Perhaps no guest artist has had as great an influence on the band’s history as the “Reverend” Jeff Mosier. His first known appearance with the band was on 6/1/90. At the time, Mosier was a member of the Aquarium Rescue Unit. He added some nifty banjo work to “Run Like an Antelope,” “Uncle Pen,” and “Rocky Top.” When the band was in Atlanta for the infamous Roxy Run in February of 1993, several Aquarium Rescue Unit members again graced the Phish stage. Mosier’s contribution helped the band close their three-night run with a bang, transforming the usually rocking “Good Times Bad Times” into a rousing bluegrass number and leading them through spirited renditions of “Paul and Silas” and “Pig in a Pen.”
Mosier’s greatest contribution to Phishtory came in the fall of 1994. The band had begun to experiment more with acoustic songs, including their bluegrass interpretation of Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time.” Mosier cemented these experiments from 11/16 through 11/20. He joined the band on stage during each of these shows and helped perform such covers as “Pig in a Pen,” “Tennessee Waltz,” “Little Tiny Butter Biscuits,” “The Old Home Place” and “Dooley,” as well as the original “If I Could.” Mosier also taught the band “Long Journey Home” and “I’m Blue I’m Lonesome,” on which he often guested. These became two of the most frequently played songs of the tour.
More important than the songs he taught, though, were the instruments he brought. Trey learned how to play fiddle, Mike became comfortable on the banjo, and Page mastered the upright bass. Along with Fishman on washboard, these instruments formed the “bluegrass lineup” that the band used for a few songs in the second set of almost every show in the fall of 1994. The band enjoyed this lineup so much that they took to the parking lot in Bloomington, IN, on 11/19 and performed a long set of bluegrass numbers that were forever captured by an alert taper.
Many fans speculate that these songs and instruments, inspired by the addition of Mosier, led to the “Acoustic Army” in 1995, as well as the continued appearance of bluegrass standards. And with the emergence of acoustic numbers like “Driver” and “Sleep” during 1998, we can be sure that Mosier’s contributions will not soon be forgotten.