‘Cluster Flies’: Amy Helm Covers ‘Sleep’
JamBase presents Cluster Flies, a covers compilation reimagining Phish’s album Farmhouse, complete with bonus songs and revamped tracklist. The limited-edition 3LP release was mastered by engineer Joe Lambert and includes custom artwork and a poster created by longtime Phish collaborator Jim Pollock. A pre-order is underway now through May 3 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. Visit www.clusterflies.com for purchasing information as well as full album credits and tracklist details.
Each of the songs on Cluster Flies will be featured via daily episodes of The JamBase Podcast with interviews with the musician that recorded the cover. Today’s episode features Amy Helm’s cover of “Sleep.” Explore additional Cluster Flies podcast episodes here.
Phish’s song, “Sleep,” landed as the ninth track on their 2000 album, Farmhouse. The band first performed it live on October 17, 1998, at the first of two Bridge School Benefit Concerts held by Neil Young and his late ex-wife Pegi Young at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California.
More Cluster Flies on JamBase
Neil and Pegi co-founded northern California’s Bridge School for severely disabled children in 1986. The couple was motivated to improve the life of their son Ben who was born with cerebral palsy. Bridge School Benefit Concerts were held annually from 1986 through 2016 (despite Neil and Pegi’s divorce in 2014 after 36 years of marriage). Phish, like the scores of all-star acts that played the Bridge School School Benefits, performed acoustically at Shoreline and thus “Sleep” was introduced during an “unplugged” set.
Full band acoustic renditions of “Sleep” followed when Phish taped an episode of PBS’ Sessions At West 54th on October 20, 1998, and when the band opened their Fall Tour 1998 a show on October 29 at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. “Sleep” went electric during the show on November 11, 1998, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Guitarist Trey Anastasio, who co-wrote “Sleep” with lyricist Tom Marshall, was the only member of Phish go acoustic when “Sleep” was played two more times on Fall 98 Tour. Another full-band acoustic delivery came on December 28, 1998, when a mini-stage was set up in the first set at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Quickly falling into rarity status and remaining fully electrified, “Sleep” was performed by Phish only two times in 1999. Another three performances came in 2000, one of which was part of a taping for another PBS program, Austin City Limits. Phish, who went on hiatus from late-2000 through 2002, brought “Sleep” out just once in 2003, and it stayed in hibernation the following year. When Phish ended a second hiatus that spanned mid-2004 through early-2009, “Sleep” emerged at two shows in summer 2009. After taking 2010 off, “Sleep” came back just one time in 2011 before being tucked away for several years.
“Sleep” ended a 289 show absence when Phish busted it out on July 3, 2019, at Saratoga Springs Arts Center (SPAC) in New York. The most recent Phish performance of “Sleep” came during the encore on November 29, 2019, at Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island — the same night they busted out fellow Cluster Flies song “Bye Bye Foot.”
”Sleep” was covered by Amy Helm for Cluster Flies. Helm was accompanied by Daniel Littleton (acoustic & electric guitars, dulcimer, harmonium) and Pete Hanlon (Moog) for her version of “Sleep” that more than doubles the 2:07 running time on Phish’s Farmhouse recording.
Listen to Amy Helm’s Cluster Flies cover of Phish’s “Sleep” below:
Amy spoke to JamBase’s David Onigman about her participation in Cluster Flies. The interview is featured in today’s episode of The JamBase Podcast.