6-23-04 - Verizon Wireless Music Center, Noblesville, IN
review submisions to me at
please include the date in the subject line...
please review the show, not the other reviews....
From dmac "skutch skutchington"
Sent Friday, June 25, 2004 4:55 pm
Subject dmac review of 6/23
Phish review 6/23/04
Verizon Wireless Music Center
(formerly Deer Creek)
I had had no intention of seeing Phish in the summer of 2004 until the Big Announcement came
in mid May. A perusal of my previous reviews, of Charlotte 2000, 2003 and Raleigh from
December 1999 will demonstrate my lack of interest in what I considered to be a declining
enterprise. To be fair, many of the shows that I listened to from 2003 were in fact quite
good; it was merely that I had chosen the wrong performance to attend that I had had such a
lousy time. Between what I perceived as lackluster band performances, as well as ridiculous
phan behavior both within and without the show, made my last few experiences quite painful
and not the least bit fun.
But as I stared into the abyss of never having the opportunity to give this band, one
that has meant so much to me over the years, yet another chance to make the magic happen
again for me, I realized that I would never forgive myself if I just let it all end without
once last adventure. Deer Creek's lawn tickets were still on sale; I quickly talked my
usual tour buddy Ernie Douglas into making the quick drive up to Indy.
After a day of hemming and hawing, Ernie, the spineless little fuck, ditched in favor
of going for the big brass ring that would be Coventry. Honestly, I don't blame him; if the
festival were not in the middle of August, a busy time for me professionally, I would also
attend. But no, Deer Creek was the choice-I had seen my final Garcia performance there, at
the disastrous 1995 riot/death threat show, and here, I thought, was a chance to perhaps
both make up for that terrible nightmare, as well as my last few unsatisfying Phish shows.
As it turned out, I quickly found a new partner for the journey, a committed fan known
to me as Chuck "Chip" Biggles, but whom I suspected of having a different identity than the
one he presented. Looking for al the world like some kind of dirt-surfing lot wookie,
Chip-Chuck was actually a drug-free sou chef at a four-star restaurant frequented by
Columbia's hoi polloi.
Now, for those of you that are returning readers, you will remember that my home base
of Columbia, South Carolina, is perhaps the brightest star in the constellation of cities in
the American South, far outstripping even its nearest rival for liveability, affordability,
and just all-around perfection that one seeks from a place called Home. Columbia, home to
perpetual college powerhouse sports champions, the Gamecocks-in any sport, just pick
one-features many top flight eateries, museums, art house cinemas (well, okay, just one of
those), the best municipal library in the country (no shit, they did get this award last
year), as well as a wide variety of freeway interchanges and glittering railroad tracks
criss-crossing busy, downtown thoroughfares. Home to notorious rascist barbeque entrepenuer
Maurice Bessinger, Columbia can only be considered one of the finest places to live not
simply in our great nation, but in the universe at large. Rock Columbia! Roll Columbia!
Long may her rippling banners snap in the cool, dry summer breeze.
Once Biggles had signed onboard following a perhaps too-thorough background check and
physical, as well as psychological, evaluation, and all tickets and reservations were in
hand, then only the waiting remained, a near-interminable three weeks or so to contemplate
the Phish-less future of modern pop music-a desperate, unreal eventuality that seemed to be
approaching far too soon. Existential debates ensued both in person as well as online among
fans; on a personal level, I began to feel more and more emotional about the notion that,
after the summer had faded into autumn, Phish would be forever gutted and cleaned, left to
dry on the dock of some forgotten wharf, its corpse slowly picked away at by insects,
sea-birds, and revisionist music and social critics for all enternity.
But, then, I blinked my eyes, and it was June 22, the first shows had been played to
reviewers both ecstatic as well as skeptical, and now it would be MY turn.
We departed Columbia-never a happy occasion-at 4:30am on show day, and thanks to
seasoned, expert driving on my part, we arrived at the Marriott luxury hotel at 1pm.
Exhausted from both the drive and the sleepless night that proceeded it, I was delighted to
see that we were now on central time, allowing for a brief nap before leaving for the show.
Traffic was backed up on I-69 for miles; it took us an hour and a half to get the
Indigo Shark (an anthracite blue, custom designed and built one-of-a-kind VW Passat that had
been created expressly for my use) parked in the Premium lot. Biggles needed a venue
poster; I needed consumables, so he went on in while I checked out the thriving Shakedown
scene, where I quickly spied a couple of familiar faces, as well as a cooler filled to the
brim with ice-cold Fat Tire ale. Life was good.
