Ya Mar, Ya Mar, Ya Mar, Ya Mar, Ya Mar

Hampton (A.Kuroda)

Hampton (A.Kuroda)

“Ya Mar” is one of few covers that many fans have confused for a Phish original.  Part of the reason for this confusion is that the band has played the song routinely since its debut in 1987, and it has become a staple of the Phish catalog.  Its foray into calypso rhythms never ceases to lighten up a show, and bring smiles to the faces of many grooving fans.  Though Phish has played the song for the duration of their career, the history of it was a bit nebulous.

As the story goes, Mike was on vacation in the Caribbean and heard a band called The Mustangs, playing “Ya Mar,” a song that was actually a cover of Bahamas recording artist Cyril Ferguson.  The cover had been recorded by The Mustangs, put on their album, and credited to them on many a Caribbean compilation.  Liking the song so much, when Mike returned to Vermont, he taught the band “Ya Mar” and the rest was history.  It wasn’t until years later, when The Mockingbird Foundation was doing research for the first edition of the The Phish Companion, that it was discovered that Phish had been playing The Mustangs calypso interpretation of Ferguson’s original all along, without knowing who the real artist was.

Hampton (A.Kuroda)

Hampton (A.Kuroda)

Regardless of the song’s history, it evolved into a Phish song.  With countless performances over two plus decades, its origin has become mere trivia.  Adding a hint of island flavor to an otherwise divergent show can often be the exact thing needed to complete that perfect set.  While “Ya Mar” has appeared in all spots on a set list, some particularly well-placed second set versions appeared on 7.25.97 in Dallas, with drummer Bob Gulotti sitting in, leading into a drums jam; 4.5.98 in Providence, RI, providing melodic relief from a grinding “Disease” jam; 11.26.97 in Hartford, with a seamless segue out of “Cities,” 12.2.97 in Philly, deep in a whole-set “Mike’s Groove” leading into “Weekapaug.”

Sometimes used as a largely composed piece, and other times used as a clear improvisational vehicle, “Ya Mar” carries diverse purposes.  Like Phish’s own utility infielder- ready for action at all times-  happy to fill in wherever needed. Drawing enthusiastic cheers from Trey’s call of “Play it Leo!”, and Page’s subsequent organ romp, the song carries a merry and lighthearted vibe, while sometimes leading into far more.

“Ya Mar” has moved with the trends of Phish’s music, and has seen various tempos and incarnations of its polyrhythmic textures.  Below are five standout versions of the song- where Phish takes it quite a bit deeper.  You can listen to each right on the site by rolling over the links and clicking play or right click and open in a new window.


12.13.97 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany NY

1997-12-13moKicking off the last show of Fall ’97, this “Ya Mar” is many a fan’s favorite version- and rightfully so.  The opener summed up the funked out tour with a groove-based “Ya Mar” unlike any other.  Like many shows of this tour, funk jams popped out of non-funky songs, and Phish killed this one with an opening dance session.  After playing a tight and engaging version of the song, the band “took it from the top,” as Trey strummed the opening chords just as you thought the song would end.  And this is when things blew up.  The second time through there was nothing but sublime, funkified improv.  This is truly IT.  Check this one out- it gets my vote for “best ever.”

LISTEN TO 12.13.97 “Ya Mar” NOW! < LINK


12.02.97 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA

1997-12-02gn2Deep in a second-set “Mike’s” sandwich, this version of “Ya Mar” emerged out of “Dog-Faced Boy,” bringing light to an otherwise dark set that was dominated by an outrageous “Mike’s” jam.  This jam began in a sparsely percussive place, as Trey slithered into the mix with subtle melodies that soon blossomed into a constant flow of gorgeous lines.  Page and Mike laid low for the beginning, integrating themselves into the jam slowly.  With the band’s entry, the music became more layered and psychedelic, reaching a territory far away from its origin.  Trey even managed to squeeze some “Crosseyed” licks into this standout version.  As the adventure continued, the music wound its way into the beginning of a top-notch “Weekapaug.”

