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phish.com & Paluska Official Statement Re:Coventry


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COVENTRY STATEMENT

August 23, 2004

This letter is addressed to all of you who didn't make it in to the Coventry shows. It's also addressed to those of you who did attend the shows but experienced great difficulties in the process of doing so. I have spent most of the last few days reading hundreds of emails from heartbroken, angry fans and trying to make sense of how things went the way they did in Coventry. I've also printed them out and shared them with the band. My goal with this letter is to set the facts straight. In my fifteen years of managing the band, I've never issued any kind of statement directly to fans; but, based on my central role in Coventry's planning and execution, I feel most qualified to write to you now. Given the huge hardship and disappointment many of you experienced last weekend, you deserve not only an apology but a thorough explanation of what happened.

As I write this letter, I am struck by how ironic this situation is. My mind drifts back to the Clifford Ball and the spirit that brought that weekend to life. Having outgrown nearby Sugarbush, we set about finding a larger space to accommodate a weekend camping festival in or near Vermont. After accidentally stumbling on the Plattsburgh Air Force Base (we had gone there to look at another site), our plans quickly grew more ambitious. What if we created a brand new style of festival, where people were treated with care and respect - one that celebrated not just the band's music but the creativity of a community of artists and fans? A festival that flew in the face of everything we disliked about "regular" concert venues.

What happened that weekend in Plattsburgh exceeded everyone's wildest expectations and along the way a blueprint was created. With each festival that followed we tried to raise the bar a notch on every level - our goal was to go out of our way to make it a special experience for fans. And in the process we learned an amazing lesson - that taking this approach provided the band and festival staff with a great sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

Over the years, the band has often spoken about the importance of intent in music. I've always interpreted that as meaning that people will be moved if you play from the heart. On a similar note, we have always "played from the heart" in putting on these festivals. I want each and every one of you to know that our intent has always been pure and remains so. When we wrote "Our intent is all for your delight" on the entry gate to the IT concert venue last year, we meant it.

Fast forward to 2004. When we first visited the site in April 2004, the grounds were just showing signs of spring, with some lingering drifts of snow here and there. We drove around the site and marveled at the stability of the ground - muddy in some spots, but surprisingly well drained given the wetness of the season. We spoke with local farmers who have farmed these lands for many years and they told us they routinely drive large trucks around the cornfields during the August harvest. They told us that mid-August is a very dry part of their summer, and that they never had problems driving on the land that time of year. Our weather research confirmed that typical August rainfall in the Newport area was well within acceptable limits.

However, as July rolled along, it became clear that we were experiencing exceptionally wet weather. Nearby Burlington was nearly 300% above normal rainfall for the month. Though the grounds were soft as we headed into August, we moved forward with confidence that we'd get the drying cycle we needed. The first part of August included a number of good drying days. Work was moving along well and spirits were high. As we headed into the home stretch the grounds continued to improve.

I want to note that we went to great lengths this year to improve the traffic/parking situation from recent fests. We hired two parking companies (we'd always used one in the past) and dramatically increased the number of parking staff. We laid out the entire 600 acre site into painted grids so as to maximize the space we had. We chose to open a full day earlier than in past years in order to allow more time for people to get settled. We acquired additional pieces of neighboring land as a further contingency. By our most conservative estimates (based on data from past festivals) we had significantly more land than we would need under normal conditions. Everything seemed in place. In fact, we felt more thoroughly and conservatively prepared than we had felt before any previous festival.

Going into Thursday and Friday, the forecast called for possible showers each day. Throughout the summer we've been experiencing isolated bands of intense showers - sometimes the forecast will call for rain and it will miss us completely, other times the forecast will be a 20% chance of showers and we'll get hit with a couple inches of rain in an hour. As it turned out, on Thursday and Friday we received nearly three inches of rain, much of it in the form of torrential downpours. Roads were washed out and we were suddenly faced with losing a good portion of our camping terrain. Huge areas that had been solid enough for camping a day earlier were now saturated with water. We struggled to move cars in, often abandoning large sections of land soon after we started parking them and seeking drier ground. Our main access road from the tollbooths required regular maintenance and this slowed the flow of traffic into the campground.

