The early 2000’s were a gloomy time in Phish history. While there were some bright spots during those years, the band was wrought with tension and drug abuse problems that ultimately led to their decision to break up in 2004. For fans that had been following Phish devoutly throughout the 1990s, the prospect of the band’s break up was simply heartbreaking. To give fans one last hurrah, the band hosted a two-night festival in Coventry, VT, drawing tens of thousands for the emotional performances.

The festival itself was marred with unfortunate circumstances, as rains had left the grounds extremely muddy and generally disgusting. This, in turn, led to an inordinate amount of traffic getting into the venue, with fans having to hike miles just to get inside. The band had a hard time keeping their emotions in check, and even Trey Anastasio commented that he was “a little nervous” before their “final show.” Playing a “last show” was draining for all involved; though the band was able to play, each note was one closer to the end.

One of the most iconic moments of the emotional evening came during “Wading In The Velvet Sea”, when pianist Page McConnell broke down into tears while singing the song. Overcome with emotion, he turned his microphone out toward to crowd so they could help him finish singing the song. His tears were felt deeply by Phish fans everywhere

Watch the emotional “Wading In The Velvet Sea,” streaming below.

Phish – “Wading In The Velvet Sea” – 8/15/04

[Video: Bowa4141]

For more about the highlights from Coventry itself, we recommend reading this retrospective article published ten years after.

Of course, this story has a happy ending, as the band reunited five years later, getting back on the train and not letting go. More than a decade and many Phish shows later, it’s heart-wrenching moments like these that teach us to appreciate any and all shows the band plays.

Thank you Phish, for coming back and continuing to bring us the music that we all love so much.

SETLIST: Phish at Newport State Airport, Coventry, VT – 8/15/04

Set 1: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Anything But Me, Reba, Carini > Chalk Dust Torture -> Possum > Wolfman’s Brother[1] > Taste

Set 2: Down with Disease[2] > Wading in the Velvet Sea[3], Glide, Split Open and Melt -> Ghost

Set 3: Fast Enough for You, Seven Below[4] -> Simple > Piper -> Cool Jerk[5] -> Dickie Scotland[6], Wilson > Slave to the Traffic Light

Encore: The Curtain With[7]

[1] Explanation from Trey as to the history of the song; also features Trey’s mom, Mike’s mom and John Paluska on “sexy bump”.
[2] Unfinished.
[3] Page and Trey break down.
[4] “Seven Below” shouted by all band members sporadically during the jam.
[5] Phish debut; lyrics changed to honor Mark “Bruno” Bradley.
[6] Debut; lyrics referenced Hadden Hipsley and Dickie Scotland
[7] Jam segment stopped and restarted in correct key.

Notes: This was the second show of the Coventry festival and was the presumed “Final Show.” When Trey made his “break-up” announcement the preceding May, he indicated that Coventry would be the final Phish shows. In reality, this turned out to be the final public show for over four and a half years. This show was simulcast in movie theaters nationwide. Before Anything But Me, Trey announced that, for the first time in 21 years, he was nervous performing a Phish show. During Wolfman’s, Trey revealed that the Wolfman’s Brother is, in fact, Fish (as well as the fact that he handed the phone to his friend Liz Durfee). Also, during Wolfman’s, Trey and Mike invited their mothers onstage (and later John Paluska) to do the “sexy bump” dance. Disease was unfinished and featured Trey briefly playing his guitar with a glow stick. Both Page and Trey broke down during an especially emotional Velvet Sea. After a thoroughly botched Glide, all four band members offered words of thanks to the fans for their continued support and dedication and brief reflections on their twenty years together. Trey then stated that what they really needed to do was “blow off some fucking steam” before starting up Melt. There was an enormous glow stick war during Ghost featuring hundreds, if not thousands, of orange glow sticks. This version of Seven Below saw all of the band members sporadically shouting “Seven Below” throughout the jam. The Phish debut of Cool Jerk contained alternate lyrics honoring monitor mixer, Mark “Bruno” Bradley. The Dickie Scotland Song was spontaneously created and included lyrics in honor of production manager, Hadden Hipsley, and tour accountant, Richard Glasgow (a.k.a. Dickie Scotland). Before Wilson, Trey asked the crowd to sing to another of their friends “for the last time.” There was a fireworks display between the end of the third set and the encore. Before the encore, while explaining the origins of The Curtain, Trey jokingly announced that the entire Chicago Symphony and the Twyla Tharp Dance Troupe were going to perform Gamehendge. Trey explained that they chose The Curtain With as the last song to bring them full circle, because, not only was it one of the first Phish songs he wrote, but he wrote it in a cabin one town over from Coventry. Trey stopped and restarted the jam segment of the Curtain With, because they were in the wrong key or, as he explained, ”Since we are going to be bringing ourselves back in time, we may as well do it in the correct key.” There was no P.A. music after the Curtain With

[Originally published 8/15/15]