Deer Creek Music Center, Noblesville, IN
Soundcheck: Talk (intro, acoustic, x2), Waste (acoustic), Spooky -> Jam
Set 2: BagAC/DC Bag > LizardsThe Lizards, Mike'sMike's Song > Lifeboy > WeekapaugWeekapaug Groove -> Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Waste, Train Song, Strange Design, Sweet Adeline, BowieDavid Bowie
 Performed solo by Page on theremin.
 Performed on acoustic mini-stage.
Notes: Page performed Somewhere Over the Rainbow solo on the theremin. Waste through Strange Design were performed on the acoustic mini-stage. Trey played the composed section to Divided Sky over the soundcheck jam. This show was officially released as Live Phish 12.
This show was part of the "1996 Summer U.S. Tour."
In the twenty-odd Phish shows I’ve attended in the past eight years, none stand out in the way this particular concert does. In fact, it was from the release of this show in the LivePhish series in 2002 that my interest in Phish re-emerged. Not only was this performance’s setlist in top form, displaying a slew of old favorites, rare tunes, and new songs, its quality of performance is almost unparalleled. Indeed, diehards need only look at this show on paper to get excited about what Phish once was, what the band is now, and what it could possibly be in the future.
The band, playing its seventh in the string of a ten show tour in the low-volume summer of 1996, had played some good, but some almost forgettable shows up to this point in the tour. Wolf Mountain, Red Rocks, and Alpine Valley had turned out some good moments, but none, on tape at least, match up to the quality and intensity of this particular night amid the vast cornfields of rural Central Indiana. It was the band’s third performance at a now-favorite venue, Deer Creek. To preface, I saw not only the first three shows there, but every subsequent Phish and Phish-oriented Deer Creek performance there (minus the Trey Anastasio Band’s appearance in 2002). After fifteen shows in the same spot up to the winter of 2003, none compare to this hot August night.
A positive buzz was in the air as fans and local adventure-seekers alike were herded into the venue grounds. Pre-show shouts for “Tela!” still resonate in my head when thinking about this Phish show, my personal favorite. After a solid first night in a two night stand which included rarities such as “Esther,” the first "Weigh" in a while, and “McGrupp,” both the band and fans alike knew they were in for a special treat.
As the skies opened after a cloudy Indiana summer afternoon, the band opened the lengthy first set with “Divided Sky,” which was its typical beautiful, moving self. My group and I had been listening to “Tube” earlier in the day and we were all excited to hear Trey’s muted strumming of the introduction to this song as the second in the set. “Tube” rocked hard and led up to the parking lot requested “Tela.” Subtle, delicate and vastly welcomed, “Tela” led us to another four-letter titled tune, “Maze,” which picked up where “Tube” left off. At this point, with three four-letter songs in a row, perhaps “Reba” was in store next?
Alas, it was played at Alpine Valley two shows previous, and the band chose to perform a delicately played “Fast Enough For You.” “Punch You In the Eye” and “Llama” got things back to a rocking pace, while the rare “Glide” was both unexpected and delightful. A climatic “Slave to the Traffic Light” sent the capacity crowd into the aisles for set break. So far,
we were experiencing a well-played, long-lasting and incredibly enjoyable Phish concert. Never have I witnessed such a well thought-out first set, played with such precision.
Setbreak was its usual lengthy self, but the band certainly made up for whatever yearnings the audience may have had in the second set. A long, tweaked, spacey instrumental groove left myself and most others scratching our heads, as it preceded a focused, hard-rocking “AC/DC Bag” to open the second set. The crowd-pleasing “Lizards” was next and got the crowd up and moving if it wasn’t all ready. So far, the variety of novelty, vintage Phish was astounding. The omnipresent, but always anticipated “Mike’s Groove” followed. In it, “Lifeboy” was sandwiched, and provided an excellent rest between a characteristically smoking “Mike’s Song” and a long, incendiary “Weekapaug Groove.”
Page then entertained the crowd with a frightful “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on the theremin on which he had been experimenting that summer. While it was nothing about which to write home, during this time the band rolled out on its mini-stage where it played acoustically for
the next four songs. This was the band’s second of three mini-stage performances, and it was a true delight in the way it gave fans a look into the forthcoming Billy Breathes record that was due out in the fall of 1996. Most thought “Sweet Adeline” would close the set, but the familiar high hat cymbal introduction to “David Bowie” by our favorite frock-clad drummer caught the audience by surprise. Indeed, it was “David Bowie,” albeit in short form. While this was the antithesis to some of the spacey, explorative “Bowies” from 1994 and 1995, this one was focused and driven, capping off a superlative second set.
After the encore that followed, a usually uneventful pairing of “Sleeping Monkey” and “Rocky Top,” I heard one individual proclaim that the show was so good that even the "Rocky Top" was almost worthy of "best ever" status. Best ever or not, it sent droves of satisfied fans into the typically crazy Deer Creek parking lots.
Never have I been to a Phish show, other than my first, of course, that was so entertaining from top to bottom that sheer recollection alone enabled me to write a full-length review, such as this, from memory. This has been perhaps the most diverse and compelling Deer Creek show the band has played to date. And that, not coincidentally, says a great deal.
