When plotting my Summer ’95 shows, I decided that I wanted to go to Deer Creek for the Grateful Dead’s annual run at the shed. It had garnered a reputation as a great place to see a show with notable performances stacking up in recent years. GDTS, however, saw fit to deny that portion of my order. Not to be deterred, I ordered tickets to see Phish there instead. I acquired a pair of tickets and my friend, Scotty, got one for himself. As plans sorted themselves out, Scotty volunteered to drive us in his mother’s car. Happy not to risk my beat-up Sentra on such a haul, I gladly accepted.
Scotty is a great guy whom I had met at a Capital Center Dead show the previous Autumn. He sat right in front of us and, inevitably, we were drawn into conversation. (I totally called the “Hell In A Bucket” opener. Scotty was appalled to hear the suggestion but it was, in fact, a mortal lock and the correct call.) We learned that he and I lived no more than three miles apart and became fast friends. We were soon were trading tapes and hanging out regularly.
The day after the Nissan Pavilion show was a Sunday and an off-day for Phish tour. We took advantage of this to make the trip out to Indiana more leisurely as our return trip would be a hurried, directly-from-the-show drive. Scotty had to work on Tuesday (and so did I) so we enjoyed our drive that Sunday and made camp late that afternoon in a western Ohio state park.
Monday dawned clear and bright. We had plenty of time to get to the venue in Noblesville, Indiana (just outside Indianapolis) but we decided to put the miles behind us and do our waiting at the destination. This led to us arriving prior to the opening of the venue lots. We rolled up the road into Noblesville proper, looking for a place to keep cool. We roamed a thrift store for a bit then drove around for quite a while looking for a park with a shade tree. We gave up on the tree hunt and went back to the venue as the parking lot opened.
Cornfields surrounded the amphitheater and its surrounding parking lots. Trees were absent. The sun was in full Summer glory. It wasn’t as hot as the Virginia show two days prior, but the lack of relief from the sun made it seem worse. We took a lazy approach to the remaining afternoon, as the lots filled with vendors and fans from all over. We watched a Gamehenge puppet show, bought snacks, and I picked up a nice “Rift” related sticker for my car. Before long, my watch indicated that it was time to go inside so we left the dusty lot behind and lined up for the venue.
To say the search was intrusive, would be an understatement. I did not have anything that was prohibited, yet a middle-aged, yellow-shirted, staffer took liberties with my person that generally require a nice dinner and some conversation. I was offended, angry, and swore I’d never enter that venue again. But first, we had a show to enjoy. We wandered up to the lawn, lay down on the soft grass, and wondered why so few people had come into the show.
Eventually, Scotty asked around and we learned that, while most of Indiana followed Eastern Time (matching my watch) they did not observe Daylight Savings Time. This meant that we had come into the show an hour early. There was nothing to be done but relax and wait.
Finally, the venue filled up and the show began with one of the Summer’s new songs, “Theme From The Bottom”. I liked this one right away, especially the soaring leads and the build at the finish over Mike’s droning bass line. Short, sweet, Phish-grass followed with “Poor Heart” then the rock and roll kicked in for “AC/DC Bag”. Sticking with Gamehenge, they played a beautiful “Tela” and a hot version of “Punch You In The Eye”. All five of these were first-timers for me as this was only my fifth show.
“Reba” broke that streak beautifully. This is an exceptional version of the song with a strong jam in the middle section that should not be missed. A lovely “Strange Design” gave us a bit of a mental break before the band tore into a badly executed “Rift”, a rockin’ “Cavern” and the set-closing “Run Like An Antelope” that got weird without every flying off the rails.
Set two started off with “Simple”. Despite being disentangled from “Mike’s Groove”, this version barely had legs. It quickly devolved into spacey noise that became the intro to “David Bowie”. After a straightforward run through the verses, they dropped into a spacey mode with some trance inducing playing from Mike. Trey engaged his Leslie effect for some trippy licks before moving on to an upsurging tension. Looking back, this jam fits nicely in place with the Tweezers of Summer ’95 but I didn’t know it at the time. All I knew was that the four men onstage were blazing a psychedelic trail into a Midwestern Summer’s night and I was committed to follow.
