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Festival in Tennessee Shut Down

The usually peaceful neohippies who gathered this

weekend to hear a large gathering of their musical heroes erupted into a

mass war by Saturday afternoon. It all started over perceived insults

backstage as the festival began on Friday, when Phish frontman Trey

Anastasio made an offhand

comment to the String Cheese Incident's Bill Nershi and

Michael Kang. "We were all ready to get it on and that fucker said we should enjoy the last moments of our popularity before his old band came back and

wiped our copycat asses

out of music all together," Kang was quoted from his

bed at a local hospital, where he was having the spray-painted phrase

"Wookies and posers love me" removed from his back.

Reached at his Vermont barn/recording studio, Mr. Anastasio said he was just angry that Nershi knocked over his pile of

cocaine and was further angered by the sight of Kang, "Stole every lick I ever played," as Anastasio tells it. With all of the sycophants and hangers-on of the rival bands backstage together, the anxious energy was worse than the border between neighboring Afghan warlords.

"I don't know what happened but suddenly there were hula hoops up people's asses and Birkenstocks flying everywhere," said Robert Randolph. Randolph, a relative newcomer to the scene and active churchgoer, did not take part in

the tussle. Instead, he took the moment to discuss beginning a new super band with Phil Lesh and Warren Haynes.

The first silos of the weekend war were over quickly

as security easily overcame the drugged out, emaciated vegans. But there was still illness simmering as the String Cheese Incident took the stage to open the festival. By that point, word of Anastasio's slight had reached the

thousands of fans waiting for their favorite band to play.

"I crumpled to the floor in tears," one female fan

said today, "I mean, I LOVE SCI but I really only listened to them because I was too young to go see Phish when they were around. I had all these friends who'd been so peaceful and wonderful up to that point but, now, they were

all like 'you have to choose, you have to choose, Trey or Cheese, Trey or Cheese."

That dividing line quickly defined the audience and the 10

or 12 Incident loyalists left were sent packing back to their tents to plan their resurgence as the splinter group called the Bright Shiners. They were not heard from again until Saturday as their band was booed off the stage after covering the Allman Brothers Band song 'Mountain Jam' for about 40


Promoters managed to calm the tide of negative sentiment only by bringing

out Robert Randolph and the Family Band, feeling that the big hearted, big

smiling performer would bring the new age peaceniks back to happiness.

That attempt worked but only until it was learned that

Anastasio's band would be banned from participation in the festival as a

result in his part of the earlier dispute. The Family Band's customarily

high energy closer, "I Don't Know What You Come To Do," was quickly

overpowered by the throngs of

Phisheads who started an impromptu protest chanting, "get back on the train, get back on the train" repeatedly.

As things started to get rowdy, festival promoters brought Anastasio out on

stage with an acoustic guitar which automatically sated the crowd as

speculation began to float as to whether or not he was actually going to

play. "Dude, I was like, dude I can't believe they're not going to let Trey

play. I mean he's like god dude, ya know?" one male festival

participant said, "and then he came out with the acoustic and all these kids

around me were like, 'man I hope Mike comes out like they did it at Jones

Beach last summer.'" Anastasio did an acapella version of Happy Birthday

followed by three notes on his instrument which prompted the legions of fans to go back to their tents happily discussing how "Trey is god," and "Trey still has it."

Strife did not invade every corner of the festival

grounds on Friday, though. Fans of Widespread Panic held an all night party

at a remote corner of the camping area in anticipation of the arrival of the Panic tour bus the next morning. "I got laid three times," Boulder resident

Adam Stern was heard saying to at least a few dozen different


As the sun rose the next morning, hopes of a return to

the joyous vibes of the scene's past were all over the place. The Phil Lesh

Quintet set up and began the day's music creating calm and intricate

tapestries to try and

heal the previous nights wounds but that vibe quickly

turned raucous when the Spreadheads showed up early to wait for their band's set which was to follow Lesh. Many of them hadn't slept in days and were

anxious for some of the edgier southern rock for which Widespread Panic is


Pushing and shoving and jockeying for prime viewing

space quickly replaced the peaceful aura and promoters began to get nervous

again, even more so since Anastasio was no longer there to appease the

crowd. But there was still hope that the elder statesmen and former Grateful Dead member

Lesh could calm them down. Instead, his voice was

overpowered by a fan from Weehawken, NJ who began berating everyone near

him. Again, it turned out to be the music that worked things back to

manageable levels as Widespread Panic announced they would extend their lot

to 3 sets.

Unfortunately, the Bright Shiners sabotaged the bands

equipment so they were cut short during a section they call "Drums" during

the second set. A couple of the Bright Shiners were captured but going after them strained

the law enforcement resources at this remote sight

which opened the door to the growing war between band factions for the rest

of the day. "This wouldn't happen at a West Coast festival," attendee Allan

Morris was quoted as saying.

Minor battles erupted for control of supply lines for

gooballs, drugs and liquor, but no weapons were present. Narcotic

deprivation and head locks into unwashed armpits were the only tools

available to impose submission beyond the usual "my band is better than your band" taunts.

Within hours, state law enforcement officials took

over the festival, making a few hundred arrests and clearing out the almost

destroyed camping area. The only tent left standing belonged to a vendor

selling hats made out of hemp who was flying a banner above his table which

read, "The world

is coming to an end so buy a hat."

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