We soon realized that we had two big problems. The first was that we weren't bringing cars in at a fast enough rate. The second was that it was almost irrelevant how fast they were coming in because we had lost so much parkable terrain. We did everything in our power to improve the flow of cars into the campground. We mobilized a large team of local farmers and their tractors to assist cars into their spaces and pull out stuck cars. We brought in numerous truckloads of gravel and built new roads and shored up existing ones. None of these actions improved the flow in any significant way. At our best we were processing 500 cars per hour, less than half of our normal average from past events.

Late Thursday, the decision was made to ask those of you who hadn't already headed to Coventry to delay your trip until Saturday morning. We already had considerable traffic backed up and it was flowing in at a slow pace. We knew anyone arriving at the back of the line of traffic on Interstate 91 would wait until Saturday to get to the site anyway, so we were simply trying to save you the trouble of waiting in your car for that whole time. We knew that Saturday's weather would be better and bring with it the possibility of regaining camping terrain. When we made that announcement, we did so with the hope and intention that it would save those of you who hadn't yet left considerable frustration and that it would ultimately allow us to park the campground more effectively.

We started exploring satellite parking scenarios with the State Police. All the neighboring fields were in similar shape, so we focused on the few solid options we had. We visited a nearby gravel pit but it was too small. We explored the possibility of closing down sections of road (rt. 191 in Newport, for instance) and "stadium parking" cars, but none of the options we looked at could possibly accommodate the volume of cars still left to be parked.

We realized that we had run out of options as the rain continued to pour down. At 4 am Saturday morning festival co-producer Dave Werlin and I met with Vermont's Commissioner of Public Safety to discuss the situation. The Commissioner told us that, given the condition of the grounds and the pace we were bringing cars in, the backup on I-91 was quickly becoming a crisis situation. He told us we were faced with two choices - either cancel the concert completely or start turning cars around. Dave and I told him that we felt confident that we could park the cars that had exited I-91 by first light Saturday morning, but couldn't guarantee anything beyond that. We were also closely watching Hurricane Charley as it moved up the coast. Several models pointed to the possibility of heavy wind and rains on Sunday and the Commissioner and the State Police all expressed strong fears about the impact that possible weather event could have on things (in keeping with the unpredictable weather, the storm luckily ended up missing us). Nonetheless, we all agreed that canceling the concert at that point wasn't the right decision. We had nearly 30,000 people on site who had endured considerable hardship already, many of whose cars were stuck in the mud.

So the Commissioner notified the commanding officers that they should formulate a plan to start turning cars around immediately. I convened a meeting with the band to apprise them of the situation. Mike volunteered to meet Sgt. Melendy from the VT State Police at the radio station to record the announcement. I felt horrible standing in the radio station as the announcements aired for the first time. I want to emphasize to you that once the situation was deemed a matter of public safety we needed to abide by the decisions made by public authorities and the State Police. This is a crucial point. I'm not in any way trying to paint them in a negative light, for nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout this whole ordeal they were calm, focused and clearly understood the emotional gravity of the situation. But in the end, their decisions were based on what they felt was in the best interest of public safety, and we respected their need to make the decisions they did.

A large number of you chose to ignore their requests to turn around and instead parked your cars on I-91 or secondary roads and walked to the site. The police realized that from a public safety viewpoint it would not be advisable to try and turn around those of you coming in on foot. From our point of view, we wanted as many of you as possible to see the concert, and certainly weren't going to turn around people holding tickets. We were in a maddening bind. While we would have liked to alert those of you who turned around or hadn't approached the Newport area yet that people were parking their cars on the side of the roads and walking to the site, our hands were tied by legitimate public safety concerns.

A frustration expressed in many of your emails is that those of you who followed instructions every step of the way ended up with the short end of the stick, while those who didn't heed our requests ended up getting in to see the show. And that on top of that, the band expressed their appreciation to those of you who parked your cars on the road and walked in. I can completely understand how many of you who turned around (or never left your houses) are angry about this, and I'm deeply sorry that things went the way they did. I've tried to explain our intent and the underlying circumstances the best I can. We never stopped wanting all of you to make it to the site, but once it became a matter of public safety it was out of our hands.

