Phish jams to raise $1.2 million for flood victims in native Vermont

Story highlights

  • The show broke attendance records at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction
  • It was Phish's first show since 2004 in Vermont, where they formed in 1983
  • The funds will help those affected by floods caused by remnants of Hurricane Irene
Jam band Phish broke attendance records and raised more than $1.2 million for victims of flooding this week in their home state of Vermont.
The show took place at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction on Wednesday night -- nearly three weeks after Vermont experienced deadly, damaging floods caused by the remnants of Hurricane Irene.
"It was amazing and inspiring to see so many people come together through music to aid the great state of Vermont," Phish guitarist and singer Trey Anastasio said.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin was among those attending the show, thanking Phish for coming back to Vermont, a state they hadn't played since 2004.
"There's nothing better than the state of Vermont, nothing better than Phish fans," Shumlin said. "It's been seven years... It was worth the wait!"
The proceeds -- the final tally announced in a press release from the band -- will help Vermont, "rebuild better than the way Irene found us," the governor said.
Vermont was one of the hardest-hit states as Irene made its way up the East Coast. Many communities in the small state were cut off as floodwaters washed away roads and bridges.
Phish's decision to get involved in the recovery effort wasn't a difficult one.
"We think it's a really nice way to come back and give back to a state that has given us so much," keyboardist Page McConnell said when the band announced its intention to hold the concert.
Phish partners with local charities in an effort to make positive impact in each of the towns they visit while out on tour, and in 1997 the band created the WaterWheel foundation to oversee its charitable activities. That includes fundraisers following disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan earlier this year.
When it came to Vermont, the state where Phish was formed in 1983, however, the band concluded, "We have to do something bigger," said Beth Montuori Rowles from the WaterWheel Foundation.
Despite having little time to plan, the concert came together, "quite easily," Montuori-Rowles said
The band, on its website, thanked numerous major donors who underwrote the concert's production expenses. Proceeds of the concert -- from ticket sales, merchandise sales, download and webcast sales -- will be directed to the WaterWheel Foundation and to the Vermont Community Foundation. Both organizations continue to raise money online for the Vermont recovery effort.
And police in Essex Junction, located in western Vermont just outside Burlington, said the event also went "better than expected" from their end. There were no arrests or serious injuries, with only a slight traffic back-up for an hour as the gates opened.
"I can't remember a group as large and as pleasant to deal with as this one," Essex Junction Police Capt. Brad LaRose said.
The police department even got in on the philanthropy, with some officers donating their time back to the cause.
Rich Lewis, the Champlain Valley Expo's public relations director, described the fans that came out Wednesday night as "upbeat" and "appreciative." The concert, while a tiring event for Lewis and his staff who had just closed the state's fair at the same venue last week, was "substantial on all levels."
"I can't tell you how much we appreciate being a part of this groundbreaking historic event," Lewis said.