LISTEN TO 12.2.97 “Ya Mar > Weekapaug” NOW! < LINK


4.5.98 Providence Civic Center, RI

1998-04-04gn2The Island Run “Ya Mar” was something to behold.  The band worked an extended and twisting “Disease” down to virtual silence, when out of the silence came a complete change of vibe with the opening chords of “Ya Mar.”  While seeming like a somewhat random placement, it fit with the celebratory theme of the run’s final set.  Once the improv started,  Trey absolutely slaughtered it, playing surreal lead lines as if they were coming off a record.  A melodic geyser completely going off, Trey mesmerized the crowd, and his own band, with his work.  Mike, Fish and Page quickly stepped out of prominence, and then into silence, allowing Trey’s quiet solo to take this version to the bank.  The whole arena was silent, as his emotions poured from his guitar.  The band came back from the darkness with musical bliss that is some of the most soulful of the weekend.

LISTEN TO 4.5.98 “Ya Mar” NOW! < LINK


12.8.99 Cumberland Country Civic Center, Portland, ME

This first set version stood out with its incredibly collaborative nature.  With all members contributing short complementary phrases at the onset of the jam, the band took a minute to make sure they were locked.  Following this introductory portion, this jam turned into heavier music that remained loosely anchored to the song’s rhythm.  The band gelled into some very interesting percussive territory during this version, and it’s largely forgotten in the middle of the first set.

LISTEN TO 12.8.99 “Ya Mar” NOW! < LINK


8.2.03 IT, Limestone, ME

phishitposterThis second-song “Ya Mar” on the opening day of IT took off flying, setting the improvisational course for the weekend.  Taking the crowd by surprise, Trey led the band through one of the best versions of the song ever played.  The band hit a groove about a third of the way into the song from which they took off and never returned.  Taking the normally upbeat tune into harrowing psychedelic darkness, Phish was at it being Phish again.  The band tore through some distinctly non-afternoon music while the sun still shone brightly; it was a nice paradox.  This version ran right away into “Jim.” IT was gonna’ be a good weekend!

LISTEN TO 8.2.03 “Ya Mar >Runaway Jim” NOW! < LINK



LISTEN TO 7.25.98 “Ya Mar” NOW! < LINK

This one deserves mention in any “best ever” discussion!



I want to send a heartfelt thanks to all the readers for your generous contributions on day one!  Your help will go directly to pay for the colossal month of March with the No Spoilers and Hampton downloads.  I really appreciate your support!  Thanks again!





Today is the eleven year of one of the greatest Phish shows ever played. Period.  A night that would go down in the annals of Phish history, 4.3.98 is right in the running for best show in history.  Enjoy the energy that 4.3 brings, as well as the rest of the weekend.  The other three ain’t too shabby either!  Below are my Island Run posts from earlier this year.




8.8.98 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD SBD < LINK

8.8.98 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD SBD < TORRENT LINK

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Following up yesterday’s topic of Summer ’98, here we have a leaked SBD of the well-loved show from Merriweather.  With bust-outs of “Sweet Jane” and “Sabotage,” Phish kept the covers coming, and with the “Sneaking Sally” and “2001,” they kept the funk coming.  A scorching “Piper” is the centerpiece of the second set which closes with a beautiful “Harry Hood.”

I: The Wedge, NICU, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Guyute, Fikus, Farmhouse, Possum, Sweet Jane*

II: Cavern, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Tela > Piper, Sexual Healing, Harry Hood

E: Sabotage*

*First time played

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316 Responses to “Ya Mar, Ya Mar, Ya Mar, Ya Mar, Ya Mar”

  1. nonoyolker Says:

    Mike and Leo compliment each other’s playing styles so well. I hope they still do some side stuff together. One of the few silver linigs of the hiatus. That and the original trey band circa ’01 summer tour. Dudes brought the heat.