Another common frustration expressed in your emails regards our decision to sell some tickets at the gate after announcing in advance that we wouldn't be doing so. We had to reposition so many security and parking personnel due to the extraordinary weather situation that we realized we didn't have the resources to efficiently turn away ticketless fans, particularly those in cars where some passengers had tickets. Turning cars around is a time-consuming and tedious process and we made a spot decision that the flow of cars into the campground was the priority. In the end, it was a good decision. We only sold approximately 1000 tickets at the gate in total, and the vast majority of those were to people in cars where some already had tickets.

The symbiotic relationship between the band and all of you has always been at the heart of what makes the Phish experience so special. These festivals came into being out of the band's respect and gratitude toward their fans. It's been the same core group of people producing every Phish festival since the Clifford Ball, and we've always tried to embody the band's gratitude toward all of you in our work. The last thing any of us wanted in the band's final hour was to leave some of our most dedicated fans feeling angry and disillusioned. The fact that Coventry was the band's last show only intensified all of these feelings.

In the end, after reviewing all the events of Coventry in my mind, I don't second guess any of the key decisions that were made. We were dealt some extreme conditions by Mother Nature and we made the best of a very difficult situation. All of you were incredibly patient and considerate in the face of these trying circumstances. The locals are still talking about how courteous and friendly the fans were to them. People worked together. Our staff worked long hours on little sleep and under immense pressure, yet never wavered from the task at hand. I wish things had turned out differently, but I'm proud of the job we all did.

Any of you still holding unripped tickets are entitled to a full refund. Please visit the Phish web site for more details on the refund process. We will also be offering each person holding an unripped ticket a free download (including the soundcheck) through livephish.com of the entire weekend in either mp3 or FLAC format. We'll be announcing full details regarding the free downloads this week. In addition, the band will be collaborating with longtime photographer Danny Clinch to create a special photo book. The book will feature Danny's photos of the band spanning from 1994 to the present, including many unpublished shots. Each copy will be signed by the band. These books are being created specifically for those of you who missed the Coventry shows and will never be sold or available in any other way. It will take a number of weeks to get these books printed, signed and shipped, but we will get them to you as quickly as we can.

Many of your emails used the term "bittersweet" to describe your experience. This certainly applies just as well to myself, the band members, and the other festival planners. In the end, despite the weather, the festival took place and Phish played their final show. That many fans were so terribly inconvenienced and unable to attend Coventry is heartbreaking to me, the band, and everyone else involved in producing this event. Please understand that we did the best we could in the face of unpredictable and extraordinary circumstances.

Sincerely,

John Paluska

Phish Manager

Please note that event co-producer Dave Werlin has also issued a statement, posted at www.greatnortheast.com.

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the scalpers that were unable to unload their final 10-50 tix will be lapping in the books...

check ebay.

four auto's plus the book.

A grand easy.

They were looking at losses, now are looking at MASS profits. NOthing Phish can do about it...their hearts are in the right places but...not everyone who has an unused ticket is a phan.

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the past week, phish has dominated my thoughts. i'm going to miss them so much. i will be forever grateful for the sheer impact they have had on who i am today.

with that said. this whole deal is still a mess in my opinion. i walked, but for those who didn't i feel so bad for them. i mean i am a bit bitter and i saw the show. it's just that i've always felt, in our 'scene' there is a relationship between the band and the fans. Like other relationships, it entalis, dedication, committment, sacrifice, and love. Relationships work, for the most part when these and other things are in balance.

phish...disappointed people, kind of not held up to their end of the relationship, (even though it was apparent it was mostly out of their hands). i think to make up for it with an autograph book of themselves is a little unbalanced for lack of a better word. i mean if i was dissapointed in someone and they gave me an autographed photo album of themsleves, i would think that to be weird. Maybe i am personalizing the relationship too much. But for me phish were not idols, or take on huge icon-like status. Yes its true, they were the folcrum of our community, but truly, i regard them as individuals with the same awe, and respect as i do other individuals, yourselves included,in our scene and lives in general. I have felt this changing over the years, and maybe its one of the reasons, it all came to an end.

there is no doubt some phans will love it, but others who dont collect things might not. i think the free downloads was in order. making the best out of a bad situation i guess.

i wish them well. it truly is sad that it all went down the way it did. thank you all for the fantastic memories.