Inside the show, I found that posters were still on sale, so I bought one too for the
in-absentia Ernie Douglas, who had promised mysteriously to "make it worth my while-really"
if I would just bring him back one. What his statement indicated I couldn't be sure; if the
reward were to involve something sexual, I can only hope that Ernie will have had major
reconstructive cosmetic and sex-reassignment surgery by the time I get back to Columbia on
Bouncing Around the Room>
Pebbles & Marbles
Army of One
Split Open and Melt
Crosseyed and Painless
Slave to the Traffic Light
Scent and Subtle Sounds>
Brian & Robert
Limb by Limb
The first song I ever saw Phish perform live was "Llama"; fitting, then that they open the
two-night Deer Creek stand-my last Phish shows ever, if they are to be believed about
mothballing the enterprise once and for all. The band seemed energized and well rehearsed,
which would be the case for the remainder of the show, with perhaps one or two exceptions.
Going into Bouncin' also had meaning for me: This was the first song I had heard from
the band, on some tape that I had been given in probably 1992 or 1993. So this was to be
Phish's farewell to me, and while they don't know me, or don't know anything about how their
setlist choices could possibly mean anything in the context of my personal Phish experience,
it seemed to me at that point that they were dialed into the kind of show that I needed to
restore my faith, as it were, following my disappointing 2000 and 2003 experiences, both in
that terrible southern backwater that is Charlotte.
An aside about Deer Creek: What is so special about this place? I saw nine or ten
Grateful Dead shows at the venue, and indeed, it seemed quite unique in those days when
compared to the inner-city concrete temples like RFK Stadium or The Spectrum. Surrounded,
still, by verdant cornfields, roughly fifteen minutes outside of Midwestern
all-roads-lead-to-here metropolis Indianapolis, the venue itself, once inside, is no
different than virtually any other "shed" on the concert circuit. Awash in corporate logos
and overpriced, under-nutritious food and drink, Deer Creek, which no longer even has the
dignity of its name, is just another stop on the road. Still, the campground scene that has
developed over the years due to the realization by local property owners that much profit
could be reaped in a short amount of time whenever the hippie bands come through seems to
make up for the generic nature of the venue itself.
The excitement continued for me as the band continued with a bright and peppy Ya Mar,
always a favorite. Pebbles and Marbles, while not my favorite of the newer songs, usually
features a nice jam, but a quick trip to the gentleman's room during this tune caused me to
miss the bulk of the piece. Page's new tune is very cool; I was all over it, jumping up and
down like a lunatic and screaming at the top of my lungs. Split Open and Melt provided a
very Phishy end to the set, and felt very good to me, very "old school", in the parlance of
The second set, however, would feature the heart of this show, the opening trifecta of
Halley's Comet->Crosseyed and Painless->Slave to the Traffic Light. This grouping of tunes
provided an exhilarating start to the set, and lasted quite a while (I was having too much
fun to waste energy noting timings-sorry.) Crosseyed in particular swept through the crowd
like a ripple of bright energy, and the pace never flagged. As a Talking Heads fan from
many years ago-I discovered them in 1981 or so-it was gratifying to see so many young music
fans excited by this amazing cover song. Slave made up for the disastrous Charlotte fuck-up
version from 2000, the one that had left me feeling lost and upset about the entire Phish
experience. Slave, which to me is analogous to the Dead's Morning Dew (does that make YEM
Phish 's Dark Star? Of course.), built and built to, if not quite a screaming peak, a solid
and vigorous musical exultation that left me feeling satisfied and spent.
Next would be a "suite" of newer songs. I frankly love the new album, and Nothing
provided a nice window into the band's current songwriting proclivities (although I must
admit that both my companion and I thought it was Crowd Control at first for some
unexplainable reason). Nothing melted into a nice jam, which led in an awkward transition
to 46 Days, one of the post hiatus tunes that I had been pining for, and assumed that I
wouldn't get since it had just been played at the Keyspan Park tour opener. I suppose that
the boys aren't going to try to make each show on this final tour unique in terms of song
selection, which I was somehow expecting them to do. Apparently that would be too much work
for a band on its way out-but I digress.
46 Days led into a very nicely composed and performed Scents and Subtle Sounds, another
new favorite. The jam led, again, somewhat awkwardly, into Brian and Robert, which was a
big surprise for me-has it been played much since the hiatus? The transition didn't work
very well, and the timing was off for the first moments of the tune, but once the band got
itself locked in, the performance was fine.
A brief onstage conference brought us the second Limb by Limb of the tour, which seemed
fine if unremarkable to me. The following Cavern, another repeater from Keyspan, was solid,
with Trey nailing the complex lyrics flawlessly, a big improvement from last year's holiday
tour version, which was a vocal disaster for our beloved frontman.
