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Columns > David Steinberg - Some Are Mathematicians

Published: 2004/05/29
by David Steinberg

...but now they’re on their way

The news came out of nowhere. The big story for the Phish fans was
the release of three tracks from the new album. People were
discussing the songs and how they would work on tour when the rumor
first popped up that Coventry would be it.
No one believed it at first of course. After all It was supposed to
be it too if you believe the rumor mill. Miami was supposed to be
it. Vegas was supposed to be it. This sounded like the same old
rumor. The one thing that was different though is that it seemed to
be coming from multiple sources all at once, and the people who I
count on to mock these rumors were playing along. In this case the
speculation was a good thing; it helped to cushion the awful shock of
the news.
I never have bought into the theory that performers owe their audience
to keep on performing. If the band (or Trey) doesn’t feel it
anymore, they should move on. This essay is not an attempt to
convince the band to stay together. Rather it’s one fan’s attempt to
deal with the shock of the announcement.
What makes this so interesting and so frustrating is the fact that
there will still be thirteen more shows to be played. How do you
play shows knowing that these will be a last hurrah? Every great
jam or amusing banter will remind the crowd of what won’t be
happening in the future. Every version of a song could be the final
one ever. Hearing the new songs will just make people wonder what
they would have sounded like after a few tours. Enjoying the music
will be difficult, but if this is really going to be the last of it,
doing so will be more crucial than ever.
This will be even more magnified at Coventry. Once a song is played
there, it’s crossed off the list forever. A flubbed version will
never get another second chance. There is nothing in the world that
is more fun than a Phish festival but this one has already been
destroyed. How much joy can there be when any great moment is a
reminder of what will be gone? There will be good moments
of course, but there won’t be the usual festival vibe.
At least if they have to have a final show, they’ll be going out on
their own terms. There won’t be a curfew to deal with or venue
politics or anything to get in the way. The band can say goodbye
however they choose.
On a day like this it’s easy to focus on what will be lost. Never
again will 70,000 people make the drive up to Limestone. Never again
will a line referencing an event five years previous and thousands of
miles away get a rousing ovation from people who still think about Big
Cypress. At some point this summer we will witness the final Stash
clap, "Wilson" chant, "Hood" shout, and glowstick war. Never again
will the lights go out on a third set on New Year’s Eve with a crowd
dying to know what will happen at midnight. Most importantly, never
again will I have that moment that I was reminded of in Hampton, when
I’m surrounded by people I love and the music that has meant so much
to me. The tribes will never gather again; the scene is way too
splintered to have that critical mass around another band any time
It’s hard to have something you love taken away, even if it’s as
trivial as a rock band. The only way that seems to help a little is
to remember why you loved the band in the first place. Phish
inspired me to travel to places that I would have otherwise never
seen and met people that I otherwise never would have known. When I
was trapped in a horrible situation for three years, they gave me an
reason to make temporary escapes and events to look forward to
when all was bleak. They have been the soundtrack to many of my
biggest life events and get involved somewhere in most of my best
stories. From the dancers in the audience in Pearl St during an 1990
Divided Sky to the sunrise over Big Cypress, Phish have given me a
gift far beyond what I can expect from four people. Thanks! I
wouldn’t be half the person I am now without you. As much as I would
want more (e.g. the Seven Missing States Tour, the lock everyone in a
venue and play until the crowd gives up plan), I am quite grateful for
what I did receive.
...and hey, maybe this is the denial stage of grief speaking, but it’s
not like Trey isn’t known for going back on his public statements or
anything. Let’s let the time pass and see what happens.
"She started dancing to that fine fine music, You know her life was saved by rock and roll. It took no computations to dance to that rock and roll station, And it was alright."
-Lou Reed (bootleg series version)
David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from New
Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power of live
music at the Capitol Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His
Phish stats website is at
He is the stats section editor for
The Phish Companion and is on the board of directors for the Netspace Foundation. You can read more of his thoughts at

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