Listening back, I’m floored by this uptempo, danceable, psychedelia. By twelve minutes in, things were getting crazy as Trey tightened up with some chording that Page followed closely. Once everyone was on board, Trey switched to a lead over this new groove, and although they could have driven it straight into the final riffs of “Bowie”, there was more madness to create. Trey seemed determined to disrupt any semblance of coherent rock and his band mates followed suit– biting on grooves then releasing the hook before it set. At fifteen minutes things got downright frantic– fully opposite the space from which the jam began. Fishman was the constant throughout. He drove the band from segment to segment, keeping things afloat and moving forward.
In the eighteenth minute, Trey grabbed a hold of a line and the rest of the band followed. This was it, the charge toward the finish. It built and built, shifting gears along the way, growing in intensity. At twenty-one minutes they officially hit on the outro theme to “Bowie”. They took several runs at it, each broken with increasing weirdness before finally closing this twenty-three minute monster of a “David Bowie”. This was my fifth show and my second “David Bowie”. The first was Providence 1994-12-29 which is, shall we say, monumental. They were spoiling me and I had zero complaints about it.
The opening theme to “The Mango Song”, along with its beautiful piano and guitar solos, felt like a cool breeze after the hot psychedelic mayhem of “Bowie”. Next came a rockin’ cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup”. I’m forever a sucker for every bit of this song. “Sparkle” followed, with its rapidly accelerating bluegrass styling, and then came “You Enjoy Myself”.
This “YEM” features an extended space in the opening segment and is generally awesome from end to end. The whole ride of this song was magical to me as I’d not yet come to understand which of its passages are composed and which are improvised. When they’re throwing 20+ minute “David Bowies” at you every other show, you begin to expect a lot of improv.
“Acoustic Army” followed the vocal jam. It was basically the same as two nights earlier but provided a break right where we needed it. Interesting how, in retrospect, the psychedelic jamming of Summer ’95 came bundled with this relaxed breath of a song. It’s a perfect pairing.
“Possum” returned us to the realm of high intensity rock. As they approached the close, eleven minutes in, the band worked itself into a frantic peak then abruptly stopped. For twenty seconds the paused before returning to a slow boil. They toyed with this start-stop thing a little bit more before wrapping up the song and set.
For the encore, they played The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life” for the second time ever. With this, the oftentimes unserious band gave us a sincere moment of majesty— tapping the audience’s relationship with a classic song for a shared emotional experience. Or maybe it was just me. Either way, the show was over. The lights came on and we filed out to the sounds of Tony Bennett crooning “Mona Lisa”.
We made our way to the car. The snacks had been secured and the debate over sharing the driving ended. Scotty intended to drive all the way home to Virginia that night. No one else would be permitted to drive his mother’s car. I felt that this was an awful lot of driving for one person after a show but I understood his position and resolved to stay awake with him. This wasn’t a particularly bold declaration on my part, as I don’t generally sleep in cars, but my heart was in it.
State police had a checkpoint at the highway ramp but, with our sober driver behind the wheel of his mother’s sticker-free, late-model sedan, we coasted through unmolested. Behind us we could see a VW bus being pulled over. Ahead of us stretched nine hours of dark interstate, a difficult shift at work, and a few days to rest before the The Grateful Dead arrived.
Deer Creek Music Center, Noblesville, IN
Set 1: Theme From the Bottom > Poor Heart, AC/DC Bag > Tela, Punch You In the Eye, Reba, Strange Design, Rift > Cavern > Run Like an Antelope
Set 2: Simple -> David Bowie, The Mango Song, Loving Cup, Sparkle > You Enjoy Myself, Acoustic Army, Possum
Encore: A Day in the Life
· Mind Left Body Jam tease in David Bowie
Setlist via phish.net