There seems to be an assumption afloat that those who report positive experiences are being less than honest so I'm going to try again, with objectivity.

I'll just state for the record that I'm not a tour professional, nor do I pretend to be. I am, however, an employed professional with an apartment, a car, a cat and enough financial obligations that I haven't had the privilege of touring with Phish or any other popular band, but I've more than made up for it by supporting my local musicians every chance I get. That said, I do quite a lot of camping, I went to IT last year and I paid attention to the weather reports so I felt adequately prepared. Sitting in one place for 25 hours waiting to get into IT reminded me how necessary it is to keep a sense of humour and positive attitude at all times.

I devoted a portion of last year's tax refund to this summer's Phish tour, and was excited that they were doing two nights at SPAC, my home turf. I also waited patiently for the permits to be in order for them to hold another festival - for long before Coventry was formally announced, it was widely known that they were hoping to do something in Vermont. As much as I desperately wanted to go to all the shows, I was not financially able to. Call me less of a phan if you want, but when you examine my debt to income ratio you'll see that I made the best of my situation. And yes, it became that much more heartbreaking for me when the breakup was announced, because I then knew that my dreams of touring were over. I freaked out when I couldn't get a ticket to the Brooklyn simulcast and celebrated when a miracle came my way. I cried when I realized how incredibly blessed I was that my brother and sister-in-law had been at every show with me. I was overjoyed when I was accepted to be a Phunky Bitch, because I knew that I would have an opportunity to use my last shows as a means of giving back in much the same way as I've always been involved in my community here in Albany.

Meeting my local PBs was hard, as Albany's small and I was afraid that we might travel in similar circles - turns out we do, but they know all the good people in my life and none of the bad. The decision for me to travel on Thursday morning to Coventry was damn near impossible for me to make. I could barely afford taking Friday and Monday off, let alone Thursday, but my mom offered to pay me for that day so I wouldn't have to travel alone. After much soul-searching (my parents aren't well off by any means) and discovering that Melissa was planning to drive up on Thursday and also would have been going alone, I decided that traveling together was really the best option for either of us.

So. I bought rainboots, I spent well over a hundred dollars on groceries (meaning that I had to use an "emergencies only" credit card that had no balance to fund the trip) and continuously reminded myself that yes, there would be traffic and yes, there would be mud. I got my head together to spend 4+ hours in a car with an almost-perfect stranger. We left Albany at 5 AM, after I'd slept probably an hour the entire evening. We traveled north. We stopped for gas and discovered that my brother was on his way back to NY from VT because he'd forgotten his tickets. We wondered how bad the traffic was going to be, because if I learned nothing else from IT, I knew that what seemed like smooth-sailing could so easily turn into an hours long traffic jam.

We hit the line on Airport Road at 10:30 AM. We heard reports that bags were being thoroughly searched and ditched my stash on the side of the road. We made friends with the occupants of the cars near us, and we cursed the Bunny for telling us that people were being let in early to set up camp when clearly, traffic wasn't moving. We finally rolled in there, my bladder about to burst, only to discover that the porta-potties were LOCKED (and yes, I had peed several times at the side of the road). We turned the heat up full blast to warm the hands of the people directing traffic, because they were freezing. We pulled in through the mud, got as much shit out of my car as possible, and set up camp. Would I have rather camped in more ideal conditions? Of course. But rather than throwing a temper tantrum, Melissa and I celebrated the fact that we were inside, camped next to my car, and had time to chill out before the Camden show started.

Friday morning, we woke up to more rain. When the weather cleared we spent a good chunk of time cleaning up the mud, trying to dry things out, and figuring out how to organize things to prepare for the next deluge. We went to the Commons and filled huge bags of mulch to bring back to camp. We were muddy. We were sweaty. We laughed at the irony of having spent good money for this "vacation."

We woke up on Saturday excited about meeting the PBs, and I washed my hair under the water spigots. I didn't have a fancy camp shower with me, but I knew that my sanity would be preserved with clean hair and dry feet. I shared my soap with tons of people so that they too could revel in temporary cleanness. We traipsed through the mud to get to the concert field, my nose burned from the chemicals in the porta-potties they were still cleaning when they went in, and I waited patiently for my second Page-side show (I'm a Mike's side girl). I constantly asked myself if I was being an okay companion, was Melissa having fun, was I making the experience enjoyable, was I being too demanding by wanting to be Mike-side later in the evening? Every moment that I was there, I celebrated the fact that I was THERE, that we hadn't been turned away, that we hadn't had to make the decision regarding whether or not to hike in. I cried for my friends who hadn't made it, wishing that we could all be there. That's not rose-colored glasses, it's an objective look at a situation and an ability to make the best of what was handed to us. Did I think that Phish played a little sloppy? Sure. Would I have been excited for a high energy last hurrah? Of course. But once I picked up on the vibe it became blatantly obvious how hard they were struggling to carry on for us, their phans. I didn't get my First Tube, but I got everything else I'd hoped for and then some. I got to spend time with perfect strangers united and meet new friends.

