Phish's manager and the chief organizer of the troubled Coventry festival released separate lengthy apologies Monday and offered fans who were turned away from the band's final show compensation for their misfortunes.
Fans with unripped tickets to the event are not only entitled to a full refund, but also a free download of the entire weekend (including the
soundcheck) and a book of photos compiled by longtime Phish photographer Danny Clinch made specifically for the thousands of Phish-heads who never made it into Coventry, according to manager John Paluska.
"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," Paluska wrote at the end of his five-page open letter to fans. "Please understand that we did the best we could in the face of unpredictable and extraordinary circumstances."
Although an estimated 65,000 fans made it into muddy Newport State Airport for the August 14-15 festival, thousands more followed the direction of authorities and Phish themselves and either turned back for home or never left it (see "Phish Fans Angry After Being Turned Away From Final Show").
Paluska and Dave Werlin, whose Great Northeast Productions co-produced the concert, said their team, which has produced several Phish events, had never been as well-prepared for a festival, but the unpredictable weather spoiled even their contingency plans.
"As we contemplated the Coventry location, we looked at data representing the average rainfall in August and found it within acceptable limits," Werlin wrote. "We sought the counsel of local landowners on the likely condition of the ground in August as well as analysis provided by not one, but two, professional parking companies. As a hedge against loss of land as a result of rain or other factors, we secured over 70 acres of additional property across the road. ... Had we deemed it a prerequisite to secure twice the amount of land that we anticipated needing (and which we ultimately lost as a result of these extraordinary weather conditions), we could never have contemplated Coventry in the first place."
According to Paluska and Werlin, authorities in Vermont were close to canceling Coventry altogether but agreed to let it continue if fans not yet off the main freeway were asked to turn around. That those who parked on the side of the road and walked to the show were let in was a decision made by authorities.
"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," Paluska wrote. "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."
In their letters, Paluska and Werlin also defended their decision to allow fans without tickets to purchase them at the gate, which they originally said they would not do.
"Rumors are circulating that tickets were sold at the gates in huge numbers," Werlin wrote. "Let me tell you categorically that this was not the case. ... There were approximately 1,000 tickets sold to patrons, the vast majority of whom arrived in vehicles where some, but not all, had tickets. We simply did not have the resources to deal with turning vehicles away while we were trying to focus on the far greater issue of reclaiming as much ground as possible and moving traffic and pedestrians safely off of the roads and onto the site."
Both letters, as well as refund information, are available online at phish.com. Details on the free recordings of the show are on livephish.com.
"After reviewing all the events of Coventry in my mind, I don't second-guess any of the key decisions that were made," Paluska wrote. "We were dealt some extreme conditions by Mother Nature and we made the best of a very difficult situation. ... I wish things had turned out differently, but I'm proud of the job we all did."
For a feature on the demise of Phish, check out "Who's The Next Big Phish?"