‘Cluster Flies’: Strand Of Oaks Covers ‘Bug’
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 Strand Of Oaks’s cover of “Bug,” which premieres today on SiriusXM Phish Radio. Explore additional Cluster Flies podcast episodes here.
Phish’s song, “Bug,” is the third track on their album, Farmhouse. Like fellow Farmhouse song “Heavy Things,” “Bug” was first introduced to the public by the short-lived band Amfibian. One of Amfibian’s members is Tom Marshall, the longtime writing partner of Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio and co-writer of “Bug.”
“Bug” was written the weekend of October 10, 1997, during the third of four retreats Trey and Tom held that year that produced most of the songs that ended up on 1998’s The Story Of The Ghost and Farmhouse when it was released in 2000. Though written in fall 1997, “Bug” wasn’t performed in public until Amfibian’s show on February 3, 1999, at the Princeton University Campus Club in Princeton, New Jersey.
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Anastasio first performed “Bug” in concert on May 8, 1999, at the Oscar Mayer Theatre on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. It was the last of several new songs Trey debuted that spring on his first solo tour that consisted of solo acoustic opening sets and fully electrified second sets with the guitarist backed by drummer Russ Lawton and bassist Tony Markellis. Trey’s introduction of “Bug” came as the second to last song of the electric second set and with a caution to not confuse it with “Windora Bug,” a reggae-tinged song also debuted on that tour and part of a “bug duology” with “Bug.” Trey, Tony and Russ played “Bug” just once more in May 1999.
“Bug” was part of the Phish’s setlist at the private party held June 24, 1999 at Trey’s The Barn recording studio in Vermont. Known by fans as “Carreystock” or “The 5th Ball,” the pre-tour warmup was attended by Phish’s crew members as well as members of the crew of the movie Me, Myself & Irene, which was filming nearby. The star of the film, actor Jim Carrey, was in attendance — hence the “Carreystock” moniker — and sat-in with Phish at the end of the first set on Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Hey You,” and The Beatles “Come Together.” Assuming Carrey stuck around for the second set, he would have seen the band’s first semi-public performance of “Bug,” as well as its previously mentioned duology companion “Windora Bug,” and the Farmhouse tune “Back On The Train.”
Despite only being performed twice on Anastasio’s spring 1999 solo tour, “Bug” was one of a few of Trey’s new songs to crossover to Phish’s live repertoire on their Summer Tour 1999 (several others would debut on Fall Tour 1999). Phish debuted “Bug” on June 30, 1999 — opening night of summer tour — at Sandstone Amphitheatre in Bonner Springs, Kansas the same night as “Back On The Train.” Phish performed “Bug” 12 times in 1999, including during the midnight-to-sunrise set on New Year’s Eve in Florida at the Big Cypress Seminole Indian reservation. Phish played “Bug” another 13 times in 2000, leading up to their first hiatus that began in October of that year and lasted through 2002.
“Bug” became a TAB rarity, coming out a few times over the years as both a full-band electric arrangement and by Trey on acoustic guitar. TAB most recently tackled “Bug” during one of the nights of Anastasio’s “The Beacon Jams” weekly residency last fall at The Beacon Theatre in New York City. “Bug” has remained a regularly played song at Phish’s live concerts, racking up 78 performances to date. It’s one of few songs in Phish’s repertoire that has the versatility to show up seemingly anywhere in a show, appearing in first and second sets, as well as often serving as part of an encore.
Noted Phish fan Timothy Showalter, who performs as Strand Of Oaks, jumped at the chance to cover “Bug” when we approached him for the Cluster Flies project. JamBase’s Andy Kahn recently talked to Tim about his early introduction to Phish, later-life fandom, the inspirations for his version of “Bug” on Cluster Flies and more. That interview is can be heard in today’s episode of The JamBase Podcast.
Strand Of Oaks’ cover of “Bug” premieres tonight (Tuesday, April 27 at 7 p.m. ET) on an episode of SiriusXM Phish Radio’s Crowd Control. Showalter hosts the episode featuring his cover of “Bug” along with some of Tim’s favorite Phish jams.