VTDigger’s coverage of this summer’s devastating flooding in Vermont took center stage last weekend at a pair of benefit shows Phish performed in Saratoga Springs, New York.
The nonprofit news organization worked with the band’s management to produce a four-minute multimedia presentation on the natural disaster featuring VTDigger photography and reporting. It was broadcast during the band’s set break Friday and Saturday nights on a free livestream and on the video system at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s Broadview Stage.
Phish, which was founded in Vermont in 1983, raised more than $3.5 million for flood recovery efforts in Vermont and New York at the weekend events, the band announced Monday. Its charitable arm, The WaterWheel Foundation, plans to work with the Vermont Community Foundation and other organizations to direct the funding to individuals and businesses affected by the flooding, as well as long-term resiliency projects.
“We are so grateful to everyone who donated their time and resources to make these benefits possible, and those that attended the shows or watched online,” said Phish keyboardist Paige McConnell, who lives in Vermont. “The joy in the room at these concerts was undeniable. But for the people affected by the flooding, it is an ongoing struggle. That’s why we are continuing to accept donations, raise awareness and distribute the funds.”
In addition to Phish’s headlining performances — the second of which included a sit-in by Tedeschi Trucks Band guitarist Derek Trucks — the weekend featured a pair of pre-show acoustic sets by McConnell and Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio for those who bought a special package. The shows were broadcast for free via LivePhish.com and viewers were encouraged to donate.
Net proceeds from ticket and merchandise sales, as well as viewer donations, went to flood recovery efforts, the band said. Donations will continue to be accepted on WaterWheel’s website.
The set break slideshow, which can be viewed at the 1:12:05 mark on Saturday’s concert video, includes photography and video by VTDigger journalists Glenn Russell, Audi Guha, Sarah Mearhoff, Ethan Weinstein, Natalie Williams and others. Deputy managing editor Alicia Freese, production design director Taylor Haynes, managing editor Maggie Cassidy and CEO Sky Barsch also contributed to the piece.
“We were thrilled to play a small role in this enormously generous event,” Barsch said. “It meant a lot that the band partnered with VTDigger — during the catastrophic flooding, our team worked tirelessly to cover every corner of the state. To see that hard work showcased on the massive screens at the Saratoga shows, in front of tens of thousands of people, was the highlight of my summer.”
VTDigger, a nonprofit, independent statewide news organization, has focused its journalism on the flooding and its aftermath since heavy rains hit Vermont starting July 9. Its newsroom has published more than 250 stories on the disaster.