Go Phishing while the Phish are biting

© 2004 Gordon Alexander

Posted 07.27.04

COVENTRY, VT | Here's one way to make hay while the sun shines without haying: John Mead of Newport intends to offer 20 acres of his brothers farmland next to the Phish-sanctioned camping area, to 200 ticket-less fans at a charge of $200 per person for the two day weekend.

" I hear that the police are getting pressure to allow residents up there ( at the Phish rock concert site in Coventry, Vermont ) to open up private land for parking," Mead said.

According to Mead, following a conversation with a spokesman from Great Northeast Productions, Mead feels that Great Northeast wants to make all the money and don't really care if Coventry people get any financial benefit from the concert or not.

"That is with the exception of the few people Great Northeast has leased land from -- Coventry people get all the inconvenience and none of the profits" Mead said.

"At the very first meeting they ( Great Northeast) had with Coventry residents one elderly woman asked what she could do…she was in the middle of the proposed concert area.

Their reply was "You could move," Mead said

Mead used to farm this land leased from his brother, where he kept 150 milking cows. He has since sold the cows but still has the use of his brother's land.

The information gets a little convoluted here but, according to Mead, the land actually belongs to Casella Waste Management (the company that owns and operates the neighboring landfill).

This particular parcel was bought from Mead's brother with the understanding that the original owner could retain use of the land for purposes as seen fit by that former owner.

Mead claims he has placed an advertisement in the Burlington Free Press, the hometown paper of the Phish band and its followers, inviting all ticket-less Phish fans to come up and camp on Mead's land during the concert weekend for a fee.

The ticket-less 200 campers on Mead's land will have practically as good access to the Phish concert stage as those adjacent spectators with tickets.

Tickets for the concert at the outset went for nearly $200 each, but have since sky-rocketed as some of those speculators who had bought tickets now want to re sell them at an inflated profit.

The ticket-less campers paying $200 for the campsite are not really getting a bargain but at least it lets them get to see Phish's last concert, long after all the tickets were sold out, without having to pay scalper's prices.

In addition, a little further away and into the woods, Mead is renting 800 sites at only $75 per person for those that think just hearing the band is good enough.

"It is not just campsites I am offering. We will have our own doctor on call, we will be offering food for sale, and have our own portable toilets on site for the comfort of our guests" Mead said.

"I have heard that this concert go as high in numbers as 140,000. I think the police could have a real problem on their hands if they don't let other people in the area open up their land, if they want to. And, while they are at it why shouldn't they be allowed to make a little money?" Mead said.

Last week the Vermont State police issued a statement expressing concern about the recent trend of local residents who are inviting non-ticket holders to come up and camp on their property during the concert.

A Public Assembly Permit has been issued by the Department of Public Safety for the Phish Concert with 70,000 attendees. The Vermont State police and the promoter Dave Werlin do not want people coming to the concert without tickets.

Mead intends to accommodate no more than 1000 people, bringing him well under the 2000 number that would require a Public Assembly Permit. It is uncertain what will happen should the ticket-less horde of Phish fans exceed 1000.

The police statement expressed concern about being able to get ambulance, fire trucks, and police to local residents as well as concert goers if some of the area residents invite non-ticket holders to attend. The concern extended to the location of some of these camping areas located on the very roads needed by emergency services.

The fear being that vehicle and pedestrian traffic could tie up roadway that could severely hamper, if not prohibit, getting help to people in need.

"Some people hand-picked by Great Northeast Productions, promoters of the Phish concert, will be paid very well," Mead said. "The rest of the landowners near the site will have all the inconveniences of the concert: noise, traffic, littering, not being able to travel to and from their homes, and not be able to make any money for their trouble...that is not fair" Mead said.

Vermont State police had indicated earlier that they would be checking cars at the entrance to the airport road to be sure everyone in the car had a ticket. If one person in the car did not have a ticket, the entire car would be refused entrance to the road to the concert.

This idea was never made official , however.

" I don't think the police have the right to keep people from coming up the Airport Road... a public road... just because they don't have concert tickets," Mead said.

Meanwhile, as the mega-concert date approaches, the entire area is gnawing their collective fingernails, wondering what 70,000 to 100,000 people look like all in one place and will they all fit in the area -- especially the very rural township of Coventry which doesn't even have an annual fair to draw people in.

Everybody seems to have their own opinion on what will happen and how the concert will go: will it be a peaceful concert under starry Vermont skies, Armageddon in the rain, or perhaps a little of each.

It depends on who you ask. The answer you may get will probably tell who is, or who hopes to be, making big money that weekend.

All should be made clear at an eleventh hour meeting at the Coventry Elementary School on Monday, August 2, at 7 p.m. when the residents and media will be brought up to date on everything related to the big event.

If the authorities have been a little less than forthcoming about the details of who, what, when, and how it could be it's because they realize they have a tiger by the tail and are not sure themselves how to handle the huge crowd of fun seekers.

Copyright © 2004 Gordon Alexander/Log Cabin Chronicles/07.04