Furthermore, the release of this show on Live Phish was certainly a wise decision by those involved in the production and distribution of that engaging series. Hearing this again, in all its digital glory, led to my inclination in catching four more shows in the band's post-hiatus spring and summer tours of 2003. And I thought I was done with Phish, at least in the live setting. Needless to say, now that these discs are in wide distribution in both the trading and commercial realms, there’s no reason not to hear for yourself the magnificent music the band emitted this night in Noblesville.
the divided sky: this was a very cool opener. the band came out in sync and flying high right off the bat. one of the better versions of this song that i have seen.
tube: bam! the first of many treats in the set. sure, these 96 versions arent quite as good as what would come in the next couple of years, but back then, this was damn good fun!
tela: ah, us indiana folk getting dropped tela 2yrs running. another fine version, and this one led into....
maze: here we go... back in serious rocking mode! page and trey kill this maze. there are some very hot licks on this one.
fefy: not my favorite song, but it was a decent mid set slow down tune. it seemed to work well in this slot.
old home place: some nice snappy bluegrass to get everyone going again. nice to get gordo back in the game too.
pyite: like tube, i prefer the versions that would come in the next couple years, but there is a fun simplicity to these shorter versions. not to mention, they always nailed the "landlady" portion of the song, which i have seen them flub pretty badly the last 2 times i've seen them play it in 09. anyway, this was a nice sharp 96 punch. good solid key work by page.
llama: as always, this one was hot from start to finish. once again, page was strong on the keys.
glide: another nice rare treat. this fit in this slot really well coming up right before...
slave!: very good slave. maybe the best i've seen. i've heard many say that this one has dark star teases all over it, but personally, i don't hear it. there are a few very brief passage where i could say maybe, but all in all, i just don't hear it. i do hear a damn fine slave.
ac/dc bag: a nice rowdy version of bag got the crowd moving in the second set. like pyite and tube, this one was not quite a monster jammer yet, but the boys sounded nice and tight on this one before it gave way to a snappy version of...
lizards: this one fit well out of bag, and was, like everything else this night, played very sharp. it was a last bit of breathing room before they drop a monster on us...
mike's song: this is my all time favorite straight up mike's songs. you get those with all the teases and dipping in out of mike's, but for a straight up jammer, this one takes the cake. after they weaved through a few different "mike's song" style climaxes, gordon and fishman led them into a very dark and exploratory groove. trey and page found there were through this groove and both had some really hot licks before trey moved to the wood blocks. this is also one of my favorite "trey on percussion jams." page had some hot and heavy licks while trey/fish/gordo layed it down. after a good 20+ minutes of jamming they eerily gave way to...
life boy: this one seemed a little darker than normal....
weekapaugh's groove: gordon came out of this one humming and the rest of the band caught on quickly. very good versiion, one of my favorites of the year behind msg in the fall....
sotr: here came the deer creek audience's first taste of the theremin... it would be back next year in a big way..
(acoustic mini set): this is one of 3 outings, along with red rocks and the clifford ball, for the acoustic mini stage. it was a good way to introduce some of the newer billy breathes material. strange design was familiar, but waste and train were hot off the presses. out of the 3, i found train song to be the most interesting.
adeline: a quick accapella number before we do one more quick tune and hit the road right....
david bowie: woah nelly... we already had gotten our money's worth out of this show, but phish threw on a monster bowie closer. they took this one to some deep spacey realm before driving back to the triumphant bowie outro. great set.
sleeping monkey: quick and easy
rocky top: ditto
must hear. great show from start to finish
set 1: the divided sky, tube, tela>maze, llama, glide>slave (yeah pretty much the whole thing)
set 2: mike's>life>paugh (probably a top 5 mike's groove), david bowie
Per livephish recording...
6:55 Mike and Trey play off each other and Page jumps in on the organ. Things get weird quickly. Amazing interplay by the entire band in this segment. Very '94 esque jamming segment here...
8:13 They come back together all at once and rip back into the Mike's song dark nasty groove.
9:30 Trey signals the end of the Mike's jam with the walk up and sustained notes.
9:50 Beginning of the "second" jam of Mike's song. Page goes to grand piano, Fishman settles on a nice tom groove, Trey plays some great trill licks over it. Love the bassline Mike has going.
11:10 Fishman plays a lot of ride/splash cymbals and Trey responds by increasing the tension and frequency of his screaming guitar.
11:55 GOLD. Trey is playing a wall of distortion, locked in with Fishman's cymbal crashes while Mike hammers away a funky bassline and Page rocks the grand piano. This is the type of 'sound' trey often goes for in 2.0 but much more focused and concise.
13:30 Fishman has a nice beat, hitting the splash cymbal on beat. Trey reels it in a bit and goes off with some absolute shredding. Machine gun Trey has been spotted.
15:00 Jam shows signs of slowing down, Mike plays some nice dissonant notes, Trey follows.
15:40 Mike drops a baseline and leads the jam. Page plays some dissonant stuff on the piano, Trey vamps on a riff similar to Mike's bassline. Page seems to be hinting to modulate the jam to major.
17:15 Awesome keyboard work by Page as the jam fizzles a bit though Fishman keeps it driving, eventually switching to a rim and tom driven beat. Mike also helps keep it alive and driving. Trey eventually switches to percussion kit?
20:00 Page drops back to the Grand Piano. 20:40 Page just goes off and Mike lays off his dissonant bass groove. Nice interplay between Page, Gordo and Fish here.
21:30 Trey comes back in with some scratches and feedback distortion and delays. Very cool and patient reentry by Trey. Jam seems like it may take off again when Trey enters with a high sustained note but the jam slowly fizzles into Lifeboy...