Phish Delivers An All-Time Great Concert At Deer Creek On This Date In 1999

By Scott Bernstein Jul 25, 2019 2:00 pm PDT

Here’s the story of one of the best days of my life. – ScottyB

July 26, 1999 – 1 a.m. – Dead Creek – Noblesville, Indiana

Just hours ago the best Phish concert I’d ever witnessed in the five years and nearly 100 shows since I first started seeing the band ended. As my best friends in the world and I sat around our campsite at Dead Creek about a mile from the Indianapolis area shed known as Deer Creek, none of us could contain our excitement. We all sported huge grins as we discussed what we had witnessed that night, more than a month after first hitting to the road to follow Phish Summer Tour 1999. Our campsite was near the house on the grounds and we were removed from the dense pack of fans spread around the farm that called itself “Dead Creek” and hosted Deer Creek show attendees each summer. We heard live music coming from a stage setup nearly 100 yards from where we were sitting and when this band started playing “Waterfalls” we had to see what kind of group had the balls to cover TLC for a bunch of Phish fans. Little did I know that 17 years later this local Indiana band would be among my favorites and I would see nearly 100 of their shows spread out at venues across the country.

July 25, 1999 – 7 a.m. – Clarion Inn – Lafayette, Indiana

My friends and I traveled for a good part of Phish Summer Tour 1999 in an old conversion van known as “George.” On the plus side it was big enough for us to all travel together, but George didn’t have any air conditioning. The Summer of ’99 was a scorcher and not just when it came to Phish. Heat and humidity followed us around the way we were following Phish around. At this point we had seen 17 shows including the previous night’s affair at Alpine Valley which was one of the most deliciously weird Phish concerts I’d ever seen. Alpine ’99 featured the only jammed-out versions of “Fluffhead” (33 minutes!) and “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday” in Phish history, a wild “Tweezer” > “Catapult” > “Tweezer” sequence, what still stands as one of the longest Type I “The Mango Song” and the first and only live rendition of The Siket Disc instrumental “The Happy Whip And Dung Song.” There’s also an encore that contained songs Phish hadn’t played in 61 shows (“Glide”), 62 shows (“Camel Walk”) and 324 shows (“Alumni Blues”) as well as “Tweezer Reprise.” We were all exhausted after the show but decided to head towards Noblesville and find a hotel room when we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore.

Phish July 24, 1999 Second Set + Encore Shared by The Phish Jams]

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At 5 a.m. as we were about an hour from Noblesville we hit a proverbial wall. We figured we’d get a hotel room, enjoy some sleep and then deal with checking into Dead Creek. One thing we didn’t want to do was continue on to the campground as we knew there was no chance we’d get to sleep in a tent cooking in searing heat. The problem was the first hotel off the highway was sold out. We struck out at the next three places as well. I was miserable and I wasn’t the only one. We had no energy left and started bickering and nearly got the point where we were saying things we’d regret. I felt as if I had enough and was just ready for tour to be over. I wanted to go home. After two incredibly frustrating hours and what seemed like stops at 10 motels/hotels we finally found an open room. Not only that, they would extend check out until 4 p.m. Within five minutes of getting our key we were all asleep.

July 25, 1999 – 7 p.m. – 11 p.m. – Deer Creek Music Center – Noblesville, Indiana

God bless the blackout curtains at the Clarion Inn. We felt like new men when we woke up and had each gotten our heads together. Not only that, we figured Indiana was in the Eastern time zone and quickly realized Noblesville was in a part of the state that didn’t observe Daylight Savings Time. We gained an hour we thought we had lost! This day was already off to a good start.

I had heard so much about Deer Creek, not only from people who attended past Phish performances at the shed, but also from the many Grateful Dead concerts held at the venue. Now, it was finally my turn. While the area around Deer Creek has since been developed, at the time the amphitheater was surrounded by corn fields. The scene as we walked the mile from Dead Creek to Deer Creek with thousands of others was crazy. Fans were descending upon this theater in the middle of nowhere from all directions. We took our seats and were thrilled when the show started with “Meat.” The Mike-led song written by the four members of Phish and lyricist Tom Marshall was debuted just about a year earlier and played a total of 12 times in 1998. 1999, not so much. We figured we’d get plenty of “Meat” over the course of the tour, yet we remained vegetarians until the 19th show of a 20-show run. Quite a start as Phish picked up where they left off in Alpine.

When I first started seeing Phish “My Friend, My Friend” was a staple of the repertoire. The band would rarely go more than 10 shows between performances of the Rift classic in 1994 and 1995 and I was lucky enough to catch five within my first 25 shows. However “My Friend, My Friend” became rare the next few years and I didn’t see the song again until it followed “Meat” at Deer Creek. I had been jonesing to see one and what better way than surrounded by my best friends (who thankfully didn’t have any knives with them)? And not only did Phish play “My Friend, My Friend” they jammed it out hard and deep.

Up until that point the longest “My Friend” Phish had ever played barely broke the eight-minute mark. Looking at my watch, I couldn’t believe more than 10 minutes had passed since the quartet began exploring this ethereal ambient jam space. As an aside, I later learned this wasn’t exactly a “My Friend, My Friend” jam. The foursome were using “My Left Toe” from their The Siket Disc as the basis for the adventurous segment out of “My Friend,” but at the time I just thought it was an extended “My Friend, My Friend.” Eventually, Trey led a build into a chord sequence that sounded oh so familiar. I couldn’t place it and then it hit me – “Whipping Post” by The Allman Brothers Band. When Anastasio began singing the capacity crowd went absolutely apeshit. Here was one of the most famous songs in classic rock history, even the security guards were rocking out. I still have goosebumps when I listen to the start of Phish’s first cover of Whipping Post with Trey on lead vocals since September 21, 1990 (846 shows). Not only did they play “Whipping Post” but they absolutely crushed it. Big Red’s vocals were strong, Page delivered a powerful organ solo and the foursome embarked on a signature ’99 jam to make the cover their own complete with a masterful climax. As of today’s 17th anniversary, Phish has not played “Whipping Post” again.

