Today is a travel day on Phish's 2009 Summer Tour, a day off from the frenetic pace of the first six shows at four venues -- Fenway Park, Jones Beach, Great Woods and Camden -- of tour. The drive from Camden to Asheville takes anywhere from eight to 10 hours, depending how fast you drive and how many stops you make.
But this is shaping up to be no ordinary travel day. This is one of those days in between shows that, if you're lucky enough to figure out what's going on, you'll be telling your friends about for the rest of your life.
Let me explain ...
The Asheville Citizen-Times is reporting that the Pisgah Brewing Company is hosting a pre-Phish bash tonight (Monday) with Blueground Undergrass, featuring the Rev. Jeff Mosier, and Col. Bruce Hampton and the Quark Alliance set to perform at 7pm. Tickets are $10 and are still available at Brown Paper Tickets, although for how long remains to be seen. Click here for contact information and directions.
In the past, whenever Col. Bruce has made an appearance in the vicinity of a Phish show Mike Gordon has shown up to sit in. But also, also, Rev. Jeff Mosier is the guy who taught Phish the ins and outs of bluegrass.
In the Fall of 1994, Phish contracted with Mosier to help them learn the intimate details of how to play bluegrass in the traditional style. The story goes, they flew him to Michigan, Mike picked him up in a limo, and they had their first lesson on 11/14/94 (The Phish Companion disputes this, saying Mosier's week-long travels with Phish began on 11/16/94 in Ann Arbor, but the video says 11/14; Old Home Place and Nellie Kane were performed acoustic on 11/14, but Mosier did not appear on stage with the band until 11/16, which incidentally features the Chalk Dust Torture found on A Live One). That week, the band started playing their mini-acoustic showcase in the middle of the first set, featuring Trey on acoustic guitar (and sometimes fiddle), Mike on banjo, Page on standup bass and Fishman on mandolin, which is hilarious because in traditional bluegrass bands the mandolin player is usually the most proficient picker of the group. Also that week, Phish debuted I'm Blue I'm Lonesome, My Long Journey Home, Fixin' To Die, Little Tiny Butter Biscuits, and Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms.
Mosier is also the person responsible for filming the official, yet unreleased, Phish video called The Bluegrass Sessions (follow that link and scroll to the bottom of the page for links to the entire movie). Now, The Bluegrass Sessions movie was long considered to be the "Holy Grail" of Phish videos because it was never released and it was next to impossible to find a copy. Thanks to YouTube, and to Rev. Jeff Mosier for agreeing to post it, The Bluegrass Sessions was remastered and is now a freely-traded, but still not available for purchase, home movie of Phish backstage learning how to play bluegrass. Total running time of all nine clips is about 1 hour 20 minutes.
So, you see, the Pisgah Brewing Company is set up to host an evening of music that may not provide any sort of stellar musical performances, but if you go you are going to get to see the boys playing in a little tiny place -- a memory you'll hold dear forever.
If you are there, you have to make the 10-mile drive to the town of Black Mountain (home of Pisgah Brewing and site of tonight's show). I'm willing to bet Mike, quite possibly Trey, and maybe even Page and Fishman, too, will be there. Why do I say this? Because there is a lot of history, although not widely known, not only with Col. Bruce and Phish, but the Rev. Jeff Mosier plays a special role in the band's history.
Anyway, Asheville's newspaper, the Citizen-Times, reports that downtown merchants and the police are preparing for the influx of Phish-heads to their quaint mountain town -- a place affectionately referred to as "Eugene East" because of the large hippie population residing in this city of about 75,000 people.
I lived in Raleigh, N.C. for seven years -- 15 minutes away from Walnut Creek -- and used to make the 4.5-hour jaunt to Asheville to catch shows at The Orange Peel and the Asheville Civic Center; the latter is home to the annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam. Phish-related shows I've seen there over the years include Vida Blue, the Jazz Mandolin Project, the Trey Anastasio Band, Serial Pod (Trey, Mike and Bill Kreutzman), Oysterhead, and Mike Gordon and Leo Kottke.
Warren's stint with The Dead and the Allman Bros. Band just came to a close, and Gov't Mule is in between tour dates. Warren lives in Asheville, so there is a very real possibility that he will sit in with Phish, possibly on Funky Bitch? Stay tuned ...
The Beastie Boys are playing at The Orange Peel Wednesday night, and seminal punk band X will also be in town this week. Asheville is suddenly the place to be on the live music map.
Just for kicks, here's a killer photo from last night at Camden.