It’s been exactly a year since Phish last performed as the greatest American foursome of all time, but it honestly feels like a decade. So, on the one-year anniversary of the final notes of The Curtain With, here’s some Coventry audio and video, for those of you who can stomach it:
August 13th latenight: Probably the highlight of the Coventry weekend, we listened to this gem on the festival’s radio station — The Bunny — while stuck in traffic in the middle of a rural Vermont road
August 15th Day Two, Set Two (55 minutes): Down with Disease, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Glide, Split Open and Melt
If you’ve never seen a Phish show in person or on DVD, you’re probably not going to enjoy this video. Sure it’ll be cool to see the mass of 70,000 screaming fans getting their final look at a bunch of dorks who took about half of their disposable incomes. It’ll be fantastic to see the lit up ferris wheel and hot-air balloon off in the distance, as well as the lit up guitarist making magic from up on stage. But make no mistake: This is Phish far from their best.
Still, there are some real highlights in this video that are definitely worth watching. And I’ve outlined those for y’all in this summary (mind you, this is literally the first time I’ve heard or seen a lick of this concert since leaving the grounds):
(0:00) Down With Disease — The Phish staple probably displayed my favorite moment of the whole weekend: the glowstick war. It starts a couple minutes in, but at exactly 4:00, there’s a great camera shot of the jaw-dropping glow-melee. As my buddy TJ said to me during the war, “Item number one on the National Glowstick and Glowring Manufacturers annual meeting’s agenda better be entitled ‘Life After Phish.'”
At 4:33, Trey picks up a glowstick and uses it as a pick. At about 5:40, he picks up a second glowstick and uses it as a slide. Now he’s playing guitar with two glowsticks. The Junk will make a man do funny things.
(19:08) Wading in the Velvet Sea — While this song is certainly near the top of the list of beautiful Phish ballads, it’s widely regarded among my brain cells as a major letdown. See, I have a weird statistical anomaly with this song: Of the nearly 1,200 shows in the band’s annals, they’ve played Velvet Sea as an encore only seven times. Of the five times Phish has played Velvet Sea as an encore in the 63 post-hiatus shows, I’ve managed to see all five (NYE ’02 @ MSG; 2/21/03 in Cincy; 7/19/03 @ Alpine Valley in Wisconsin; 7/26/03 in Atlanta and 6/19/04 @ SPAC). It’s one thing to hear a ballad as an encore and enjoy it for what it is, but after five times of hearing the same ballad over and over as an encore, you’re looking to strangle several wooks with their own dreadlocks.
But because I knew I’d be hearing it for the last time, I perked up and paid the song its due, kind of like two prize-fighters shaking hands after a 12-round slobberknocker. Only Page didn’t start singing right away, missing his cue. The band circled around the skies above the runway and went back in for a landing, only this time, again, Page couldn’t quite get the words out. Trey and Page were both at a loss for words, but the band still pulled off the melodic jam well. The song finished to thunderous applause. And, um, yeah, I kinda got goosebumps and teary watching this portion of the video.
(26:20) Glide — The most emotional part of the weekend moves right into the most forgettable botch-job of the weekend. Just saying the words “Coventry Glide” can make a grown man shiver. But I’m sure the emotional roller-coaster of the weekend really took its toll on the band at exactly that time, so I guess it’s excusable. Either way, THIS song should have opened the festival, not Walls of the Cave. The lyrics, including the words “And we’re glad glad glad that you’ll arrive”, couldn’t be more appropriate considering a third of the crowd had to walk miles to get to the venue just hours or even minutes earlier.
(30:40) Farewell speeches — After Glide, it’s obvious Trey realized the band needed a minute to wind down and get it all out. Big Red mentions the “emotional ups and downs” of the weekend and thanks the fans for their many years of appreciation and cash flow. Page still can’t speak, Mike touches his heart and Fishman throws out the line of the festival: “For all you people who walked in here, that is the greatest compliment that we can ever have.”
At 33:35, Trey absolutely loses it and breaks down crying like a schoolgirl with skinned knees. Of the 140,000 eyes on the grounds that weekend, maybe 0.01 percent were still dry. To get themselves and everyone else out of this funeral-esque funk, Trey says, “What we need to do now is just blow off some f***in’ steam,” and they kick into…
(34:54) Split Open and Melt — If I remember correctly, because I’ve still yet to listen to this festival at all, this was one of the best jams of the night. And it definitely holds up on the video, as this kicks ass. It just goes to show you — after a good cry, all you need is one of the band’s all-time greatest jam vehicle to make everyone feel good again. Too bad the end of SOAMelt gets cut off.
See also: Ace’s thoughts — Joy in Mudville: A Farewell (Part I, Part II); Donnie Fielder’s End of Phish; An awesome Coventry page from Russ Kahn’s Photo Travelogue; Phil Reed’s photographic essay about Coventry