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Phish Cancels Curveball Festival Due to Flooding; Fans Already Onsite

Some 40,000 were expected, but the weekend-long series of concerts were called off due to tainted water supply in the Watkins Glen area.

Curveball, the three-day festival that veteran jamband Phish was scheduled to host this weekend at Watkins Glen International Raceway in New York, has been cancelled, due to flooding in the area that has affected the clean water supply. Refund information is anticipated, but is not yet available. Fans already onsite for the concert are being allowed to camp overnight but the campgrounds will close at noon sharp on Friday, the band announced on its website.

The fest was slated to be the band’s 11th homespun festival — that is, with Phish as the only band on the bill — following huge, crowd-pleasing turns in past years at locations like the Empire Polo Field in Indio, CA, where Coachella is held, and Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, Maine.

Watkins Glen, however, was beloved by Phish fans who’d attended the band’s last two festivals there in 2011 and 2015; Curveball sold out of its approximately 40,000 tickets weeks ago, and was to come on the heels of a successful summer run that included shows this past weekend at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland, featuring the band’s penchant for both silliness and intricate, improvisational jams.

One fan, Gregory Prior of Herndon, Virginia, his wife and two children into a rented RV and drove up to attend Curveball. They secured offsite camping at Watkins Glen State Park just a few miles from the venue. Prior, who has attended hundreds of Phish shows, tells Variety he feels like he’s been “punched in the gut,” adding that he “didn’t realize initially water quality would have been the issue.” Prior says he plans to “surrender to the flow,” to quote a lyric from the Phish song “The Lizards,” and enjoy a weekend vacation in Watkins Glen.

In a lengthy statement from the band, it’s clear that they’re as devastated as their followers — scores of whom were scheduled to fly in, or were already en route, from out of state and other countries — about the festival’s cancellation. “We were about to walk onstage only moments ago for our traditional soundcheck jam for Curveball when we were told the heartbreaking news that due to the unsafe water conditions in the Village of Watkins Glen, our beloved festival is being canceled,” the statement begins. “Our families are here, our gear is set, our tents are up. We keep waiting for someone to come over and tell us that there is a solution, and that the festival can go on.  Unfortunately, it is not possible.”

Following a heartfelt acknowledgement that fans had dropped work and other plans to be there for the fest, the statement concludes. “We are standing back here behind the stage, at our party that we’ve been planning for over a year, and we have just told that it won’t happen. There’s just nothing we can do. Thank you all for your understanding.”

Phish is next scheduled to play their traditional labor day shows at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado, Aug 31 through Sep 2. Tickets are sold out.

Additional reporting by Jeff Cornell.

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