Phish vs. The Grateful Dead

The world’s two greatest jam bands play in Indy this month. Here, an improvised comparison of their past visits.

Thought jam bands were a thing of the past? Wake up and smell the patchouli. Dead & Company (former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann, along with John Mayer) will perform at Klipsch Music Center on June 17, followed nine days later by Phish. Time for a look back at the local stops made by both on their long strange trips.



Number of Indy Shows: 19

First Show Here: October 27, 1973, at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum. A six-hour, 30-song barn burner that one fan on the Dead’s website described as “cold, cold, cold outside and pretty cold inside until the boys cranked it up.” (The cold inside was from the ice rink under the floor.)

Best Show Here: December 5, 1981, at Market Square Arena. At least that’s true if the reviews at—one of the largest repositories for the band’s live recordings—are to be believed. One fan described the show as “the highest octane, most high-energy playing I ever heard from the Grateful Dead.”

Worst Show Here: July 2, 1995, when hundreds of ticketless Deadheads attempted to scale the fence to get inside Deer Creek Music Center. Police beat back the hooligans, and the band canceled the show scheduled for the next night.

Local trivia: The Dead didn’t travel like rock stars. They usually stayed at the Sheraton at Keystone at the Crossing, and took a van to Deer Creek.















Number of Indy Shows: 25

First Show Here: August 13, 1993, at the Murat Theatre. As usual, though, college kids were in on the phenomenon earlier. Phish played at Earlham and Notre Dame in 1990.

Best Show Here: July 11, 2000, at Deer Creek. The group won a Jammy Award—once given annually to, you guessed it, jam bands—for this live performance that included an entire set dedicated to Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick.”

Worst Show Here: August 10, 1997, at Deer Creek. Confronted in the Phish documentary Bittersweet Motel with an Indianapolis Star review that called this concert “a haphazard collection of long-winded, directionless jams,” guitarist Trey Anastasio remarked, “If you’re going to take a risk, sometimes you’re going to fail.”

Local Trivia: The first time Phish played at Deer Creek, promoters expected to sell 7,000 tickets. Fans snapped up 10,000 on the first day. “It caught us all off guard,” says Steve Gerardi, former production manager at the venue.