[Thanks to Brian Crossen, @TypeIIIJPD, for sharing his thoughts on the recent Curveball cancellation and some optimism for what lies ahead - ed.]
As I sit here a few scant days after returning from the Festival That Wasn’t™ (Curventry, Covenball, Lemonadewheel, The Great Wasn’t, Knuckleball, No Ball… whatever you want to call it we sure know how to coin a phrase, huh?) the full weight of what we missed out on continues to weigh on me. The stage was set for another fantastic weekend of music as Phish came in humming after a solid summer tour and the entire community was poised to practically explode with anticipatory excitement at the prospect of another weekend at Watkins Glen. Alas, what we ended up with was decidedly NOT that as many others have documented over the past week. But this post is not about that. Instead, my focus is on looking forward while also reflecting back in an effort to offer perspective on what our long history with this wonderful band can provide at this time.
I, like many many others, am a survivor of both Phish festival weather-related failures. And when I call Coventry a “failure” I mean that personally as much as anything. Without rehashing my own ‘tragic’ tale of woe in never getting close enough to even attempt to walk in to that festival let’s just say that the experience definitely altered my relationship with Phish for several years. Here some fourteen years later we find ourselves in a similar position where the choice to be made is whether to allow this experience to send us back down those dark paths or to go another direction. In the immediate moments after learning of the Curveball cancellation I was transported back to that car on I-91 as Mike came on the Bunny to give us that fateful news, turning some fans into thru-hikers and others such as myself into dejected folks wandering around New England to try to find some other form of closure for the whole thing (spoiler alert: there was no good closure to be found anywhere).
My three RV caravan was about 15 miles away from Watkins Glen when the news spread and seeing that it was already about 5:30pm we decided to push on to see if they would let us at least stay the night and then try to figure out what to do from there. And frankly it is a good thing they did because there would have been even bigger issues for the local authorities to figure out than just water problems had they forced the thousands of people already on site out onto the roads of the region with no plan on where to go or what to do next.
Here is where the respective situations of Coventry and Curveball diverge. While we definitely had a very morose and odd visit to WGI last week, it was NOTHING compared to where we were in leaving the Northeast Kingdom way back when. Put another way, we have the musical record of Coventry to look back on and frankly it ain’t that great (yeah yeah the Melt is awesome but work with me here) while we will never get to experience what could have been with Curveball. The free flowing sets full of jams in unexpected places? Nope. That secret set that looked like it was going to be amazing? Never gonna happen. But even with that there is hope because we know this is not the end.
This is not meant to marginalize the personal feelings anyone had back then or is having now. It is all valid as everyone put a lot of time, energy, money, and more into preparing for these events - and no one more so than the band, crew, artists, vendors, production staff, and so many others involved in the process of making it happen. That is part of why it hurts so much. But it all moves on and it all passes. And looking forward we are in such a great place with this band and where they may take us in the years to come.
Let’s look at that then and revel in it. Maybe we will compare and contrast with that other debacle too…
I have no special knowledge of anything beyond what I have experienced with this community over my years seeing the band. It is expected that many will have varying opinions on where things stand and how one should react to what happened (or didn’t) with Curveball. For me, this experience provides a new challenge and an opportunity for us to make it all even better. There is hope in the Phish scene and even though we were crushed by the news about the cancellation we can (and in many cases already have) turn this towards the positive both by how it impacts our perspective on the band and maybe realizing how lucky we are to be in a position to be able to complain mightily about something so fleeting and trivial as a festival cancellation. Own those bad feelings because you should but don’t let them overtake you. Take this and make every show the best show because after all, this ain’t Coventry.
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Time to get the momentum train cranked back up. Everyone get some Dick's tonight!
The Coventry experience was way out there - an exercise in bizarre determination, to get there and be there and once there, to witness your favorite band crumbling, crying instead of laughing and falling apart - the scene decaying, people leaving used needles behind on my picnic table at my camp, emulating Trey perhaps - vehicles stuck in the mud for miles - a metaphor for who fucking knows...
We are all determined. Seeing Phish isn't easy - my wife recently lamented at the Forum show that we should have bought the VIP deal - entered through the Forum Club and kicked back. Even getting into DICKS can suck - we were almost horribly smashed against the gates at the 2016 show when security was short handed and wouldn't let us in on night 1....
But when I think back on it, the only really easy time of it I remember having was Festival 8 - we planned ahead, so we rented an awesome house, cruised into and out of the venue at will - easy as pie.
Anyone remember the last time the band played Red Rocks? Phans basically dismantled the small town of Morrison, hanging out trying to find a ticket or a place to poop, eventually just taking over the town in the worst way.
Or the process of getting into Big Cypress...? HOURS of sitting behind the wheel watching alligators in the ditch, waiting, crawling, trying not to fall asleep and let somebody bust a move around your vehicle - wondering if you were going to get in by the time they opened the first set...or before the world exploded at Y2K
Even Bonnaroo took crazy patience to just GET IN - but all that energy expenditure was worth it, because we got the magic of the music, the details of what these guys bring to a show, a Festival!
And so - I wasn't at Curveball. But I think the band handled it with class, as did the fans. Another blip on the phish community map. Thanks for the blog post!
In Coventry we lost Phish. At Curveball we had shows and an experience pulled away after getting so close. And as you know I was at both but powered on for the Coventry Mud Experience.
I like the area but I won’t ever be returning to Watkins Glen.