Verizon Wireless Music Center, Noblesville, IN
Soundcheck: Boogie On Reggae Woman > AC/DC Bag, Night Speaks to a Woman tease, My Soul, Fooled Around and Fell In Love
Set 1: Cities > Runaway Jim, Meat, Water in the Sky, Stash, Old Home PlaceThe Old Home Place, Vultures, BOAFBirds of a Feather > Mike'sMike's Song > HydrogenI Am Hydrogen > WeekapaugWeekapaug Groove
 Shock the Monkey tease; concluded with a rave-up ending akin to the ending of Mango Song.
 DEG tease from Trey.
Notes: Trey teased The Chase part of Fluffhead after Runaway Jim. Weekapaug included a Shock the Monkey tease and concluded with a rave-up ending akin to the ending of The Mango Song. Limb By Limb contained a DEG tease from Trey.
This show was part of the "2003 Summer Tour."
I'll admit it, I'm a Creek Phreak. Since I made my first trip out to the middle of the corn and soy fields of central Indiana in 1998, Phish at Deer Creek has always been "must see" shows for this dedicated Head. The easy six-hour drive from my house, as well as the plentiful camping that surrounds the venue, makes this tour stop one of the most exciting stops on any tour. It provides the festival atmosphere without providing the festival. To top it off, the last three Phish stands, as well as Trey's show with Medeski sitting in during the summer of 2001, have provided this intrepid show-goer with too many musical memories to count. When the boys announced a three night stand this year, I knew it was on.
I arrived with two cohorts to the sprawling onsite camping that was spread out in an empty field behind the entrance, somewhere around 4:30 p.m. I like the family-run campgrounds that are sprinkled throughout the area, and have had great experiences at a few of them, but this time, with economics a factor and a lot of shows still ahead of me, onsite was the logical choice. We set up camp, and my friends quickly went off in search of tickets for that night's show, which turned out to be quite a simple task. Extra tickets were everywhere, and few people had any luck getting rid of theirs for more than $20. Each of my friends picked up all three tickets for a combined fifty dollars, quite a steal.
We headed in and I left them on the lawn to check out my pavilion seat, which was located on the far left side of the venue. Before I could find my seat, I ran into Chris from Wisconsin, who I had befriended at the 2000 Phil n' Phish stand at the Creek, when we camped next to each other, along with our respective girlfriends. Three years later, the girlfriends were gone, along with our long hair, but we were back in the same place we had hung out three years earlier. The great thing about Phish shows is that this sort of randomness happens all the time.
After some chit chat, the band came out, and we were on our way. I was stoked for my first show of the summer, and I was hoping for a doozy. The opening chords of "Cities" rang out and I knew we were in for it. Tardy Heads could be seen sprinting through the concourse area, filling any empty area that remained in the pavilion and on the lawn. I thought this was a great opening choice, finding that as I head towards the sixty show mark, I appreciate unique song selection as much as on point musicianship. The tour's only "Cities" went over well, and Trey then raised the energy a notch with "Runaway Jim", a short and to the point version complete with Trey messing up lyrics, though the crowd seemed to care very little. The halting chords of "Meat" rang out next, much to the excitement of some around me. I appreciated the busting out of a song not seen since pre-Hiatus, and Mr. Mike Gordon was loud and funky, but this song doesn't do much for me.
The frenetic tempo and slick country sound of "Water in the Sky" picked up the pace a touch, but the venue exploded in its first real peak moment of the evening as the opening lick to "Stash" rang out. Clocking in close to fifteen minutes, this version provided an interesting jam section, and the boys began to stretch their legs for the first time. The jam had murky undertones as Trey tore along, with Mike providing interesting runs and Page alternating between a wash of organ sounds and the hammering rhythm of the grand piano. This all built to a peak before cooling back down into the song's trademark lick.
"My Old Home Place" followed and was a good cool down song for band and audience alike. "Vultures" followed, rung in with Page's descending piano intro, and took off. "Vultures" was once overlooked, but as the band plays it more and more, it has blossomed into a fan favorite. "Birds of a Feather" brought a huge reaction from the crowd and took off. The jam was fast paced and chugged along, audience in tow, for six or seven minutes before slowing and fading into some haunting guitar distortion. Trey reprised some of the song's chords before deciding on the opening riff to "Mike's Song" instead.
The crowd barely reacted the first time, many in the house missing the lick altogether. By the time Fishman's drums and Kuroda's lights kicked in, the kids were rocking,. Many predicted that we were due for this tune somewhere in the Deer Creek run, but few thought it would come this early. This version featured full-on rock star wailings from Trey, something that would develop into the theme for the evening. After the song's crushing climax, the band noodled for a second, seemingly unsure of where to go, before dropping into "I am Hydrogen". This song, to me, is like the eye of the storm. One of Trey's most beautiful guitar melodies sandwiched between two of Phish's most explosive roof shaking numbers. It's perfect.