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It's funny how we had all basically reckoned that this was the scenario just based on common sense and internet gossip plus the official statements. I think it's respectfully done and generally clears up most if not all of the issues (Trey being a dink obviously not one of them). The book sounds like quite a unique collectible and unheard of for a band of this magnitude- I would think short of sending Fishman and Trey's surplus groupies to service the hordes of fans this is about as good as they could muster.

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The explanation is indeed nicely written, however, I feel they should have been prepared for rain right from the start. For an airport, the site did not have very many concrete runways (if at all - I did not see any). They should have chosen a site with ample concrete for parking cars. The phans could have helped too by NOT GOING IF THEY DID NOT HAVE A TICKET! That could have eliminated a significant number of cars.

That being said, I thought the concert site was beautiful - I enjoyed watching the Phish, surrounded by Green Mountains. The whole event would probably have been perfect, had there been drier weather.

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COVENTRY STATEMENT

Aug. 23, 2004

Most of you will now have read the statements issued by John Paluska and Dave Werlin regarding the challenges experienced with the Coventry festival. As many if not more fans have written inquiring less about the logistics of the festival itself as the content it has fallen to me to speak up. Without belabouring the basic point the carrier and the content, mark and bark, the medium and the message are as we all know (or should) indivisable. Though it seems odd, even for me, that a drum technician should ultimately be the one to speak to the song selection at the band’s final concert as the unofficial recorder of setlists it has for whatver reason fallen to me. The purpose of these remarks is similar to John’s and Dave’s, to shed some light on this apparent debacle by pulling back the curtain at least a touch.

First of all it should be said that Trey is for the most part (I would say %90 is a fair estimation) responsible for crafting Phish’ setlists. Prior to ’94 he played an even stronger and more calculated role in their construction. Some of you may know that during this period all setlists were prepared prior to taking the stage and variation from the ‘set’ list rarely occurred. Over time this began to change and as improvisations ran farther afield the likelihood of straying from a partial or complete setlist became more pronounced. It would be impossible to go into too much detail here as perspectives amongst band mates, management and the front office staff widely varies on this issue (which is to say nothing of the fan base). I will say that as the band began to compose songs more collaboratively (for instance a number of songs were written as a group in the summer of ’97 such as Rocko William and the song that is my namesake as well as another I will get to later) it is safe to say the setlists were also more collaborative. Still it would be insincere to say that this was a democracy in the truest sense, in many other regards the organization emulates a democracy though. While some headway was made in divesting some of Trey’s authority over setlist preparation over the years most recently we experienced a doubling back to a more, for lack of a better word, tyrannical regime. I understand this is very diffiicult for fans to comprehend since you think of the band as very much an equal partnership and I will endeavour to spell this out for you.

Again by now many of you must be aware that the lion’s share of all of Phish’ compositions over the years are almost exclusively Trey Anastasio compositions. Since radio play has never been an issue for the band the usually prickly issue of songwriting royalties has never been much of an issue for this band. Still it is safe to say that increasingly over the years Trey has dwelled upon the issue of ownership of the Phish catalogue whether from a financial standpoint or otherwise. Particularly with regard to licensing fees anyone any business savvy whatsoever would be rightly concerned (see Guns ‘n Roses current court case). For almost the band’s entire history, as Trey has clarified in interviews, he would bring everything he came up with to Phish. At some point he began to doubt how prudent an idea this was and increasingly brought new material to his side project(s). This is all of some relevance as it sets the stage for the sets of music that would be forever the last.

