March 18, 2009
Dear Messrs. Anastasio, Fishman, Gordon and McConnell,
First and foremost, allow me to extend my sincere congratulations regarding your recent reunion shows at Hampton. By all accounts, I’m told they were an unbridled success, surpassing even the most rabid Phish fan’s wildest expectations. Given that yours is an especially finicky fan base, that’s really saying something. I’m sure getting back on the, um, train after such a lengthy layoff inspired a degree of nerve-wracking trepidation I couldn’t begin to fathom. So, to pull the reunion off so comprehensively is truly a credit to your immeasurable collective talent and the sterling legacy that is Phish.
Coming from me, I imagine that last sentence may strike you as something of a surprise or, worse, as disingenuous. And that’s understandable. In my close to two-year tenure as music editor at your hometown alt-weekly rag, I’ve spared precious few opportunities to sling snark in your direction. In fact, one of my first CD reviews for 7D, Page’s solo album, began with the line, “I don’t like Phish.” So I wouldn’t be surprised to find that you’re not exactly fans of mine, either. But my reasons for writing today are much bigger than you or me. While we may feel a little animosity toward each other, we also share something else: a home. And it needs your help.
I doubt I need to tell you that the economy is in rough shape. Vermont has been spared to some degree, at least compared with much of the country. But the state is still in a bad way.
To be painfully blunt, we need money. Badly. And perhaps just as much, we could use a little fun. And you, Phab Phour, are in a unique position to offer both.
The early estimates out of Hampton are that your shows infused between $7 and $8 million into that region’s economy. While I certainly don’t begrudge Virginians the windfall, I can’t help imagining what a Phish show in Vermont could mean here. As a starting point, Coventry netted a cool 10 mill.
I think you know where I’m going with this. But just in case: We need you to play in Vermont. And soon.
I know what you’re gonna say: “Where?” And that’s a fair question.
To pull this off, you need to be able to build what amounts to the largest city in the state for one weekend. As you know, that’s no small task. But guess what? We’ve already done that for you. It’s called Burlington. Maybe you’ve heard of it?
To be clear, I’m not suggesting you play at a venue in Burlington. That’s just absurd. I’m suggesting the venue is Burlington. And, no, I’m not high.
While no single venue in the Burlington area is large enough to accommodate you, the city boasts a wealth of stages and public spaces that, when added up, could create the most unique concert experience in history. And, no, I’m still not high.
Let’s look at Jazz Fest. For more than a week every June, the entire city is transformed into an enormous cabaret, with shows on Church Street, the Waterfront, the Flynn and pretty much every nightclub in town. What I’m proposing is that we take that model and blow it up to what could become mythical proportions. Here’s how:
For starters, we’ll need a really big stage. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of open land to accommodate one. But that’s OK, because our stage is going in the lake. Specifically, just outside of the breakwater on Burlington Bay. I mean, if a floating stage is good enough for Montréal...
Then, sell tickets to the entire Waterfront area, which, with a stage in the lake, becomes an enormous natural amphitheater able to accommodate tens of thousands of people. And that’s not even counting how many folks you could fit in boats on the harbor. How much do you think the average Phish fan would pay for a booze-cruise ticket to this show? I’m thinking a lot.
The city itself may be ill prepared to suddenly double its population — what to do with all those people when they’re not grooving on the Waterfront? The answer? Give ’em something else to do. Set up stages all over town — Church Street, Battery Park, North Beach, Oakledge, etc. — and invite bands and performance artists, local and otherwise, to play during the day. Most would probably do it for the exposure, or just to say they were involved. Hell, you guys could even make surprise appearances or play solo sets. In Phishhead lingo, it would be epic. As for the aftermath, we could assign the hundreds of folks arrested on drug charges to cleanup duty in lieu of fines or jail time. Everybody wins.
I could go on. But I know you’re busy.
Obviously, my plan is not without major flaws. Do I really expect you to turn Burlington into a psychedelic Disneyland? Not really. And would I expect the city to go for it if you did? Doubtful, though I’d be happy to ask on your behalf.
No, my only real hope is that you will take a moment to seriously consider what a Phish show in Vermont would mean to your home state. Even in the age of trillion-dollar budgets, $10 million is still a lot of money, especially here. And on the chance that you find a way to make it happen, I do have a number for a floating-stage guy...
P.S. Any chance I could score Monster Seats at Fenway?