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Published: 2018/01/30

Trey Anastasio Pens Heartfelt Tribute to Lifelong Friend Chris Cottrell

Chris Cottrell and Trey Anastasio backstage at Red Rocks, 2001. via Trey Anastasio’s Facebook Page

On January 27, Trey Anastasio announced the passing of his friend Chris Cottrell.

Cottrell met Anastasio when they were both 15 and they remained close throughout the years.

“Chris’s fingerprints can be found on the world of Phish and TAB,” Anastasio wrote, adding that Cottrell was a co-producer of the live TAB album Plasma.

“The song ‘Push on till the day’ is packed with references to our countless adventures together,” Anastasio added.

Anastasio describes Contrell as a backstage fixture, a steadfast friend and a deeply caring father and husband.

He also shares several stories of their shared youth.
Read Trey’s full tribute letter below:

My lifelong friend Chris Cottrell died tonight from adrenal cancer. My heart is truly broken.

He leaves two beautiful daughters, Ayla and Kiara, his loving wife Amanda, and two brothers, Hamm and Trow.

Chris was a deeply caring father, husband and friend, and at the same time, Chris was a true badass, as tough as nails on the outside, while Inside he had the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known. Chris and I were like blood brothers from the age of 15. Chris was always the first friend who would call when times were hard, he always knew exactly what to say, and more importantly, what not to say. He was also hilarious, and right up until his last day was cracking all of us up, including his nurses, who all loved him. He died surrounded by his loved ones in the comfort of his home.

Chris was a wicked skier, and In the early 90s the four of us in Phish even sponsored him when he competed in the extreme skiing competition. He planned on skiing the competition in Fish’s dress, naked underneath, with the dress flapping up in the air as he went down the mountain. That didn’t actually end up happening, but we all had a good laugh picturing it, and he did well in the competition that year, despite wearing regular ski clothes. Chris loved elk and deer hunting in Colorado, and especially loved spending long hours above the tree line, he loved being up in the mountains. He also loved surfing, and he and Amanda loved spending time in Costa Rica, surfing, and being by the ocean.

When our kids were all little, Chris took our families on 3 day rafting and camping trips out west. We’d go kayaking, and he was also an expert fly fisherman. He would take me fishing and I would never catch anything…while Chris would end up with 12 fish. It was like he could sense where they were hiding behind the rocks- he was in tune.

Chris’s fingerprints can be found on the world of Phish and TAB. If you look in the liner notes of the live TAB album “Plasma” you’ll see that Chris was a co producer, helping me pick which tracks would make the cut. The song “Push on till the day” is packed with references to our countless adventures together. It begins with the line “C Cott is a friend of mine”, and among other things it includes a reference to “The Back of the Worm” which was heard at a Phish show at the Paradiso in Amsterdam in 97 but actually came from the night before that, when Chris and I were wandering aimlessly thru the dark streets of Amsterdam at 3am, completely lost and cracking up, when we both suddenly stopped in our tracks and realized at exactly the same moment that there were giant 100 foot long sand worms swimming just below the surface of the water in the canals right next to us. It was a horrifying thing to realize, but there was nothing we could do…the worms were there, and that was the end of it. So I looked sheepishly at Chris and sort of mumbled, “I think you know where you are….” and he replied, “.....you’re on the back of the worm”...which started us off laughing, whispering back and forth as we walked quickly away, “I think you know where you are…you’re on the back of the worm!” the chant continued all night and into the next day…right up onto the stage the next night.

Stuff like that used to happen all the time with Chris. He lived in Boulder in the 80s and early 90s, and whenever Phish would come to town, which was quite a lot, we had a ritual where we would circumnavigate the entire city of Boulder, walking for hours at night, just talking and laughing.

Chris and I both loved Jimi Hendrix so much…and we would always crank Band of Gypsies or “Red House” or some other Jimi track on the stereo when we were together, really loud, standing in front of the speakers together, and Chris, (whose nickname for me as “stain”, because my last name is Anastasio, which morphed into “Ain Stain”, which morphed into “stainus on the ainus”, and then into simply “stain”).. would lean into my face while Jimi ripped, at ear bleeding volume, and he would yell…. “stain!!! Listen to that sustain!”

