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. KWL Says:

    word @silly, if the boys are on fire this summer, chances of me making that trek are exponentially higher

    if syracuse>chicago plane tickets were cheaper, i’d be hitting the tour opener too

  2. ChefBradford Says:

    So, any advice/info would be appreciated. I’m definitely doing ATL this year. Since both Raleigh and Charlotte aren’t much further than that from me, I’m hoping to do those as well. I’ve never done a multi-show run. I’m not sure I’ll be able to make hotel reservations for any of those, and I’m 99% sure I’m traveling by myself.


  3. jerm Says:

    Actually now that I think about it Osiris is just a Pale Ale.
    Cream Dream and Electric Boogaloo have been their last two IPAs.

  4. SillyWilly Says:

    Im thinking coming off The Greek>Telluride then DC>AV they’ve gotta be smoking by Jones Beach.

  5. ohhphee Says:


    Glad to hear that. Just what the Doctor ordered! 😀
    You are such a positive presence on here, and you’re allowed to have a tough day and vent about it a bit.


    Popeye got me to eat my spinach, so yeah, it does make it better. I feel manlier already, remembering spinach.

    And to add to your list of IPAs to try in Indiana, I recommend Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, out of Kalamazoo, MI. A fine tasting beer in that price range.

  6. ChefBradford Says:

    say, this show 24 isn’t half bad. It’s a shame I always figure these things out just as they’re about to end

  7. Gavinsdad Says:

    @chef: if you are in a pinch and can handle floor space, you’re welcome to stay at my hotel room in Raleigh. I get in that morning.

  8. SillyWilly Says:

    llfa @ohhphee

    spinach is a manly vegetable.

    Bell’s Two Hearted Ale is awesome.

    Have we already talked about Great Lakes’ Commodore Perry?

  9. Icculus420 Says:


    “Anyway the show that I hated to the point of almost walking out on but now widely claimed by some to be one of the best shows in Phish’s history?


    blasphemy! 😉

  10. ChefBradford Says:

    @Gavins- thanks man. I’m hoping to do this trip without imposing on anyone. I’ve only been to a handful of Phish shows, and my biggest solo adventure was a 4000+ mile (round trip) drive to IT and back. That was one of the best times of my life, hands down. I slept in the handy travel plazas off the Interstates in New York State (totally different from what we have down here), then in a guy’s field a stone’s throw from Limestone.

    Between a recent raise and an annual summer bonus, I’m hoping to have enough money to do the trip with little fuss, but I’m not sure how easy it’ll be getting hotel rooms Raleigh>ATL without prior reservations (I have a CC, but not a high enough limit to reserve a handful of rooms)

    I’m kind of aimlessly rambling, I know. Anybody with tips/hints/advice, feel free to e-mail me at


    That’s not an egotistical address. I just have a deep voice is all

    again, Gavins, thanks for your kind offer
    I’m hoping Lycan can make a show or two with me/us

  11. Mr. Completely Says:

    hey @chef

    since I’ve been re-reading Illuminatus I’ve been having nothing but super excellent dreams

    wild shit almost every night

    very enjoyable

  12. Gavinsdad Says:

    @silly: great lakes are just coming thru Philly. The apa I had a week ago was really tasty. I think, re JB, that ordinarily I’d say that the band would phone in the tour closer….perhaps…but I think in this case that they’re gonna get recharged to be back in the tri-state. Really wondering if something is gonna get tacked on after jb…

  13. ohhphee Says:


    WE haven’t, but I really like the Commodore Perry, as well. In fact, the keg of Great Lakes being proffered by BTB at his first annual HeadFest is pulling me more and more toward going to Ohio in June, llfa.

  14. ChefBradford Says:

    As if y’all didn’t know, Lycan is an incredibly kind guy, in every sense of the word. Made my January trip to H-burg a blast, and I made a decent enough impression that he has invited me back several times. Great guy

  15. Gavinsdad Says:

    Sure thing Chef…I’m a fan of the solo jaunt. Keep us posted…I’d like to meet a bunch of the Southern bb crew…lycan, etc etc.

  16. ohhphee Says:

    @Mr. C

    I tried to read that epic slowly, but I just couldn’t help myself. It’s such a thrill-ride start to finish. And big ups on the discordian dreams.

    I love that word. Discordian….yeah.

  17. ChefBradford Says:

    Mr C- that’s excellent, man. I don’t usually remember my dreams. When I do, they’re either lucid and/or exciting, or bad enough that I wish I didn’t remember them.

    That trilogy is so full of varying types of data, it’s hard to figure out what to take seriously. Then I realize it doesn’t matter. All reality is subjective anyway

  18. ChefBradford Says:

    Any discussion of dreams always reminds me of the philosophy class I took about Carl G Jung

    terrific class taught by a really fantastic professor

    I wish I could find the papers I wrote for that class, but it’s been nine or ten years, and I’m not exactly good at keeping records

    I’m a sort of controlled mess if you will

    I…need to stop

  19. SillyWilly Says:


    Almost all the Great Lakes are great.

    I hope they save a little for JB. Im making that full run DC>AV>JB. Itll be my own little mini-tour. I don’t have anything to do after Aug. 13, so I’d love it if they added something after JB.


    You gotta come to BTB Fest! its shaping up to be a blast.

  20. ChefBradford Says:

    here’s an interesting concept that some of you may or may not be interested in at least checking out:


  21. Mr. Completely Says:

    That trilogy is so full of varying types of data, it’s hard to figure out what to take seriously. Then I realize it doesn’t matter. All reality is subjective anyway

    that’s the point

    you totally got it

    that’s exactly what they were going for

    some people read that book 10 times and never get the joke

    they just want you to not be sure about what you think you know. to question rather than accept.

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    so what exactly is up @lycan? i hate those days where it’s everything at once. bunk.

    unless you just want to let it pass by, sometimes that’s better

  23. gavinsdad Says:

    soft spot: feist’s “brandy alexander”

    gonna have to jump in on those illimunatus books i guess…

    nite all.

  24. SillyWilly Says:

    The Illuminatus trilogy seems like the post-modern response to Proust, Joyce, and phenomenology.

  25. Mr. Completely Says:


    ‘Discordian’ is the only word I’ve ever heard that actually sums up my worldview 😮

    I’ve just been too damn busy to blast through it

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