Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Joy in Mudville: A Farewell (Second Part)

Last we left off in Part I, our trusty n' rusty RV cruised into Coventry at noon on Saturday, a mere 13 hours after reaching the end of traffic line 10 miles or so from the venue.

Following a rigorous CSI-like search of the vehicle, we finally pulled onto the grounds and parked excessively close to the exit, a good thing for departing the grounds late Sunday night. But that fortuitous spot was excessively far from the concert stage, a bad thing for walking to the weekend's shows.

It's hard to describe the Coventry Mud Situation to someone who wasn't there to see it, but I will say this in an attempt to convey the scene: some parts were straight-up quicksand mud, other parts were covered in mulch, sinking when you stepped on them.

Finally, I fulfilled my childhood dreams of navigating a quagmire like the Dread Pirate Roberts in the Fire Swamp from The Princess Bride. People lost their shoes, people got stuck and fell face forward into the mud, and many, many dirty hippies dove head first straight into it. John Kerry told me it felt like Vietnam, and he won medals there, so I believe him. I don't know why, I just do.

Musically, well, um, we've all seen better shows. Everyone knows this. If fans don't realize they flubbed half the songs played this weekend, they're in Psychoville and Finkel's the mayor. The only thing that looked more like a sprawling meadow of human shit than the mud was Trey. I once called Trey the Allen Iverson of jam bands, but I think I gave him too much credit on that one. This guy not only refuses to practice, but it appears that he stays up for four straight days on a heroin binge in order to psyche himself up for his last show ever as a member of the band he drove to such success. Last show ever, bud, do you think ya can hold off on the smack until, say, you've finished the most anticipated performance of your career?

He'll always be an idol of mine, but the guy forgot half the lyrics and most of the chords to his songs. He flubbed so many lyrics I honestly thought he was going to sing Dire Straits' Walk of Life and get all the words right, just to show he's been fucking with us the whole time. He even told the same exact story two nights in a row with no variation and no real recollection of telling it the first time.

Trey made up for some of it by playing slide with a glowstick. The Phish crowd has what are called "glowstick wars," where fans chuck about 5,000 or so glowsticks and glowrings (no idea on how many for real, but that figure might be low) around the arena for, let's call it five minutes of nonstop chucking. It was pretty cool, but much like Phish, it peaked around 1997-98.

Night two set two's opener though, Down With Disease, saw the most amazing display of a glowstick war ever. With 70,000 people in attendance, you could just imagine how cool a visual that truly is, anywhere from 50-100,000 glow objects soaring through the air while the lights are dim and the band is funkin' it out. As TJ in OH 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.'" Not to mention, fans were setting off roman candles and bottle rockets and all kinds of cool fireworks. One guy even aimed his roman candle at the band. It's seriously too bad that one of those bottle rockets didn't take out his eye, though.

I also thought the pattern of sets was very similar on both nights: The first set on both nights were rockin' and played well. The second sets got more experimental and somewhat trippy. And then the third sets were completely and utterly cracked out and flubbed. I've slandered the good man's name enough, so I won't say that Trey was backstage during the hour-long setbreaks bangin' hookers and injecting some good, hard smack. But he was. I love the guy, but after this weekend I kinda hope he gets typhoid.

The whole thing kind of felt like the happiest internment camp since the dawn of mankind. Forlorn refugees trudged in from the road so dead from travel they could only shuffle through the gates, people knew they'd be stuck for days because they couldn't get their cars out, no showers, no contact with the outside world, strangers bound together for reasons known and unknown...and everyone was happy. Except for the flubs, those sucked.

Overall, I guess I really loved the weekend. I bitch because it's just more fun that way. But I might as well have been dancing dirtily at Kellerman's, because I had the time of my life. You could say it was "phantastic," but then I'd have to punch you in the tits.

But it was fantastic, and I "had a ball" as the kids are saying. I'll think very positively about this festival when I look back at it ten and twenty years from now. I had such a great time meeting new people, chillin' with old friends, hangin with great traveling companions...And I really didn't even mind slopping through the mud, sittin' in traffic, any of that. Just makes for a better story.

Thanks for bearing with me on this little account, I needed to document this gala event before it faded into Bolivian.

For more, click here for some Google videos, here for some YouTube videos and check out Donnie Fielder's End of Phish thoughts and the Slack one-year anniversary post: A Year Since Mud & Flubs.

R.I.P. Ace's Sandals (1996-2004)

(And for the record, to my understanding, the town of Coventry is not pronounced like cover, but rather like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (I was going to post a picture of that terrorist fuckface, but then I figured Slack might get put on some government watch list). There were at least 70,000 visitors to the town of Coventry over the past weekend, and I bet no more than two percent will go home knowing how to pronounce it correctly. I feel sadness in my heart for the people of Coventry, and I feel lust in my groin for their warm hospitality.)