May 20, 1989
Gospel singer Sandi Patty becomes Deer Creek’s first headliner. The same year, she’s followed by hair-metal band Cinderella, Bob Hope, George Strait, and The Beach Boys. [Extra: Sandi Patty gave us 10 tips on how to sing the national anthem.]
May 28, 1991
The notoriously ornery Guns N’ Roses causes the latest start of all time at the Noblesville venue. The curtain doesn’t rise until after 11 p.m., when all of the band members have finally arrived and straggled onstage. “It was a very late night—and early morning,” says Tom Mendenhall, senior vice president of promoter Live Nation.
June 19, 1993
Foreigner performs before a crowd of approximately 18,000. In 2003, the band releases a DVD called Foreigner Live at Deer Creek.
June 27, 1993
Actress Julia Roberts and musician Lyle Lovett, married earlier that day in Marion, hold their wedding reception in a tent on Deer Creek’s grounds before Lovett takes the stage that evening. The venue’s staff gets about 36 hours to pull together the gathering.
July 2, 1995
Gate-crashers invade a Grateful Dead show and tussle with police. The Dead concert planned for the next night is canceled, and the band issues a letter admonishing its fans for causing trouble. Jerry Garcia dies a month later. Musician Keller Williams memorializes the event with his song “Gate Crashers Suck.”
July 27, 2000
The Club 80s Flashback Tour features Wang Chung and Flock of Seagulls, among others. Missing Persons cancels, prompting the staff to put up a sign reading “Missing Persons will not be performing tonight.”
July 21, 2005
The power goes out while Tom Petty performs the song “Refugee,” and the fired-up audience keeps singing the lyrics on its own. When the juice comes back, the band simply joins in with the crowd.
October 17, 2008
Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin makes her first and only Indiana campaign stop, addressing roughly 20,000 at the music center.
July 31, 2012
Former CBS News anchor Katie Couric, who’s filming a segment for her short-lived show Katie, takes the stage during a Jimmy Buffet concert to sing backup as one of Buffett’s “Reeferettes
Growing up backstage at Buffett
My uncle, John Lovell, has played trumpet in Jimmy Buffett’s band for 21 years. Jimmy, who is 66, has toured for half his life, and my family is lucky that he loves to come to Indy every year. The concert at Klipsch doubles as a family reunion backstage, through a barn-like door near the entrance to Section C. The party there can’t compete with the one on the lawn, but it still vibes Margaritaville. The first time I saw a naked woman was backstage at Buffett; I was barely 14, and a lady nonchalantly changed into a coconut bra and a grass skirt. But more importantly, this is where my interest in music developed. My uncle and grandpa turned me on to jazz musician Jack McDuff; they said he plays piano with such ease, it’s like he’s alone at home. I picked up a guitar instead and played in a band from 2004 to 2009. Hanging backstage taught me that it takes a lot of scheduling, dedication, and patience to perform for just a couple hours. I once asked my uncle, before he went onstage, how he settles down in front of a sea of people. “Your fans are your family,” he said. That’s a vibe I still look for in musicians. —James Layne
Illustrations by Andrew Roberts
This article appeared in the June 2013 issue.