While Dave and John can apologize for the muddle they found themselves in, and I suppose I could also if a cymbal had gone careening (hah!) out of control what I am about to say may be hard but I am not the one who owes you an apology. The band did not practice for their final concerts. Although not a band member I can be certain of this because any time they got together as a group to practise or otherwise I would be invited to haul gear and act as ad hoc engineer. Many of you may think that Phish are genius’, or gods or just have really good memories but I want to be certain you realize they are none of those things. The songs that you heard at Coventry were almost all of the songs in the Phish catalogue that they know how to play. It seems a number of you had hopes for older Junta songs such as Fee, or even older white tape songs such as Alumni Blues or Letter To Jimmy Page, or live rarities such as the one I alluded to earlier Walfredo (the most self-referential Phish song written). I will say all of these songs were tossed around as options and had even made it onto a short list of potential songs but they were to be further hashed out at what the band agreed would be at least three practice sessions lasting at least two hours. None of this took place and the rationale or accounting for why is not for me to say. There is very little else which I can tell you that will make sense of the lacklustre songs selected at Coventry. My hope in writing you this way, since I have been freed from my contractual obligations to the band I am for the first time able to speak this way, was to demystify some of the bands obscurity. My only other remark is that as many of you also suspected there was to be a fourth set late night on the Sunday which would not have featured ‘songs’ from the Phish catalogue. The playing would likely have been in the style of the circle of fire/tower jam and I really have little else I can add.

Thank you for your long term commitment to the group that was Phish. Thank you also to my friends and families and those who supported me personally. I wish you all wonderful things in your lives.

Sincerely,

Peter Carini

Drum Technician

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that's interesting. i don't doubt that carini wrote it, but perhaps it wasn't posted on phish.com due to the slightly objective tone (even bordering on negative in relation to this scene's incessant need for only positive reaffirmation of their music demi-gods).

hmm, interesting read nonetheless. would love to know the origin.

greasy

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This is clearly bullshit... I took some time to count (not including repeats) the number of songs they played on the final tour, from Hampton to Coventry, and the total is 95. 47 were played at Coventry alone, and not all were repeats from the previous four shows... Carini is either a liar, or his head is far too lumpy to realise that Phish actually does seem to know more songs than what was played at Coventry. And as for practice, four nights of shows, with no breaks, seems like plenty of practice to me. Carini knows his sh!t, so I doubt he would think that they only played what was played at Coventry. Clearly this is a letter forged in the name of Carini. Below is a list of every song played during the Hampton -> Coventry run, see for yourself:

Bathtub Gin

Runaway Jim

Walls of the Cave

Loving Cup

All Of These Dreams

Limb By Limb

Lifeboy

Crowd Control

Seven Below

Stash

NICU

Bug

Contact

Character Zero

David Bowie

AC/DC Bag

Heavy Things

Punch You in the Eye

Wolfman's Brother

Theme From the Bottom

Birds of a Feather

Mike's Song

I am Hydrogen

Weekapaug Groove

A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing

Piper

Makisupa Policeman

Dog Faced Boy

Friday

Harry Hood

Possum

The Divided Sky

Suzy Greenberg

Down With Disease

Prince Caspian

Scent of a Mule

Tears of a Clown

Mexican Cousin

Run Like an Antelope

2001

Golgi Apparatus

Waves

Tweezer

Hold Your Head Up

Terrapin

Timber Ho!

Sample In a Jar

Bouncing Around the Room

Tweezer Reprise

Wilson

You Enjoy Myself

Ghost

Maze

Catapult

The Moma Dance

Horn

Pebbles and Marbles

Piper

Sneaking Sally

Cavern

Limb By Limb

Julius

Rock and Roll

Scents and Subtle Sounds

Lawn Boy

Frankenstein

Gotta Jibboo

Axilla

Poor Heart

Fire

46 Days

Halley's Comet

Ya Mar

Twist

The Wedge

Stash

Free

Guyute

Drowned

Anything But Me

Reba

Carini

Chalkdust Torture

Taste

Wading in the Velvet Sea

Glide

Split Open and Melt

Ghost

Fast Enough for You

Simple

Bruno

Dickie Scotland

Wilson

Slave to the Traffic Light

The Curtain With

It is well written, but with just a little too much hate to be written by someone in the Phish organisation. My guess would be a jaded fan, looking to stir the pot. Remember, not too many people were bitching about the playing during the four nights leading up to Coventry. I've listened to all four nights, as well as Coventry, and the playing at Coventry is noticably sub-par in comparison. I chalk it up to a combination of emotion and partying on the boys' part. I don't think a lack of practice had anything to do with it. It's a good joke, whoever wrote the letter, but it just doesn't fly..

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