Meaning… not just sustain of one note, but the way Jimi always kept the energy flowing like a torrent…like whitewater rafting, how he would sustain, a roaring rapid of sustain. So when I walked onstage at the countless shows where Chris would be hanging backstage, he would always say to me, just as I walked out, “Stain!..... sustaaaiiiin!”

Even when he couldn’t be at the show I’d often call or text him before the show and say, “Co-taage! (My nickname for him.. taaage is pronounced “taj” like in Taj Mahal) I’m gonna sustaaiiin!”

And he’d say something like “well done, grasshopper”

If you are ever in Crested Butte, there are many gorgeous homes in that town that Chris built. He had his own construction company, and built beautiful luxury homes, including his own, which was breathtaking, and always spotlessly clean. For the last decade of his life Chris was a grower in California. He loved and cared for his plants like a doting father, like they were his babies, watering and spraying for hours and hours every evening and early morning, building solar powered watering systems, or special air transfers and lighting systems for the indoor grow, dealing with pests, weather changes etc…He always took enormous pride in everything he did, and it showed…and of course he was a caring, loving expert as a grower too.

Mostly, Chris loved Amanda, deeply and unconditionally. They had a rare and beautiful relationship. He was unwavering in his love for her, and she for him. It was such a heartwarming thing to witness. When he got sick, all he ever talked to me about, other than how proud he was of his beautiful daughters, was Amanda, and how he wished she did not have to go thru this.

This post is way too long, so forgive me, but I guess I don’t care…because I’m so heartbroken, and I just want to share one more memory, if you will indulge me.

Sometime in the mid 90s Mike was driving up the highway when he picked up the actor Courtney Gaines hitchhiking. Courtney was well known for playing the character of Malachi in Children of The Corn, with his wild red hair, he was the one who hacked everybody up.

Mike started to contemplate a crazy gag, and at band practice and the gag came into focus.

So the next time we played in Vegas, we rented a giant suite with a balcony and a piano, and we invited tons of friends to a huge party in the room…Mike even hired two opera singers…

The gag was this…Courtney and I bought the exact same clothes, because with my long red hair at the time, Courtney and I looked similar… we each bought an identical bright blue blazer, pants and shoes. Chris was chosen to be the target of the gag, because this was going to be so scary that we needed a person who wouldn’t have a heart attack when it happened, and Chris was literally the only person we could think of who would be able to withstand it.

After taking some mushrooms just to add to the fun, I took Chris out gambling for a couple of hours while the party raged on in the room. Chris of course had no idea that Courtney was there…I was supposed to bring him back at exactly 2:45 am, which I did…When Chris and I got back to the room, everyone had left and we were alone, even though secretly they were all hiding up on the balcony looking down at us. There was a large screen TV placed in front of the couch and Children of the Corn was playing on the TV. Chris and I sat down on the couch…it was very dark in the room, except for the light from the TV, and just as we sat down, Courtney begin hacking furiously…with that weird curved blade thing and horror music blaring…at that moment I excused myself to go to the bathroom, Courtney and I switched in the bathroom, and Courtney returned to my seat on the couch dressed in the exact same clothes I’d been wearing, wearing my glasses, with his shaggy red hair, and sat right down next to Chris…the whole party and the opera singers, (who were instructed to scream at the top of their lungs at the exact moment that Chris screamed) were watching from above.

Adding to the weirdness was the fact that Courtney is a professional actor, so he sat down next to Chris on the couch and then turned and made eye contact with him, with a horribly scary “I’m gonna kill you” face that i could see from the bathroom, and was so scary that even I was scared…this was only moments after I had been sitting next to Chris in the exact same spot…and meanwhile in the background, “movie Courtney” was hacking up a storm, with the movie cued to the exact worst spot.

Chris stood up and started slowly backing away in terror and confusion…trying to get a handle on what was happening…at which point I sort of panicked because I felt worried that it was just all too much, so I ran out, thinking I’d make it would easier for him, but in reality, that’s when he really lost it because now there were two of me, in the dark, dressed identically, but one was Malaki.

Anyway, my favorite part of this whole story is that by the next night Courtney and Chris had become pals, and while we were playing the show I kept seeing the two of them running around drinking and partying together (it was the Primus Halloween Harpua show), and that says more about Chris than anything. He loved the whole thing.

We will all miss you Chris

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