Midwestern Meccas

Deer Creek '09 Poster

If someone who had never seen Phish asked me which venues to hit in order to really absorb the essence of summer tour, the answer would be easy – Deer Creek and Alpine Valley. Though Phish has played some east coast sheds more often in their career, the rural feel of these Midwestern staples create more festive affairs than the asphalt jungles up and down I-95. Almost always sunny and always paired together, Deer Creek and Alpine formed a memorable chunk of all summer tours from the mid-’90s on. The two venues have different perks, but together form a symbiotic summer institution.

Phish has played Deer Creek every summer since ’95, and Alpine since ’96, pairing the two no less than seven times in their career. And while the two venues share the rustic, off-the beaten path, vibe, they each offer unique amenities. Deer Creek likens church, while Alpine is a party. The 24,000 person capacity of Deer Creek is weighted on the lawn, and with a pavilion of only 6,000, the venue retains an intimate feel. On the other hand, Alpine’s “invite-all” policy allows over 37,000 to enter through the famed wooden gates, and, predominantly, cling to a notoriously steep lawn. With 7,500 seats underneath the roof, Alpine has one of the largest pavilions of any tour, providing a massive feel of a mini-amphitheatre of its own.

Alpine Valley (T.Tipe)

Though both security forces put up a strong first-set facades, when the shit goes down, the yellow shirts generally disappear, allowing fun to ensue unencumbered. Each venue has their own nooks and crannies for the the kidz to discover and rage freely. While Deer Creek sounds better overall, if you’re sitting pavilion center at Alpine, the clarity is tough to beat. Though with such an expansive shed, the sound in Alpine’s pavilion suffers in some locales. In each venue, however, the energy turns palpable, and often for different reasons. At Deer Creek, Phish’s music takes on the spiritual quality of the cornfields at night, their very own field of dreams. Alpine shows harness the power of nearly 40,000 fans, churning out traditionally heavy hitting, high-quality jams. The venues work cooperatively, providing a Midwestern yin and yang to Phish tour.

Deer Creek (unknown)

While Deer Creek possesses an expansive lot, it can’t hold a candle to Alpine’s sprawling fields. Seemingly extending forever, Alpine Valley’s grassy expanses provide one of the most free-for-all scenes of the summertime, hosting a endless pre and post show parties for hours on both sides. With the Chicago fan base flooding the scene, many young fans arrive early and stay late, for an all-day Phish affair. Though both lots can be plagued by undercovers, if one is careful (and not selling drugs,) there shouldn’t be any problems. The walkable campgrounds of Deer Creek provide hassle free summer parties, while Alpine’s lodging can go many ways, from lake houses to campgrounds to the Alpine Valley Lodge, the venues own hotel of debauchery.

8.13.96 Deer Creek - Live Phish 12

Though not by rule, the shows at these venues have often been among the best of their respective tours. Deer Creek ’96 rivaled the band’s best offerings from Red Rocks for the shows of the summer. Alpine and Deer Creek ’97 shone as the band prepared to head east towards Maine. Specifically, Deer Creek’s 8.10.97 stood out as a contender for the show of the summer with outstanding jams throughout both sets. Once again in ’98, both venues provided copious tour highlights such as Deer Creek’s “Halley’s,” “Ghost,” “Bowie” and “Gumbo.” But this time Alpine’s two-set masterpiece took the cake. With a “Ramble On > Mike’s” opener and a non-stop second set that boasted one of the brilliant “Tweezers” of the late ’90s, this is a must-have show for any fan.

The two venues combined for three shows to end ’99’s US tour, with the first night at Deer Creek, 7.25.99, standing head and shoulders above the others. Highlights included the first set sequence of “My Friend > My Left Toe > Whipping Post,” and the second set’s “Bird’s > Walk Away.” In 2000, Phish played only one show at Alpine, while favoring a trifecta in the cornfields. This three night stand boasted three strong shows, including the fan-favorite “Moby Dick” evening sandwiched in the middle. Ironically, someone made the decision to release the Alpine show as a Live Phish release, a night that has far less engaging playing as any of the three Deer Creek shows (let alone many others).

7.8.00 Alpine - Live Phish

7.8.00 Alpine - Live Phish 05

The band made it back to their Midwestern homes in both 2003 and 2004 for a total of nine shows, providing many memorable moments. Deer Creek ’03 brought “Gumbo,” “Split > Free,” “Scents and Subtle Sounds,” “Sneakin’ Sally,” and “Antelope.” Alpine’s two night’s featured “Disease > Catapult,” an alien-encounter “Twist,” and a flowing, cohesive second set on of the second night on July 19. In 2004, Alpine outshone Deer Creek in Phish’s farewell tour. And last year, Alpine and Deer Creek provided two of the three strongest shows of June. An illustrious history to say the least!

Last but not least, the most classic experience surrounding these summer stops is the all-night cannonball run between the two venues. Unless one enjoys miserable Chicago traffic, the no-brainer move is to jet after the show and crash all day. After so many drives back and forth on these roads, this overnight drive has become as much a part of the summer experience as anything. Crossing the Illinois-Wisconsin border in the wee hours of the morning, carrying the energy of the show that still lives inside you, is a rite of passage in the Phish universe.

And this summer – take eight – we do it all over again. With a pair of show at each venue, the Phishy ritual of Deer Creek and Alpine will push on into another decade, keeping the summer tradition alive.


