‘Cluster Flies’: Sadler Vaden Covers ‘Heavy Things’

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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 Sadler Vaden’s cover of “Heavy Things.” Explore additional Cluster Flies podcast episodes here.

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Phish’s song, “Heavy Things,” was the lead single off the band’s 2000 album, Farmhouse. “Heavy Things” became one of Phish’s most commercially successful releases, hitting No. 2 on Billboard’s Adult Alternative chart and also landing on the Billboard Adult Top 40 chart.

Guitarist Trey Anastasio first introduced “Heavy Things” during the electric trio portions of his May 1999 Solo Tour. That tour produced a number of songs that ended up on Farmhouse, though the live performance history of “Heavy Things” predates that tour.

Anastasio’s frequent songwriting partner Tom Marshall co-wrote “Heavy Things” during a writing session that was last in a series of four weekend songwriting retreats the pair held at rented farmhouses in Vermont in 1997. Scott Herman is also credited with co-writing “Heavy Things,” making it one of 18 Phish’s he’s helped create, fellow Cluster Flies tracks “Vultures” and “Dirt” among them.

Marshall’s short-lived band Amfibian delivered the first live “Heavy Things” in January 1999. Amfibian’s version had different lyrics at the beginning of the song, a big jam section and an ending section with additional singing. Phish.net indicates Amfibian bassist Matt Kohut had a hand in writing the alternate “dark and introspective” lyrics.

“Heavy Things” joined Phish’s live repertoire on September 11, 1999, and the band has never gone more than 30 shows without playing it since. Millions of people around the world saw Phish play “Heavy Things” as part of ABC’s coverage of New Year’s Eve 1999 when host Peter Jennings introduced “The Phish” before going live from Big Cypress Indian Reservation in the Florida Everglades.

“Heavy Things” continues to be a staple of Phish setlists, though it was played just once in 2019. It also remains a constant in Trey Anastasio Band setlists. TAB played “Heavy Things” on October 30, 2020 on the fourth night of Trey’s “The Beacon Jams” weekly residency at the Beacon Theatre in New York held over eight weeks last October and November.

For Cluster Flies, singer-songwriter Sadler Vaden, who is also a member of Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, recorded an excellent cover of “Heavy Things.” Joining Vader on “Heavy Things” was his fellow The 400 Unit member, bassist Jimbo Hart, as well as keyboardist Billy Justineau and Dr. Dog drummer Eric Slick (who also appears on the Cluster Flies track “Gotta Jibboo”).

Listen to Sadler Vaden cover “Heavy Things” below:

JamBase’s Andy Kahn interviewed Sadler for today’s episode of The JamBase Podcast. The pair talked about Vaden’s history with Phish, recording his version of “Heavy Things” and more.

Stream the “Heavy Things” Cluster Flies episode of The JamBase Podcast below or via all major podcast services including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Google Podcast: