This is one of my first reviews written for this site. The formatting and structure might have lost some integrity with converting it from the old site.
Deer Creek Music Center (or the new, less popular name Verizon Wireless Music Center) has been a Phish Summer Tour staple since 1995. Deer Creek has always held a special spot in Phish fans’ hearts because Phish rarely lets them down when they come to this Indiana corn field (the picture above is the road going into the parking lot). The 24,000 person venue is located in Nobelsville, a tiny town with more stalks of corn than trees.
Despite the little development and residential space around the amphitheater, the town has given it an 11pm curfew. Last year the second set began just before 11, pushing the end of the show almost until 1am which was certainly welcome by fans but probably not Deer Creek’s staff. A lot of shows at Deer Creek are worth mention actually, but I want to focus on the second night of a three night concert from 2000.
On Tuesday, July 11th, 2000 Phish took the stage with a standard version of Ya Mar, an upbeat song perfect for a hot July night. Phish then jumped into the show headfirst with an above average version of Moma Dance. This version is thick, Trey sounds extremely clean and Page and Fish are there to back him up, the end gets intense quickly between those three with Mike there to provide support. After a peppy Uncle Penn, Page’s baby grand echoed to the back of the grass with the beginning of Drowned.
After the composed section of Drowned, they go into a jam one would expect from this song; a roller coaster of notes from Trey with Fish rolling behind him and Page trilling away. Around ten minutes or so into the song Trey starts playing as if he is signaling they will be going back into the song. Once the band gets that cue Trey starts fading away, leaving Mike and Fish to fend for themselves. The Mike and Fish combo gains a head full of steam, driving the night into a funk adventure. Everything gets nice and tight when Fish switches from his ride to his 3/4 closed hi-hat. Trey starts stroking in in a manner that sounds like a sped up and loose Get Back on the Train sort of way. Fishman hits his snare with more and more pop, letting Mike work around the powerful and simple drum beat. Then the jam stops, like the start/stop style stop from 1997 or ’98, after a few seconds they all go back to where they left off in the jam only to stop again. The next time they come back in after a few seconds, it sounds similar to what they were just playing, but not quite. The music, after the second stop, is noticeably more structured than before.
During one of my favorite Phish moments ever, Trey starts singing the lyrics “chalkdust tourtuuuure!”, not the lyrics to Chalkdust Tourture, though. The guitar sounds similar to the real song, only slowed down, everyone is slowed down. The structure, albeit simple, is nothing the same. The “song” is based around it’s three small crescendos where Trey yells “chalkdust torture!” with the rest backing him up on vocals. It’s not the easiest thing to explain, I suggest downloading it though because it sounds absolutely euphoric. Then, without missing a beat, Trey launches into the real song.
In this faster than usual ten minute version, it contains fierce drum rolls behind a wailing Trey. After the first peak, Fish and Trey build up lots more tension for a second, larger, peak. It sinks back down then for a tensionless little peak from just Trey before going into the end of the song. An excellent version.The second set opens with ambient drum crashes and digital delays in the middle of billowing smoke on stage. It turns out the first set was just foreshadowing how fun the second was going to be. At about the 1:39 mark Fish snaps into the tight beat of 2001 in the middle of one of Trey’s more unstable digital delays, when he hears the drums he lets it get loose and the delay “cries” away in a dramatic fashion. He has started 2001s like this before, see 2009’s MSG 2001. After the drums are kickin’ Trey laces Deer creek with a web of digital delay loops, and these ones don’t fade away quickly with time like some of his more recent ones have in Gotta Jibboos and 2001s. This version is a solid dance party to get the fans moving after the set break. Out of the ambient sound that comes at the end of 2001, it soon turns into Mike’s ambient sound and ends up being the quicker than normal distorted intro to Down With Disease.
Coming out of the high energy composed section of the song, it is a standard Down With Disease jam, with Trey playing lots of notes in front of the support of Fish. Around the 10:20 mark Trey gets slightly distorted while Fish is still rolling along behind him as if Trey was still blazing along. At 12:15 Trey comes in rolling with chords, Fish follows with a roll and they sink down into Moby Dick, last played on 11/29/1997. The loose rendition of Moby Dick gets the crowd roaring. After one of the stops in the song, Trey looks to Fish and boom back into the end of Down With Disease.
Out of the end of Down With Disease came Runaway Jim, a standard jam–until Trey started playing Moby Dick again and Fish popped from the ride to the hi-hat in order to thump out the Moby Dick beat again. Moby Dick would end that version of Runaway Jim. Next was Get Back on the Train, an upbeat version that also eventually goes into Moby Dick in the middle of it’s jam. It was apparent that Moby Dick was going to be the “central theme” on this night. This time, after they play Moby Dick, Fish starts going back into the snare-heavy GBOTT beat, while Trey obviously expected ending the song. This makes for an awkward ending to the song, but it’s what happens when Phish is going to be improvising like crazy all night long, a tiny price to pay.
Fishman then decides to hit the high toms and embark into a fun version of Harry Hood. The playful intro to the song is laced with, you guessed it, Moby Dick teases from Page, Mike and Trey, respectively–all of which leads to a little mini Moby Dick drum solo tease from Fish. The ensuing jam is noodley and lacks a climax, not boring, but not special. The end lyrics come on and out of the end of the song they go into yet another version of Moby Dick. Trey, probably jealous, eventually gets to play Moby Dick on the drums himself while he is on Fish’s set for HYHU after Terrapin (where Trey also calls Fishman Russell Crowe, Fishman claiming it was “[his] best [film] to date”) later in the second set.
The encore sums up the theme and fun of the night. First Tube>Moby Dick>”Chalkdust Tourture Reprise”, only this “CDTR” has goofy banter from Trey, closing out the show during the euphoricly sounding newfound song, first of all telling all the people camping there that night to “not do anything [they] wouldn’t do” and finally, “we are THE PHISH, FROM VERMONT!”
If anything, get this show for the Drowned>Chalkdust Tourture Reprise>Chalkdust Tourture.
Set 1: Ya Mar, The Moma Dance, Uncle Pen, Drowned > Chalk Dust Torture Reprise >Chalk Dust Torture, Theme From the Bottom > Cavern
Set 2: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Down with Disease -> Moby Dick > Down with Disease > Runaway Jim -> Moby Dick, Back on the Train -> Moby Dick > Back on the Train, Harry Hood > Moby Dick, Hold Your Head Up > Terrapin > Hold Your Head Up> Moby Dick > Hold Your Head Up, Character Zero
Encore: First Tube > Moby Dick > Chalk Dust Torture Reprise