  2. Los Says:


    How bout some ’91 pHISH horn sounds for next week?

    This mpp show was my first down there and never stopped going since. Great sounding recording…shit my pants when I heard opening chords of sabotage…for a minute I thought it was the bboys from where I was…

  3. alumnidog Says:

    My favorite explanation of the song is from the Mike Gordon and Leo Kotke concert from 11-17-02 at the Filmore. Leo Kotke explains it with Mike:

    Leo:”this is a song that I first heard in new york – way up on the 80 gagillionth floor of some building down in.. was it below tribeca or some I don’t know, way up there, looking at everything, I love this tune, and I’ve learned that a billion other people do too. this was first heard at a swimming pool, but not by me.

    Mike:”it was a Bahama swimming pool. And it was by a guy with a gigantic afro and 75 silver necklaces named John Boy. I was just swimming.”

    Leo starts then stops because he thinks he is in the wrong key

    Mike:”the old make him think he is in the wrong key trick”

    Leo:”I was thinking of the differences between me and britney spears. I been thinking about this for some time. She will never ask what key she is in. She will never stop and start again. I don’t think that is possible in her set. Anyway there are some differences. ”

    It is a great show – and there are some fun interactions with the audience throughout. check it out if you don’t have it. It was the first time I realized that Ya Mar was a cover!

  4. c0wfunk Says:

    wax I think that’s 8-20-93 murat theater .. mike sings a little ya mar during the beginning of mike’s song too

    my favorite is the island tour mentioned above, that jam afterwards always reminds me of the jam between (if memory serves) eyes and dancin from 2-26-77 swing auditorium, the one with the sick phil solo. I remember it being a great moment when Trey kicked into that little chordal groove everyone was In IT right there I tell you that. That said, and being an arena version, Ya Mar is one of the best outside fun summer shed songs and I always welcome it, especially first set style.. Listened to the jazz fest last week sometime and really enjoyed that version as well.

  5. In Flagrante Delicto Says:

    Ya Mar to me is a first set, summer shed song. A sunshine song. I can appreciate anytime the boys take one of their simpler tunes (or covers) and throws down the improv, but there’s nothing wrong with some straightforward island fun in the sun, even if they don’t take it too far out.

    This Merriweather Post show was insane, and Sabatage was, to me, the best of the jukebox cover tour tunes. There’s the jump-off moment in Sabatage right before the big note. The energy in that moment of anticipation, JUST before the scream, is something I’ll never forget.

    I remember within a few weeks after it happened, the Beastie Boys had an online chat or something, and I think it was Mike D reacted to the news that Phish had covered the song with a snide comment about hoping the dirty hippies put their hacky-sacks down and danced. I can assure you, we did.

  6. El Duderino Says:

    I always dug the 7/11/00 Deer Creek Ya Mar opener. This one has an extended funk jam. A great way to begin a great night!

    The Dude Abides!

  7. Wax Banks Says:

    @c0wfunk –

    Yes! Soon as I heard that clattering awesome segue I was transported. So much nervous energy in this version, Trey just egging Mike on…wonderful. I gotta say, I don’t miss much about earlyish Phish, but I do miss the silliness.

  8. c0wfunk Says:

    agreed, the silliness is missed, but alas we all grow up a little I guess. murat theatre set 2 is possibly among my favorite 80 minutes or so of phish ever.

  9. verno329 Says:

    YaMar opened up my second show in St. Paul 10/25/95 and then opened my next show at Jazzfest too. The one from Jazzfest was such a wonderful way to open that show, nice Saints Go Marching In tease from Trey. Such a FUN song

  10. nonoyolker Says:

    Totally agree, Ya Mar – 1st set, fun in the sun. I always felt it was a little off when played 2nd set, but maybe that is just me. I think i need to hear the IT version again. I was there and have no memory of it. Pretty sure i had a kick ass time though!