Waste was an oh-so-typical encore selection; it left me feeling ambivalent instead of
excited, and somehow I just knew there'd be one more tune. It was not to be, however, and
we trudged back to our dusty vehicle with souvenir posters and a useless Waterwheel
backstage raffle ticket in the pocket of my mate's trousers, the small green piece of paper
now crumpled and utterly without meaning.
The combination of our Premier parking spot and quick action made for a brisk exit from
the venue, but due to poor signage we ended up driving around in the country side for
fifteen or twenty minutes looking for I-69. Noblesville, please contact IDOT immediately for
some more effective signage. (No, we didn't miss the signs-they don't fucking exist.)
And then it was on to bed after a couple of Fat Tires in our luxury Marriott suite.
I snorted with derision at the thought of all the little bodies huddled around drum circles
and campfires, peering out in the darkness of the corn fields with colorful children's
balloons filled with nitrous oxide, and I was thankful for my status as a wealthy,
It wasn't until the alarm went off beside my head at 5 am, the clock having been set by
the previous occupant of the suite, that I began to question both my choice of lodging, as
well as, perhaps, my own sanity. But once I got back to sleep, I dreamt of the wonders to
await me on Thursday, and, in the dream, Trey and Mike tossed golden picks to me from my
spot in the front row of Phish Heaven.
I will post my review of the next night sometime over the weekend. Hang tight until then.
Date: Fri, 25 Jun 2004 15:28:08 -0500
Subject: Phish show review 6-23-04
Having not seen Phish since summer 1999 in Portland, OR, this was quite
an experience for me. I pretty much gave up on the boys when 'Farmhouse'
came out, feeling that they lost the creative spark that had once made
them so exciting. And while nothing that they've done in the past decade
or so holds up to such timeless classics as 'You Enjoy Myself' or 'Run
Like an Antelope', their live show is still just as amazing as ever, and
their level of interaction is the highest I've ever known it to be. I
was surprised to realize this, thinking that going to one last show would
be at best an amusing noodle down memory lane.
I'm not going to go through every single song that they did, but I'll
touch upon the highlights that made this show a very satisfying send-off
for one of the most significant music acts of our time. After starting
the show off with solid renditions of 'Llama' and 'Bouncing', the night
got off to its true start with 'Bathtub Gin'. The jam had great cohesion
and energy, with a very danceable yet ever-evolving groove that never
felt as though it were aimlessly meandering. It landed into a perfect
ending and the opening chords of 'Ya Mar' kept people on their feet.
'Pebbles and Marbles' followed with an energetic jam that was relatively
short but still managed to go places. After 'Army of One' (an amusing,
Elton Johnesque number) mellowed things out, Phish launched into the
highest point of the night with 'Split Open and Melt'. Although the
composed section had its fair share of flubs (mostly on Trey's part), it
all retained a high degree of electricity and the jam that ensued was
nothing less than sublime. Those dorky noodlers that I gave up on years
ago transported me to a magical place, and for that I thank them. This
jam alone warrants picking up a copy, for sure.
The suite that opened up the second set was another high
point. 'Halley's Comet' was a wonderfully executed blast that got
everybody moving, and it plunged right into an amazing rendition of
'Crosseyed'. The jam that followed slithered and writhed perfectly into
a dramatically slow and meaningful 'Slave to the Traffic Light', which
had it's own beautiful jam under the starry Indiana sky. Another
multiple song suite followed, although with this one you could feel the
band getting a little bit tired. 'Nothing', a nice new soulful song that
was unfortunately marred by feedback, had a kaleidoscopic but at times
directionless jam that led into a short but sweet and nicely rocking '46
Days'. From that emerged 'Scents and Subtle Sounds', another good new
one, and the mellow vibe took over again, which was just fine by me. The
jam was gorgeous and dissolved into meditative soundscaping, again
reaching sublime depths. This slipped perfectly into 'Brian and Robert'
which was great aside from the slightly off-pitch backup vocals. 'Limb
by Limb' woke the crowd up some and featured great drumming by
Fishman with a concise yet exploratory jam, and 'Cavern' wrapped things
up nicely with its gleefully nonsensical lyrics and bouncing groove.
Everybody was into it, including the band; the overrall spirit of joyful
abandon made it feel like it could have just as easily been 1992, when I
first saw them. I was amazed by the vibrancy that Phish still has, and
for a moment felt sad about their parting. But in the end I think it's
good that they're quitting while they're ahead. The 'Waste' encore
brought this point home for me, as I've always felt that it represented a
turn away from what has made Phish such an extraordinary group. Thanks,
Phish, for all the wonderful times and truly inspiring music.
click here to return to the 2004 reviews page