The Silver Linings of Curveball

It’s been just over a week since Curveball was cancelled. Rarely does a festival get cancelled so close to showtime, and this one came down to the wire, with the plug pulled just as Phish was about to start Soundcheck at 4:00 pm on August 16. Thousands were already on site, and tens of thousands en route to the southern tip of Seneca Lake for Phish’s semi-annual music festival, held for the third, and perhaps the final time, at Watkins Glen International. Sadly, due to circumstances beyond the band’s control, Curveball was cancelled. Despite the shock, sadness & disappointment that flooded the festival grounds, what came next was a very humbling and incredible experience.

The pre-show excitement that built while preparing for a Phish festival has the joy of feeling like a kid at Christmastime, with surprises in store for all. Ahead of Curveball, fans counted down the days, dreamt up setlists, and stayed on top of the tour leading up to the climatic festival, hoping to get something on their wishlist, if not everything.

When the news broke, fans stood around just stunned. Those who made it into the venue wandered back to their campsites, a point at which the comradery that is felt among Phish fans came into focus. Deciding to make the best of the circumstances, Curveball’s temporary inhabitants banded together and sought out group therapy as they dove into the Kübler-Ross stages of grief, or postponed them, if not for a single night. New friends were made as they always are, Phish memories were discussed and fans commiserated about “what could have been.”

Fans still wanted to boogie and Kenneth Horgan, Production Manager for The Loop Tent, onsite working for Phish Inc. and JEMP records, made that possible. Horgan used his equipment to set up a live stream of the Joe Russo’s Almost Dead show from Red Rocks, where JRAD paid homage to Phish by weaving teases of “Wilson” into “Slipknot” during the second set. While JRAD was streaming from The Loop Tent, next door, The Skinny Pancake turned into a hotspot for hangouts. A mini wiffle ball game took shape, impromptu acoustic music was played, and there was an invasion of dancing mimes.

Curveball’s cancellation impacted many people, but the 14 surrounding counties that had been ravaged by heavy rains and flooding for almost a week leading up to the event left many people displaced from their homes and in need of supplies. Many vendors were onsite ready to supply food and drink to 60,000 people over the course of the weekend, and Silo Food Truck, Copper Horse Coffee and the Finger Lakes Cider House banded together to feed as many people as they could with their unused inventory, donating 50% of proceeds to the Lodi Flood Relief fund. With the added kick of Schuyler country losing millions in tax revenue, donation stations were set up in the surrounding counties and many Phish fans donated their unused food and supplies to help the flood victims in the area. Phish has announced that they will be selling Curveball merchandise online, including the Curveball Nalgene bottle that was intended for the WaterWheel/Reverb water program. Ticket holders get first dibs, and all proceeds for Curveball merchandise will go directly into relief funds.

Curveball will go down in music history as the Phish festival that never was, but memories were made despite the unfortunate circumstances. The weekend was a check for fans, who by and large made the best of their weekends and spent time with friends, creating lasting memories, even if the soundtrack was not close to expectations.

Fans can now look forward to the stream of Phish this weekend, with the code on the back of the Curveball wristband redeemable for the webcast of all three shows at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO beginning August 31, 2018. Couch Tour ticket time is 9:30pm EST.