Some around me complained that they've been playing "Hydrogen" in every "Mike's" this tour. I won't though, thinking back to when "Simple" was the standard segue fare and "Hydrogen" was semi-retired. Fishman's snare drum then abruptly snapped open "Weekapaug" and the band took off, led by Mike, whose thundering bass was loud and clear all night. At one point Cactus stepped up and ripped a series of the most riveting and bone crushing bass licks that kickstarted the jam towards its energy laden climax, leaving mouths agape.
I vacated the pavilion following the set, and headed to the concourse in search of friends and an ice cold drink to cool me down after the blazing set I had just witnessed. Setbreak flew by, at a mere twenty five minutes it was quite a departure from the never-ending setbreaks of tours past. I hustled up to the lawn as the opening of "Suzy Greenberg" rang in the start of the second set. Trey was a step behind on the lyrics, something I'd notice throughout the run, evidence of the long Hiatus and the tough task it must be to re-learn Tom Marshall's twisted catalogue of wordplay after two years off.
"Taste" was next, and I was super thrilled to hear it. I had often said during the Hiatus that one of the things I missed the most about Phish was Page's piano solo in "Taste". This one was a treat, but Trey quickly took over the jam and steered it like a madman hell bent on rock supremacy. After a brief pause, Trey led the band into "46 Days", the first Round Room song to appear that night. This song is a good one, but it just doesn't feel finished to me. With another verse or two, an a little more structure this could be a balls-out rocker. Instead, it is just used as a jumping off point, as there's nothing easier than jamming a song with no end to return to. When the jam lost its buoyancy and begin to drift along aimlessly, losing the attention of some, the lack of energy was immediately rectified by the intense trademark blare of the opening guitar line of "Tweezer". The band turned the intensity up a notch and the audience responded in kind as the resonance of Fishman's building drums made many wail in joyous response. The jam highlighted the funk chops of Mike and Page as the groove rode on the plunking rhythm of Gordon's bass, and was driven by Page's futuristic synthesizer licks. If anyone within earshot wasn't convinced we were being taken on a journey to outer space, they knew for sure when Fish kicked in the opening beat of "2001".
This one always delights, and the spacey dance beat was the perfect thing to grab the audience after the jam-a-thon that was the two preceding tunes. Once "2001" had run its course and its climax degenerated into feedback, the opening chords of "Limb By Limb" rang out, building to its furious apex riding on the interplay between guitar and piano, before giving way to Fishman's infectious drumbeat. Trey then turned up the distortion and crunched out the opening chords to "Good Times/Bad Times". This version featured an extended solo that lit out with lightening quick speed and never lost a beat. With this closer, Phish proved the audience that it had the arena rock credentials to match those of the song's original authors. The encore twosome of "Loving Cup" and "Tweezer Reprise" restated just that as the band used their one last shot to rock the audience, as opposed to sending them out on a slow note. As the audience filtered out into the temperate Indiana night, to party in the lot or crash in their tents, everyone agreed. Yes, it was a beautiful buzz. And we were only getting started.
cities: really nice, slick opener. it was a treat to hear this one, but they did not take this one very far at all before dipping into...
run away jim: this got the crowd rolling again. the boys sounded sharp on this one. they took this one a little further out than cities, but not too far still. good sharp version. after they wrapped up jim, the lower pavillion started a very nice "fluff head" chant. the boys mingled amongst themselves, and from our close position, we heard trey say....
meat: i like this tune, but almost anything but fluff head would have been a bummer. this was a nice little version of meat though.
water in the sky: nice up pace version. pretty sharp.
stash: here's the first jam of the night. they really took this one deep before trey and page came storming back up. this is probably my favorite stash from the '03-'04 era.
the old home place: being an indiana guy, i really like this tune at the creek. mike sounded good.
vultures: i have liked this tune from the get go, and this is one song i thought they were playing better than ever. they sounded really good on this took
boaf: this worked well following vultures. they had a nice 7-10 min jam that was very well textured, and it really got the crowd jumping. after bringing it back into the birds theme they dip down and find...
mike's groove: here's the 1st set surprise we were waiting for. the sun had just started to dip, and phish came out ripped a nice first set mike's. trey was in full rock star mode, and page was playing very well behind him. they dipped hydrogen in the middle before storming into weekapaugh. mike sounded really good and they tacked on a cool little start/stop jam on the end before calling it a set.
suzy greenberg: this got the kids back to their seats. page sounded particularly sharp on this above average suzy.
taste: this might be my favorite taste that i've seen. trey and page were particularly nimble before trey took this one to the grandest of peaks.
