In celebration of Phish's 13-show run at Madison Square Garden, the Mockingbird Foundation is announcing 13 unsolicited "miracle grants" supporting music programs across the country. Each board member identified their favorite Phish show, and we found a worthy music education program nearby, part of the Foundation's long-standing Tour Grants program. We're presenting these 13 special grants chronologically, based on the dates of those favorited shows.
Board member John Demeter, @johnnyd, picked the 7/16/94 show held at Sugarbush's Mt. Ellen in Fayston, VT, and we're sending a $1,500 grant check to nearby Harwood Unified Union School District (which was known until very recently as the Washington West Supervisory Union. Don't ask. Seriously.)
The one that got away.
I've rarely done the Phish with any regrets or FOMO. I am ecstatic to be able to attend any shows I can, and am ok with that being only small fraction of shows played. Live Phish, as it has turned out, is really only one way and small portion of the total time that this whole experience has enriched my life.
But this show - Sugarbush '94 - is the one that got away. Jones Beach on Friday 7/15/1994 was booked as soon as we saw the spring/summer tour dates. That one would be a hometown show for a close college friend. I'd take the day off from my two summer jobs, cruise over to the strongest of islands, we'd enjoy the concert, I'd stay overnight, and we’d wile away the next day with some quality beach time, grilling, hoops, etc. No brainer.
Unbeknownst to me, though, my brother and some hometown friends were planning a camping trip up to Vermont to include the next night’s tour closer. I could have audibled from beach day to travel day, but with less-than-reliable transportation, in a pre-cell phone communication environment, and having no idea exactly where they were camping other than "Vermont," I stuck with my Plan A of chilling on Saturday, rather than embark on a short-notice, uncertain, solo adventure northward. Whoops.
If you purchased The Phish Companion, 3rd Edition, (you did purchase The Phish Companion, 3rd Edition, right?), you can crack that open to page 316 for precisely 300 words about what went down up in the mountains that night. The short version here is that the show is just madness.
After three and a half months on the road, this band was coming in hot on its re-entry to its home state. Hot like a comet. Hot like a comet that had so much momentum, it could only be stopped by slamming into the largest planet of our solar system. Or the side of one of the largest mountains (concert site is the one in the middle) in their home state. Hot like a comet that would incite a tremendous battle between cat and dog. Hot like a comet that could cause a tube to malfunction, in turn jeopardizing an upcoming wedding. And hot like a comet that sounded like four guys flat out screaming and laughing at each other through their instruments for two and a half hours, somehow choppy, bouncy, fluid, and frantic all at once, and yet delivered with a casual ease. Disregard for a moment that comets generally are not hot, and just listen to this show (released officially as Live Phish 02) start to finish, paying particular attention to the insanely frenetic versions of "Run Like an Antelope" and "Harry Hood," the beautiful "The Lizards," great banter, cosmic "Harpua" … the whole thing.
To commemorate this show, I wanted to select a school in the immediate vicinity of Sugarbush. But I thought it kind of arbitrary to pick one tiny rural school, to the exclusion of nearby, similar, tiny rural schools. So armed with a basic understanding of Vermont's byzantine school funding and governance system, I have proposed that Mockingbird award this grant to the regional school district that covers that area, with instruction to direct the funds to music education in the elementary schools in "The (Mad River) Valley," which lies at the eastern foot of the Sugarbush’s Lincoln Peak and Mount Ellen. These include Fayston, Waitsfield, and Warren Elementary Schools. And if some of the resources wind their way down the river to Moretown Elementary and Thatcher Brook Primary (in Waterbury), that is quite alright as well. I am supremely confident that in keeping with the values of northern New England frugality and practicality, this $1,500 will go a long way, and the one or two music instructors that serve these schools will make the most of Mockingbird’s grant, spreading it 'round to as many budding music enthusiasts as possible.
Continued thanks for your ongoing support of music education for kids!
- E. J. Anastasio III, 7.16.1994
Editorial note: A correction was made to the quotation above. The error, appropriately, was pointed out by my brother. We regret the error, and apologize to Mr. Anastasio and anyone else who may have taken offense.
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And since we're entirely volunteer – with no office, salaries, or paid staff – administrative costs are less than 2% of revenues! So far, we've distributed over $2 million to support music education for children – hundreds of grants in all 50 states, with more on the way.