We were at the Camden show Thursday night 8/12 and Trey told the crowd to wait and not leave after the show because of how bad the "jam" already was up there. So we waited and left Friday morning but we had other friends that left right after the show and were giving us traffic updates. We bought a map and took the back roads and we were parked in the venue by Friday night. It is a 8-9 hour drive from Philly and add in the parking issues to get in because of mud it took us only about 12 hours total and no walking. Again got very lucky with "a little help from our friends" and map. As for the shows there was no way for them not to be a "weird,strange,bad" experience when it was "the end" of something that we did not want to end.
, comment by elphish
elphish Why? Coventry is better left never revisited. Yeah the fans overcame the weather and all that but everything surrounding the break up of Phish we should let it lie. Make a documentary of Big Cypress. Traffic sucked there too but is night and day as one of the top if not the top Phish experiences versus the worst. Congrats on having some video. Keep it to your self. So many more positive stories to make a film on. Music was sub par, conditions were shit, band had fallen apart, sadness layered into the ubiquitous joy of Phish fans. Epic event to hit Orleans County? Sad fans standing in shit being pissed in their ears. That goodness Phish is back in top form, happy and health and the horror of Coventry can be long forgotten.
, comment by TomAce
TomAce @elphish said: [quote]Why? Coventry is better left never revisited.... Your whole reply was perfectly put! And they don't have video. Their looking for it. It was not pre-produced. They don't have the 4-6 diff angles /stories filmed all the way thru. Ie: Two or three stories of fans struggle and endour filmed for three days, press person from phish filmed the whole time or continuous interviewed. Police interviews, etc etc...
, comment by SconyMack
SconyMack Don't listen to all these negative nancies. For better or worse, Coventry was an important part of the band's history - it's good that it's being documented.
, comment by hambone024
hambone024 I'm kind of curious to see some footage of the experience, since I wasn't there. But I don't think the music warrants visual preservation. Some great jams, but such poor play, overall.

I was just thinking over the weekend why there wasn't a Big Cypress doc. Crazy traffic jam, amazing music, unrivaled musical moment.
, comment by joerock213
joerock213 @elphish said:
Make a documentary of Big Cypress.
, comment by Nivals
Nivals I was at both and I loved Cypress had a great time 12/30 show was cool 12/31 day set also. The 7 hour set at times felt at many points the jams were extended just to fill time to be able to play for 7 hours. I understand the love it gets but is some of that love from the novelty of the set? To be honest I need to relisten to the set. Any recommendations of jams after around the 2 or 3 hour mark? That is where my memory gets foggy until the end of the set and the sunrise
, comment by Agentphish
Agentphish @ProfJibboo said:
Cypress traffic jam > Coventry traffic jam
I waited 53 hours to get my car into Coventry (beginning Thursday at 2:30pm and did not get in until Saturday night, missing set I and part of set II) and was 4th from last allowed off of I91. Probably my luck with where I was in the traffic jam, but I beg to differ with you on this.
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