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”

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  1. Baxter Says:

    Thanks for the history lesson, I always thought Ya Mar was a Phish original, and that Makisupa Policeman was the song Mike heard while on vacation in the Caribbean, so you learn something new every day. Thanx for the site. Peace. Fenway announcement Monday?

  2. Matso Says:

    Between the Albany and IT Yamars, I have to go with IT. This is one of the most sophisticated sounding Phish jams out there. It keeps moving, never settles into anything familiar and has phenomenal interplay between everyone. Just listen to the way they drop out of the Yamar structure so quickly, using almost nothing but Trey’s drone-ish note as a guide, then the way Page works around on the clav while Fish focuses on his snare drum, marching side by side with Mr Anastasio’s growling notes. It just keeps moving and getting better.

    What I love about it too is the way that Trey’s main solo just rips right out there while what’s going on underneath him is still unsettled and in the process of forming. It’s supremely confident and mature playing (I’ve always said the same thing about the 12/30/97 Bag and the solo he rips after that amazing section of full-on band jamming (sort of Psycho-killer esque), then Page hitting a high note repeatedly and with urgency, then Trey taking off).

    I remember being at IT, thinking that the Bag opener wasn’t a particularly momentous way of kicking off the weekend, and then getting completely caught off-guard by the Yamar.

    And finally, my nostalgic, personal, if-push-comes-to-shove, all-time favourite Phish song is Runaway Jim, so when we segued into that, well, I was a happy, happy camper.

  3. Chalkdustin Says:

    Play it Leo!!!!!

  4. bhizzle Says:

    Craaaaazy! After yesterday’s post on 98 I began checking out some summer shows from that year, Vernon Downs and this morning, when I got into the truck I popped in, unbeknowst to me the “Download of the Day”. The Sneakin’ Salley is phenomenal. Albeit I wasn’t the biggest fan of the transition to the Piper.

    Also got a Leo from the NICU

  5. DC Says:

    great idea for a post miner
    it’s like when people get into the dead and start realizing over half of the songs are great covers

    band like Phish exposes hippies to Son Seals, Jimmy Smith, Velvet Underground, Mighty Diamonds, Taj Mahal and other artists they might have never given a chance too

    I love Ya Mar and was pretty dissapointed none at Hampton.
    I thought it would have been a given
    love the leo solos on this one great vibe early in the first set

  6. Little Buddy Says:

    Loved this Merriweather show. I somehow ended up in the front row right in front of Mike and had one of the best show experiences of my life (the always sought after front row/tons of dancing room/beautiful buzz combo). Lost my mind when they broke out the Sabatoge!

    Thanks again, Miner! Love the Yamar history lesson too…

  7. Litteringand Says:

    I live in South Bend, in and i was able to get a tape of a show that phish played at Notre Dame in 1990 (i was ten at the time). The crowd must have been terrible because after a solid Yamar Trey makes a comment like”Mike heard this song while sitting at pool and we played it because you guys seem like your laying out at a pool”. Side bar one of my favorite lot shirts i ever say had a picture of Homer Simpson and Ned Flanders with the line : He was a no good pa, he was an Ok pa

  8. teeofjay Says:

    Don’t pass up the 96 jazzfest set opener! The mood of the day was set when the whole crowd started to boogie in the hot afternoon sun to that Ya Mar!

  9. c0wfunk Says:

    I was close for the merriweather show as well – page side – my buddy’s parents actually came for the first set, they loved the sweet jane cover! The energy during Sabotage rivaled any I’ve seen at a phish show – it was many a grateful gangster kidz’ dream come true. A moment just as great as the Terrapin the next night, in a vastly different way. That pavilion is great, everyone’s close and it’s a tent if I remember correctly isn’t it? I love the way the trees hug the whole place.

  10. msbjivein Says:

    The IT Ya Mar was the shit. The jam they got into was a taste of what was to come one of the best weekends in Phish history.

  11. Billy Breathes Says:

    all i have to say this AM is that 3/8/09 Hampton is the FIRE.

    DWD-7 Below-Horse/Silent-Twist-2001


    That Twist–>2001 is Fuck Yo Face style.

    Can’t wait for SUMMER!

  12. Wax Banks Says:

    Ugh, that 12/13/97 recording (not the performance) is slow and consequently in the wrong key. Painful to listen to.

  13. nonoyolker Says:

    @Wax Banks – You are painful to listen to

  14. SOAM Says:

    Ever hear Mike do the “rectify rap” at the end of Yamar-8-12-96 ?

    out of nowhere he is like talking rapping singing and the word Rectify comes up several times. No idea if this is/was common or what the fuck he was trying to convey -kinda odd


  15. SOAM Says:

    Wax Banks-your elitism and negativity, not to mention your condescending diatribes are painful. please stop pissing in my face.

  16. Wax Banks Says:

    The recording is slow, guys. It’s messed up. And so the vocals sound painfully weird. That’s all I’m saying. What are you on about?

  17. bhizzle Says:

    no need to hate on Wax. He’s not always 100% positive, but not 100% negative either. He is a very good Devil’s Advocate.

  18. Wax Banks Says:

    The phishows.com recording seems to be OK though – it’s worth hearing.

  19. nonoyolker Says:

    YA Mar from the Spectrum ’97 is the heat. That’s the one where Trey’s grandfather “Pootie(???)” is in the crowd?
    I put Hampton on the shelf for a minute and dusted that shit off yesterday. 3rd night has some nice jammers. That DWD->7 -, Twist -> 2001 is fiyah! Got that ish right back in rotation.

  20. Wax Banks Says:

    Which is the version of ‘Ya Mar’ where Trey mistakenly yells ‘Leo!’ before the ‘grandpa’ section, and sticks with it screaming ‘Leo!’ after every Mike lyric thereafter? It’s got all this wacky ‘Where did she wear that thing?’ chatter from Trey and for the life of me I can’t remember which show it is. But that’s maybe my favourite rendition of the song, just the infectious joy of it. The jam being something else, of course, and Miner’s hit the high points on that score I’d say.

  21. McGrupp Says:

    what’s going on wax — not getting enough attention lately? LOL. go back to your own blog, please.

  22. empire01 Says:

    I just finished listening to Mike and Leo sixty-six steps version of Ya Mar. on the way to work..mike kicks ass on that album.

    I wonder what if any of their side project material will come into the phish world.

  23. idioso Says:

    where did that california love come from yesterdays summer of funk download?

  24. DC Says:

    Twist was def sick (got heavy psychedellic)

    after listening to the flacs a bunch of times I still keep going back to the Twist, Split Open, and the Wolfman’s

    The funk jam with the new synths on wolfman’s gets sticky and funky from jump, Mike starts playin with that new funky ass bass pedal and then Trey brings it back for a sick rock n roll pentatonic based solo
    fuckin great stuff

    if these 3 jams are a representation of what we may hear this summer
    it is on

    Split was tight as fuck also and went instantly dark

  25. Frankie Says:

    Yeah, i did also listened to that 3/8 second set yesterday too… That DWD jam got me really excited about the musical possibilities of this 2009 incarnation! It’s so unique but phishy at the same time, like the reincarnation of something beautiful… can’t wait to hear where they take IT this summer! 😀

    Today, i’m still digesting that Summer ’98 Phish… Haven’t heard a couple of those jams in a while… That 7.20.98 Bathtub Gin opener is the funk!! Only Phish can pull that off right out of the gates… So addictive…

    Thanks Mr. Miner as always for this awesome site!

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