Sunday was more of the same. We staged ourselves in a relatively grassy area for the shows (and fairly close to the stage, as well), brought along the Relix poncho I got with my subscription so we'd have something to sit on, and made our way easily between the stage and the rock garden between each set. "Easily" being subjective, of course. Would have been easier without all the mud and mulch, but whatever. Our shit was packed before the first set, so we slowly and tearfully made our way back to my car and hopped in after it was all said and done, only to find ourselves sitting in the same damned place almost 14 hours later. There was much frustration at the conspicuous lack of police at that point, but instead of crying about it, I took action. A passenger from another car and I took a walk to see what was going on, got people moving, organized a mass U-turn and got us rolling out of the venue only 45 minutes after execution of our master plan began.

Could it have been easier? Of course. Would I have wished for better camping conditions? Who wouldn't have? Did I make personal sacrifices? Damn skippy. But I also knew that it would be over all too soon and that it was up to me to make the best of my situation.

Of course I'm mourning the loss of my band. I'm feeling the frustrations of having to live life with a schedule again, I'm regretting not having gone to more shows when I had the chance. But I'm also celebrating the the fact that these four incredibly talented musicians will continue to bless us with their gift. They're not done. They're just in the middle of a long jam that's taking them, and us, in some crazy directions right now.

It's useless to whine about the blisters, the mud, the tears, the sleepless nights and lack of money and food. I made it. I was there. I got to Coventry and back alive, and I got to witness a display of emotion you don't often get out of four grown men. I got to experience something with thousands of others who also get it, who just know why it's worth it to spend 5 days camped in the mud for a single band. I was prepared, physically and emotionally and I kept my chin up in the face of adversity. I've been through a lot of serious shit in my life and honestly, if Phish breaking up is the worst that's happened to some of you, you don't know how incredibly lucky you are. Phish has gotten me through the lowest points in my life and I'll be damned if I'm going to whine about a "miserable experience" because it wasn't - it was a gift to have been there, to watch a band come full circle that has helped me through so much. Now I'm there for them like they've been here for me. And if that's being less than honest about what it was like to be there, then I'm sorry. I found an incredible friend through the Phunky Bitches and I hope that I will continue to make friends, even without next year's Phish tour to look forward to.

The setlists:

Setlist 8/14/04

Set 1
  1. Walls of the Cave ->
  2. Runaway Jim ->
  3. Gotta Jibboo
  4. You Enjoy Myself -> (Trey gives away the trampolines to the crowd.)
  5. Sample in a Jar
  6. Axilla
  7. Poor Heart
  8. Run Like an Antelope (Guest appearance by Tom Marshall.)
  9. Fire
Set 2
  1. AC/DC Bag ->
  2. 46 Days ->
  3. Halley's Comet ->
  4. Ya Mar (Bass solo with interactive clapping.)
  5. [Trey speech]
  6. David Bowie
  7. Character Zero
Set 3
  1. Twist ->
  2. The Wedge
  3. Stash ->
  4. Free
  5. [band waves; Trey speech]
  6. Guyute
  7. Drowned ->
  8. jam ->
  9. Friday
Encore
  1. Harry Hood (Trey and Mike move closer to the audience and play on the rocks in front of the stage.)
8/15/04

Set 1
  1. Mike's Song ->
  2. I am Hydrogen ->
  3. Weekapaug Groove
  4. Anything But Me
  5. Reba
  6. Carini ->
  7. Chalkdust Torture ->
  8. Possum
  9. Wolfman's Brother -> (the wolfman's brother is Fishman)
  10. jam (the sexy bump) -> (Trey and Mike bring out their mothers and do the 'sexy bump' dance with them. Then later, 'sandwich' their manager, John Paluska with it.)
  11. Wolfman's Brother ->
  12. Taste
Set 2
  1. Down With Disease -> (Trey plays his guitar with a glow stick.)
  2. Wading in the Velvet Sea (Page gets emotional.)
  3. Glide
  4. [band speech]
  5. Split Open and Melt ->
  6. jam (blowing off steam) ->
  7. Ghost
Set 3
  1. Fast Enough for You
  2. Seven Below ->
  3. Simple ->
  4. Piper ->
  5. Bruno -> (The band spontaneously writes a song to acknowledge their monitor engineer Mark "Bruno" Bradley. Other crew acknowledgements.)
  6. Dickie Scotland -> (Same as above, but for Richard "Dickie Scotland" Glasgow.)
  7. Wilson ->
  8. Slave to the Traffic Light
  9. [fireworks]
Encore
  1. [Trey speech]
  2. The Curtain With

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