(AP) — A three-day Phish music festival was scuttled by dirty water from torrential rains on Thursday, with health officials denying a permit just as the rock band was about to go onstage for its traditional sound check jam.
"We are still in shock," the band said in a statement on its website . "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."
The Curveball festival was expected to draw more than 30,000 fans to the Finger Lakes village of Watkins Glen, in central New York, starting on Friday.
A mandatory order to boil water was issued for the area on Thursday after days of heavy rain, and the state Department of Health said tests showed it would be impossible to deliver clean drinking water to festival patrons and vendors.
"While all parties acknowledge the inconvenience of this cancellation to patrons," the health department said, "we have a responsibility to act in the best interest of public health and safety for all."
A 14-county state of emergency was in effect on Thursday, two days after storms poured more than 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain on towns between Seneca and Cayuga lakes, washing out roads and swamping cars and mobile homes. More storms were anticipated.
Phish fan Jeff Goldenberg had traveled from Toronto with his wife and baby for the event and said the cancellation was "a total bummer."
Goldenberg, 42, said he has been to more than 100 Phish concerts since he was 15.
"Cancellations happen. But what makes Phish different is that people plan their life around it. They put a lot of time and money and effort into following them everywhere," Goldenberg said. "People are really upset."
Many Phish faithful had already set up tents on the grounds of Watkins Glen International, an automobile racing track with camping facilities. Phish and Curveball organizers said they will notify ticket holders about how to obtain refunds.
Phish, known for extended jams, improvisation and a wide variety of genres from psychedelic rock to bluegrass, has a dedicated base of followers much like the Deadheads who followed the Grateful Dead from the mid-1960s through the early '90s.
The band released a statement about the cancellation on its website:
Dear friends, our Phish family,
The four of us are writing this from directly behind the stage at Watkins Glen. 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.
We are still in shock. The entire site is already set up and ready to go after literally months of work by our beloved hardworking crew, many of whom have been here for weeks. 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.
We are so terribly sorry for the inconvenience that this is causing so many of you. We hope from the bottoms of our hearts that at the very least this news will reach you before too much disruption takes place in your personal lives. We know that people traveled far, at great expense. We understand that people are missing work, and changing their schedules around.. we wish so much that there was some way that this wasn’t happening.
This summer has been absolutely joyous, with each gig building on the previous one, and we were all buzzing with excitement about Curveball. Please accept our deepest apologies for the disruption that this has caused all of you.. We wish there was something else we could say.
Thank you all from the depths of our souls for the joy that you continue to share with us every night. This has been the greatest summer we can remember.
Travel safe and know that we are as heartbroken as all of you. 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.