  11. A_Glide Says:

    WTF Miner? I thought for sure you were going to take a break today and dedicate this post to the Bears finally having a quarterback. I’ve already got my Cutler jersey. Granted, I made it myself with a blue shirt and yarn, but I’m rockin it hard today.

  12. DC Says:

    finally a Cutler post.

    fatten up in the receiver position and we are golden

    go BEARS

  13. Matso Says:

    Hey fellas, WaxBanks is right: this very widely circulated Albany recording is slow. Just listen to Mike’s voice. I’ve mentioned this before (when Miner highlighted this version in the Miner’s Picks: Covers, I think) and it’s well-worth trying to get another version, for this Yamar and particularly for the second set.

    So before you flame away at him, please try and read what he’s actually posted.

  14. El Duderino Says:

    The Bears acquired Orlando Pace as well

  15. msbjivein Says:

    ’99 was the year of the Ya Mar for me. I saw 6 Ya Mar’s though out the year. The best ones being as follows 07/23/99 Polaris Ya Mar opener, 07/04/99 Lakewood My soul,Ya Mar,Farmhouse to open the show was killer,12/18/99 Hampton Ya Mar Encore followed by Sleeping Monkey what a way to end a great two night run beforwe Big Cypress,12/30/99 Big Cypress set 1 first day Ya Mar was right in the middle of possibly one of the best day time sets ever!

  16. msbjivein Says:

    Bears still suck. You know they’ll find away fuck this up.
    Go Colts!

  17. SOAM Says:

    Cutler and Pace are not Brady and Seymour.

    ickki shuffle-please!!!!!!!!!

  18. b23 Says:

    What the hell? Now a person can’t criticize a recording? Now, not only are the performances sancrosanct but the very recordings?

    Look, if a recording is slow, it’s slow. That’s not a matter of opinion, conjecture, or anything else.

    “Get back to your own blog with your whole 2+2=4 nonsense. We don’t cotton to that kind of truck around here! And take your Darwin with you, all right?”


  19. Mr.Miner Says:

    I forgot an epic version from South Park Meadow in Austin on 7.25.98…I’ll link it up in a few…

  20. A_Glide Says:

    F da Colts. Your OT was a douche. I was partying with some former Colts dude last weekend and as soon as he realized my friend wasn’t gonna put out he turned into an ass. Just because of that one guy I hate the whole team. (makes sense to me…)

    Every QB has sucked the first year back after getting married so the Pats are F’d. (I can’t back that up with a single stat, but it’s still a fact)

    And SOAM can criticize whatever he wants because it’s hysterical “quit pissing on my face”

  21. dyda Says:

    i don’t really care about football but i guess i’m obligated to mention six-burgh. you should’ve seen the south side (even at halftime). insane 20-block party filled to the gills with crazy yinzers. other places all around the city too, but south side was where it was at. no burning couches.
    hope the flyers lose to the leafs again tonight. go pens!

    check out some older versions of ‘ya mar’ for the mike rap ending that was dropped more often in recent years. and murat was 8.13.93 if that’s what i think is being referred to.

    oh shit, still one more onsale date tomorrow…

  22. Pence Says:

    shouldnt the title of todays article be…Ya Mar Ya Mar Ya Mar Ya Mar Ya Mar Ya Mar Ya Mar. 7 Ya Mars instead of 5

  23. DB Says:

    Interesting take on Ya Mar. Some great versions mentioned as well.
    But, you did make a mistake a couple of times with the 4-5-98 from the Island Tour. You wrote 4-4 but we all forgive you b/c on the torrent link, you corrected yourself. For the best shows in the bands history, you seemed to get the dates mixed up 😉
    Thanks for all

  24. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ Thought of that, but I have 5 versions on the site 😉

  25. shpongleyez Says:

    So, love Ya Mar. Huge fan.

    But what I really want to say is: Last night I was doing to old “check for tickets at sold out shows trick” and the reCAPTCHA was….brokers FIRST

    The fix is in!!!

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