Phish may have swum off into jam-band history with this past weekend's Coventry festival in Vermont, but thousands of fans turned away from the event — many with tickets in hand — are plenty mad, and they're angling for much more than just an apology.
A week of torrential downpours left parking areas at the Newport State Airport, the site of the festival, badly flooded. According to the band and festival organizers Great Northeast Productions, efforts were made to secure additional parking nearby, but nothing turned up. Citing safety concerns, Phish, Great Northeast and the Vermont state police announced that no more vehicles would be allowed into the festival, leaving many concertgoers stuck in traffic on Interstate 91 with no choice but to head home.
"We probably moved a total of 1,000 feet in the 10 hours we were in traffic. Everyone had to walk into the most tick-infested woods I have ever seen to use the bathroom," said Eric, a Phish fan from Long Island who declined to give his last name. "[Phish] had set up a radio station, and the DJs kept telling everyone, 'Remain calm, stay in your cars. We're letting in 150-250 cars an hour.' But on Saturday morning, Mike [Gordon, Phish's bass player,] came on and he said no more cars would be let in."
But Gordon failed to clarify whether or not any more tickets would be honored, and the confusion sparked an unintended reaction: If no more vehicles were being allowed into Coventry, some fans reasoned, they could still enter the festival on foot.
"My own brother made it in," Eric said. "Everyone who didn't leave got in."
Despite repeated warnings from the state police that abandoned vehicles would be towed, many concertgoers parked their cars on the side of I-91 and walked to the concert site, which for some was more than 20 miles away.
"They told us our cars would be towed. They absolutely said not to park our vehicles on the side of 91," said Phish fan Jeff Tundis. "So we went home, and that's when the real frustration set in. We saw news photos and there was a sea of people there. They obviously were still letting people in. We basically lost out on our last chance to see Phish."
Neither Gordon nor any other member of Phish could be reached for comment about the confusion, since according to a spokesperson, "Phish is done and no one will be doing any more interviews about Phish." In an effort to appease fans who were turned away from Coventry, both the band and Great Northern Productions are offering refunds through their Web sites, but that isn't enough for some fans.
"When this refund offer came in on the Web site, it read like this corporate form letter: 'Thanks for being patient. Sorry for the inconvenience,' " Tundis said. "Everybody's so distraught and they've got this patent-letter dismissal up there. I wish they'd acknowledge the people who went home."
"If they're going to turn away thousands and thousands of fans, they have to play another show for us," Eric said. "The right thing to do would be to play a single show for everyone with an unripped Coventry ticket. I'm hoping Phish is going to make this right somehow."
Traffic and ticket problems weren't the only things that went wrong at Coventry. A man in his early 20s wandered into a fellow concertgoer's tent and died, according to The Associated Press. His body was found early Monday morning, and an autopsy is scheduled. The man was carrying no identification.
For a feature on the demise of Phish, check out "Who's The Next Big Phish?"