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

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614 Responses to “Midwestern Meccas”

  1. Mitch Says:

    throw scent of a mule in that 2nd show 2nd set instead of ginseng and you got yourself a bad one.

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

    Yeah ur right, I love Giinseng!

  3. lastwaltzer Says:

    Angrey Joggerz you out there? I’m about to order some takeout from Opart, you got any recommendations?

  4. SillyWilly Says:


    1 week of class.

    Then finals from the 2nd to the 14th.

    re: Do the Right Thing

    It was a cool way to do the class. Definitely made it feel like a real case. A good change up from teaching law through a casebook.

  5. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    ROBEAR – did you get my email yesterday?

  6. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    @ silly – remember what I said about finals actually being fun? I hope you can find that.

  7. SillyWilly Says:


    I have seriously taken that to heart, man. Thank you for the insight. I got decent grades last semester, but Im really hoping that I can use what I learned in December about taking tests to maybe do a little better.

    I’ve established where my favorite coffee shop is and Im looking forward to the freedom that is finals. I don’t mind studying, what I don’t like is rigid class schedules, and thats the best part of finals: I get to decide when and where I work.

    Thanks, again, for all your advice. I really appreciate it.

  8. SillyWilly Says:

    Oh, and I have been telling all my friends if they are stressin’ about your quote: “I always thought finals were a rush.”

    it is a good way to look at it. There’s something fun about the challenge of it all.

  9. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    finals = freedom

    The more you write the more points the prof can give you. Vomit on the page. 🙂

  10. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    Good luck Silly.

  11. SillyWilly Says:

    right on. thanks again.

  12. Kenny Powers Says:

    of course i couldn’t stay away from the BB while packing (cue wife yelling at me)

    Marshall – this weekend is the annual Mullet Toss at the Florabama! We’ll be there Sunday! And they built a “Tacky Jacks 2” way down near Fort Morgan a few years back. The cottage we stay at is right on the penninsula, 10 mins away from there. We went for the first time in 2008, and are psyched to go back. You can see the Dauphin Island bridge from the back, it’s sweet.

  13. Lycanthropist Says:

    evening BB

    hope everyone is doing well

    I have had a tough tough day.. seems like all aspects of my life chose to show me what I was doing wrong at the same time.

  14. Gratefulcub Says:

    Woo hoo. Grey geese + doctor prescribed zanex + bumpy flight home + deer creek 03 retrospective in honor of today’s post = a surprisingly enjoyable evening.

  15. garretc Says:

    Wait, Silly, you’re done on the 14th? Like, of May?

    Damn you!

    I’m here till the beginning of June…

  16. Kenny Powers Says:


    chin up buddy, it happens to the best of us.

  17. Kenny Powers Says:

    i’ll drink one in your honor on Saturday when i’m sitting on the beach in Gulf Shores 🙂

  18. Lycanthropist Says:


    no doubt..
    I will be giggin in Starkville on Saturday
    If I wasn’t I would be tempted to drive down to the beach myself.
    Could use it right now.

  19. Gavinsdad Says:

    Hate checking in late:

    ltj bukems “journey inwards” is MONEY

    Zapps potato chips from Nola are money too. Their dill chips are called gator chips or something. My fave chips.

    @bhizzle: you’re long gone but butter, kayatosh, Luther j, and I’m sure a few others are hitting Hershey. I have a feeling it’s a lot meetup but we should still do that…pass the dutchie etc…pre show.

    @mitch: cAn you put every show on the spreadsheet just so we know who is goin where??

    Sorry for cuttin in. No British knights here (blood killaz y’all) just vans for my whole life.

  20. Lycanthropist Says:

    Yeh Zapps are awesome

    The Crawtaters are pretty good too.

  21. SillyWilly Says:


    yeah, i have to start working after that, though…I’ll still be holding down my scholarly duties with you all summer.

  22. Willowed Says:

    Good evening boys.
    I don’t know about you guys but I just listened to the Twist from Cypress and it got me so excited for this summer. I am sure the Grey Goose Orange and Sevens helped but I am geeked right now.

    I am running around my house yelling and screaming about summer tour. My wife is ready to kill me.

    I can’t wait to meet all of you this summer. As you can see I am a happy drunk. Which is a good thing!!

    I am so happy!!

  23. garretc Says:

    Fair enough Silly, fair enough…

    Not that I’ll be participating in any scholarly duties post-June 8th, but…

  24. ohhphee Says:


    I’m on DWD from that same show, bro. So nice.

  25. KWL Says:

    hey BB

    @silly, what’s the new avatar?

    count me among those ready for summer tour to start

    i have commenced operation figure out how to hit every show you’re not hitting, an annual ritual that usually nets one or three more than i should see

    miner’s write up is not helping matters

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