Jam of the Day:

The Curtain > David Bowie” 12.11.95 II

A fierce jaunt into the occult from Cumberland County ’95.




1.28.1990 The Front, Burlington, VT SBD < Torrent

1.28.1990 The Front, Burlington, VT SBD < Megaupload

Circa 1987 (unknown)

While Nectar’s is considered the birthplace of Phish, the band actually played more shows at The Front, another Burlington watering hole. Today we take it back to the old school, early 1990, when Phish remained, largely, a regional band. You’ll find nothing but classics in this setlist, as the band played through their old-school rotation between their friendly banter. Enjoy this relic from over 20 years ago!

I: Suzy Greenberg, Split Open and Melt, Tela, Fluffhead, La Grange, Carolina, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Communication Breakdown

II: Wilson, Run Like an Antelope, Bouncing Around the Room, Caravan, The Squirming Coil, You Enjoy Myself, Bathtub Gin, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove

E: Lawn Boy, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars

Source: SBD

Tags: ,

614 Responses to “Midwestern Meccas”

  1. Kenny Powers Says:

    hope y’all BB’ers have a swell week next week. the wife and i fly out of Logan at the crack tomorrow to sunny Gulf Shores, AL for a week of sand and sun, coozy-sheltered beers, crab claws, and things that grown-ups do.

  2. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Nice Kenny! Don’t forget to take the shades off once in a while. You can get a nasty burn!

  3. beepaphone Says:

    Nice. Have Fun, KP

  4. SillyWilly Says:

    Howdy, BBers!

    Hope the days going well for everyone.

    Bought tickets to see Martin Sexton on Saturday night kind of on a whim.

    Any body seen him?


    all grownups do is bane.

  5. beepaphone Says:

    BK Lights on walking nose: FAIL

  6. Kenny Powers Says:

    llfa @ Palmer. Will do beep!

  7. Kenny Powers Says:

    actually i wonder if i’ll be able to scope out any festival prep for The Hangout…probably not though, it’ll be 2-3 weeks away.

  8. bhizzle Says:

    anyone running free ware for virus protection and firewall? And if so what?

  9. halcyon Says:


    AVG or Avast work well.

    Have a blast KPowers! Your remasters have been excellent!

  10. bhizzle Says:

    what do you use?

  11. halcyon Says:


  12. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    @ KP – going to the FloraBama? Tacky Jacks?

  13. Mdawg Says:

    What do you think?


  14. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    martin sexton puts on a solid show. he’s a MA guy I believe. he better be with all the shows he does in this neck of the woods. you’ll dig it I’m sure!

  15. Chuck D Says:

    you could do much worse than Martin Sexton for a “random ticket pickup”, enjoy yourself!

  16. jay Says:

    I use linux for virus protection 🙂

  17. SillyWilly Says:

    Thanks, TypeIII

    my girl is coming up tomorrow night and she sent me a text saying she was really feelin’ some live music.

    So I checked to see if anyone was playing and Martin Sexton looked pretty good.

    I’m hoping that these “Let’s find a show tonight texts” bode well for this summer of Phish.

    I don’t want to jinx anything, but there isn’t much (well, that 30 pound nug I dreamt about a few weeks ago) that could make me more excited about this summer than if she hopped on the bus.

  18. SillyWilly Says:

    Thanks to you, too, Chuck D

  19. lastwaltzer Says:

    @willowed, Do The Right Thing is one of my favorite movies (spike lee being one of my favorites) thanks for reminding me i need to watch that again.

  20. SillyWilly Says:


    My whole Civil Procedure class last semester was based off Do the Right Thing.

    poor Radio Raheem…too bad I had to represent the City and the cops who killed him.

  21. lastwaltzer Says:

    @silly, very cool idea. Beat you got stuck with 5O.

    Now I’m thinking about Spike’s films, if any of you haven’t seen Bamboolzed, Crooklyn or Get On The Bus, I highly suggest you do yourself a favor and check those out.

  22. lastwaltzer Says:

    how many more weeks of class you got silly?

  23. Mitch Says:

    Mr C,
    you around? I took a pic of a biggie shirt some dude was just wearing. I thought of you and snapped a pic. didnt know if I’m being redirected to your junk folder since i’ve sent you a couple emails and haven’t heard back. let me know you’re around and i’ll email it.

  24. Stupendous a.k.a The Beasel Says:

    Hey y’all busy day at work, barely kept up on the BB
    whats shakin’ ?

    Since I dont know whats been up here’s a dream set.
    Let’s say the best night of 2010 followed by the worst.


    I: Tweezer> Limb by Limb, Cities, My Sweet One, Timber> Sneakin’ Sally,
    Stash, Joy, Liquid Time
    II: Party Time, Gotta Jiboo> Ghost> 20 Years Later, Valentine, Reba,
    Shine a Light, Cavern> Carini
    E: YEM> Tweezer Reprise


    I: Water in the Sky, NICU, Haley’s Comet, Heavy Things, Funky Bitch,
    The Horse> Silent in the Morning, Brian & Robert, The Connection, TTE
    II: Alaska> Ginseng Sullivan, Bug, Taste, PYITE, HYHU> Love You> HYHU,
    Love is Freedom, David Bowie
    E: Kill Devil Falls

  25. Mitch Says:

    damn. i hate getting all used to the black board and then switching to a site thats all white. i’m in a dimly lit room and my eyes are like AAAAHHHH

Leave a Reply