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. guyforget Says:

    New Orleans is my favorite town in the country. Hands down.

  2. BingosBrother Says:


  3. wizzle1986 Says:

    Football is America’s sport, Baseball is America’s pastime

  4. Davey Says:

    I don’t like either of them. Obama was cool until he went back on all his promises and reinstated the patriot act. Bummer.

  5. Asher Says:

    I love it when a plan comes together! For some reason 2 of my favourite things begin with a PH. The Phish, of course, and the World Fuckin’ Champion Philadelphia Phillies. I just realized that by some amazing coincidence they will both be in Chicago at the same time this August!! Phish on the 11th and the Phils vs. Cubbies @ Wrigley on the 12th & 13th!! Looks like I’m trying for Toyota Park tix tomorrow.

  6. Frankie Says:

    Anybody heard that new Neil Young record? It’s up for streaming on his myspace… really not his best one but gotta love that guitar playing! Good ol’ Neil! 🙂

  7. Cottle Says:


    There’s a sticker floating around this tour with “Phinally” printed on it and it’s done in the Phillies font.

  8. Asher Says:

    I have got to get me one of those.

  9. old dude Says:

    Too bad Sheffield just said no thanks to the World Fuckin Champions.
    GO METS!

  10. Jerrydamule Says:

    N’awlins = Igors, Robert Randolph at The Maple Leaf, Snake & Jakes late night. Nuff said. Great weekend all!

  11. carl Says:

    ya mar… 5/23/00 loop jam

    “play it in A, Leo, play it in A!”

  12. c0wfunk Says:

    wow sheffield to the mets nice surprise .. the game is streaming on mlb.com if you don’t know. I think the yanks are on mlb network on the tv..

  13. bcb Says:

    hate to fall off topic, but i was just wondering what you all think the best show with the GCH was? I’ve been 7.12.91 a bunch lately, and realized it might be my only show with some horn action. Any thoughts or recommendations? Possibly a Ya Mar with horns? (brought it back on topic. Boom.)

  14. old dude Says:

    great, thanks cowfunk. one more distraction at work!

  15. Asher Says:

    HAHAHA. The Mets can have Sheff. I’ll take that World series trophy, thanks. Fightins.com put it perfectly-

    “The dude is practically tailor made for the Mets – he’s old, he’s an outfielder, he’s an asshole. Who gives a shit if we’d pay him the league minimum to crank 15-20 HR off the bench. He’s still Gary Sheffield, and Gary Sheffield ain’t no Phillie.”

  16. old dude Says:

    You do realize 5-10 of that old assholes HRs will come against the Phils, right?

    Mets should have the East wrapped up by Aug12-13, Ahser – you should make your way toward Darien after Toyota. 😉

  17. c0wfunk Says:

    7-11 and 7-15-91 were always my standby country horns shows, maybe 7-21-91 too? – there’s a flynn theater show from 94 or something (4-4-94?) that is another classic “straight from gamehenge, the Giant Country Horns” -> suzie G

  18. old dude Says:

    bcb – the tape i had from the 91 GCH tour was Arrowhead, remember it fondly. lizards is always better for horns.

    there was a show in 94(?) where they make a cameo. you can hear crowd goes nuts as they enter stage during suzy, trey intros them just as they hit the chorus. little help, anyone?

  19. old dude Says:

    what cowfunk said.

  20. c0wfunk Says:

    lol nice

  21. Asher Says:

    old dude – touche. Even if the Mets have the East title w/in reach by mid Aug. That gives them at least a month and a half to choke it away. Zing!
    But seriously, it should be an exciting season for all. Check out this side by side Phils/Mets blog. http://weretheteamtobeat.com/ It’s pretty good stuff.

    Back to Phish though… GCH brings the heat at the previously mentioned 4-4-94 @ the Flynn. That’s my pick.

  22. bcb Says:

    Awesome, I’m checking out that arrowhead show right now, dl’ing the 4-4 show.


  23. cottle Says:

    I’m glad yall brought those up…I haven’t heard any Horns shows in a while…gonna have to dig through the archives.

  24. BingosBrother Says:

    That “straight from gamehenge” suzy has 2 of the most wicked Page rips in history. Forget which tape it was, but I wore those solos out. Also a very good Jungle Book from Fishman. Classic Phish w/ GCH. Maybe someone at Roo can find some horns to play. Veal Cutler! Da Bears!

  25. Asher Says:

    Also, check out 9-26-99 NOLA Lakefront Arena. Michael Ray & Tim Green from the Cosmic Krewe dropped the brass on CTB, Funky Bitch & Free Thought in the 1st set.

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