46 days> i was stoked to be seeing this one for the first time. gordon was holding down the bottom so well while trey was shredding over top. after taking this one up to a quick peak, page and trey lead the way on a more "rocking ambient jam." this played its way into...
tweezer> yeah, the first deer creek tweezer... so many shows here, yet no tweezer! this one was pretty solid. they built a nice groove and road it out for a good 8-10 minutes. as this one simmered out it found its way into...
2001> page was all over this one. fishman and gordon were also particularly strong on this good, intense 2001. also of note, a guy wearing a full astronaut suit made his way to the front row. he was going nuts.
limb by limb: this was a nice fiery limb by limb. trey was very strong on this one. limb did its things before it slammed into...
good times bad times: this set was flowing remarkably. page nailed the plant vocals and trey laid down a fairly unique solo for this tune. good set
loving cup: i seem to constantly catch this song in the encore slot, and i have grown kind of sick of it. on the other hand, it worked really nice here, on this night. trey had been throwing out hot rock licks all night, so hell, why not play some stones.
tweezer reprise: end it rowdy!
this show does not have any "best ever" versions of songs, but both sets have remarkably good flow with good solid playing. even if you are not a fan of '03-'04 era phish, you will like this one. in fact, if you hate that era, i would say, at the least, you should own the deer creek '03 run. i found it to be the exception to the rule.
1st set: stash, vultures, mike's>hydrogen>weekapaugh
2nd set: the whole damnd set!
SET I: The first set is a bit of a hodge-podge, but it is a well-played hodge-podge. Everything is really solid all set.
1) You can never complain about a "Cities" opener. This one got everyone off on the right foot even if it did not sore to any insane heights a la 08/06/2011 Greek Theatre.
2) "Runaway Jim" doesn't run to far and has a pleasant Trey singing flub. One of those "haha we are having fun" flubs not one of those "oh my God this Phish cover band is awful" flubs a la the 2003/01/02 "Simple."
3) "Meat" is one of my all time favorites. They can play it every night. A good weirdo Phish tune. My friend Daniel loved that song also. That counts for something. We miss you buddy!
4) A little bit of an odd transition from "Meat" to "Water in the Sky." "Water" is a little sloppy if you want to really nit-pick the poor band to death. That song always makes me think of Big Cypress; which is, of course, a natural thing, because they opened it down there as you all recall.
5) Onto a fifteen minute "Stash" that kicks ass. I am not a big "Stash" guy normally, but this version would make a believer of anyone.
6) Another odd transition to "My Old Home Place." I like that song. Bluegrass Phish always has room in my book.
7) I love "Vultures." What the hell is up with that song? It always comes out of left field at me like "I Saw it Again" has a tendency to do.
8) I am not a big fan of "BOAF," but this is once a gain a very solid version. There were a hell of a lot of people outside the show this weekend. In 99 there was a hell of a lot of "BOAF" and I think I still hadn't forgotten it.
8) The "Mikes-H2-Weekapaug" is perfectly placed at the end of the set. I love first set "Mike's Groove." This is not an "all time great" or anything, but it is a great set closer. People were freakin' out. Plus, anytime you get "Hydrogen" you should be happy.
SET II: The second set of this show is spectacular in any time period. Very well played and considerate versions of these tunes. Really very psychedelic for a set with "46 Days", "Tweezer", "2001", "GTBT", and "Loving Cup" which are all big rock and roller type songs.
1) "Suzy" is a great opener. Much better than a "Suzy" closer. Nothing startling here, but Page funks it out.
2) "Taste" is one of the all-time least appreciated Phish tunes. This one (like many) does get out there into the "Why am I thinking about people I haven't seen in awhile" chaos, but I love it.
3) The "46 Days" "Tweezer" "2001" section of this show is really amazing. "46 Days" is raging around 8 minutes in. By minute 11 everything is very low tempo and psychedelic. Fishman is amazing through some of the down-tempo parts.
4) A nice segue into "Tweezer", which like "46 Days" gets very slow and understated. Not "The band wants to get back to the tour-bus" understated, but precise and directed understated.
5) More of the same in "2001".
6) "Limb by Limb" is one of those chameleon songs. I either love it or hate it. It makes a so-so show more so-so, but when it comes out like it did here or 12/29/1998 at MSG it can be spectacular.
7) "GTBT" has some initial low level slop but then Trey really ratchets it up. Amazing high energy "Trey is a rock and roll god" moments.
8) "Loving Cup" encore is a bit of a throwaway. Don't get me wrong, I like "Loving Cup", but right after "GTBT" I am pretty big rock & roll covered out. Still though, Trey slays it and only a moron would complain.
9) The "Tweeprize" is half as long as the "Tweezer" and continues in the "Trey destroys my brain" fashion.
A solid A minus show. Well worth the listen. A great start to what turned into a pretty great weekend. Shout out to Green Acres!