My Friend, My Friend > My Left Toe > Whipping Post Shared by Anton Capan

One of the first Phish originals, “Makisupa Policeman” continued the fun. Page McConnell took a melodic synth solo unlike any other he’d taken in the past or since. Then, Trey triggered an effect that sounds like a DJ scratching a record on the keyboard that was part of his rig at his time. From there, the guitarist took a solo which is a rare occurrence within “Makisupa Policeman.” Anastasio threw in the melody for “Happy Birthday To You” and the rest of the band followed along. The reggaefied “Happy Birthday To You” was nearly as big a bust out as “Whipping Post” as Phish last played the celebratory song on September 30, 1991 (715 shows). Trey asked the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” to the band’s lighting director Chris Kuroda in “the rasta style.” He threw in a line “we’re going to get you so wasted tonight after the show” and perhaps for legal reasons laughingly said “only kidding.” Anastasio added, “it wouldn’t be a birthday show without a bass solo” and Mike obliged. The guitarist continued, “to make the birthday complete Fish is going to sing a solo happy birthday to Chris.” The drummer’s chant included “ya roll up a big spliff and you don’t pass it to no one!” Anastasio finished with, “OK, one more thing for Chris’s birthday and we’ll move on with the show. Because it’s your birthday you need to do a one-minute long, silent light solo.” The band stopped playing as Chris pounded away on his light board as if Phish was peaking a jam. It was a bizarre yet amazing scene to behold.

While Phish prepped to start the next song, Kuroda was given a microphone and said “Hey Trey, this is Chris at the light board. I just wanted to say thanks, you guys are the greatest” which garnered a roar from the crowd. “Saw It Again” followed as did just the seventh cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman” since 1988. And what a “Boogie On” it was! The Stevie cover scored on both the quality and quantity scales with nearly 10 minutes of cow funk jamming. A first set straight out of many fans’ dreams ended with a standard, high-energy “Cavern.”

The second set featured more of the same starting with a 19-minute “Birds Of A Feather” that explores two very different jam spaces once the band breaks through the song’s typical structure. Up first is a soaring, uplifting improv in a major key with a glorious peak. Trey then leads a move towards more dark, minor key territory. Phish connected on a powerful chord sequence they use to transition into a cover of “Walk Away” by James Gang, just the third in the past five years. It was my first “Walk Away” and I was beyond thrilled as I sported a smile that could end wars. Both “Run Like An Antelope” and “Suzy Greenberg” were particularly fun versions of each. The former featured a “Stash” tease and saw the band hit the climax quickly. In a rare move, Phish broke down the “Antelope” beat following the climax and toyed with the tempo eventually slowing down to the pace at which the jam first starts. The quartet then built up the speed and tempo for a second time, almost a bonus “Antelope” jam. The second peak was even stronger and I’ll never forget looking over at a friend and the both of us shaking our heads as if to say, “is this really happening!?”

Nearly everything Phish touched on this night turned to gold, another example of which is “Suzy Greenberg.” The quartet had played “Suzy” 300 times prior to Deer Creek ’99 and the one on that night was just the second to expand beyond the 10-minute mark. Trey uses a delay loop as the base for wild keyboard work from Page McConnell. The foursome connects on a sweet, funky progression over which McConnell goes to town including a stellar “I Wish” (Stevie Wonder) tease. After “Suzy,” Anastasio headed to the drum kit and Fish dusted off the vacuum. Fish decided to cover “Purple Rain” which marked its first appearance since August 6, 1996 (210 shows) and still stands as Phish’s penultimate version of the Prince cover. There was a slight issue though. The drummer totally forgot the words to the song. He sung, “I don’t know the rest of the words to this song. I’m just being honest like Prince would have me be…IN THE PURPLE RAIN.” If there’s a good spot for a trainwreck it’s a Fishman song and his terrible-but-oh-so-fun delivery of “Purple Rain” ended with him singing “this whole thing is just an excuse for me to play the vacuum.” The crowd ate up every second of it. “You Enjoy Myself” brought the second set to a close and will best be remembered for the “Boogie On Reggae Woman” jam within, complete with Trey simulating the lyrics on guitar. A “Loving Cup” encore gave us one final chance to dance our hearts out before heading back to Dead Creek.

July 26, 1999 – 1:15 a.m. – Dead Creek – Noblesville, Indiana

As mentioned earlier my friends and I were talking about the epic show we had just witnessed when we heard a band at the campground start up a cover of TLC’s “Waterfalls.” We went over to watch this local Indiana band named Umphrey’s McGee work through the brilliant “Waterfalls” cover. We wound up staying with the small yet devoted crowd of no more than 75 or 100 other campers for another few hours and were very impressed by their mix of originals and covers such as the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and “Fool In The Rain” by Led Zeppelin. I had forgotten all about that band until a few years later when I was reminded the group that played Dead Creek after the insane Phish show was Umphrey’s McGee.

The next time I would see them would be at a sold-out show at Irving Plaza in New York City. I truly caught the UM bug at Irving Plaza and have now seen them more than any other band other than Phish. July 25, 1999 was one of the better days of my life and I’ll always look back fondly on the date which also happens to be my parents’ anniversary. If you’ve never heard Phish’s July 25, 1999 show or haven’t in a while, boy are you in for a treat:

[Originally Published: July 25, 2016]

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