Tonight (Wednesday, September 30th), Phish will air their three-set December 25th, 1995 New Year’s show at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY for Dinner and a Rematch, a special edition of the band’s quarantine cooking and archival webcast series, Dinner and a Movie, featuring an exciting new wrinkle: the return of audience chess. Tune in below at 8:30 p.m. ET and scroll down to follow along with our 12/31/95 Stream Companion.
Phish Dinner and a Rematch New Year’s Eve – 12/31/95 at Madison Square Garden [STREAM]
Dinner and a Rematch marks the 29th installment of the series following last month’s trip back to Hampton Coliseum in 1997. Browse through all the past Dinner and a Movie episodes and Stream Companions below
Phish Dinner and a Movie – Past Episodes
Episode 29: Dinner and a Rematch – 12/31/95 & Audience Chess Grudge Match
12/31/95 is a hall-of-fame show, the first MSG NYE, one of those rare performances that universally passes the litmus test as an all-timer, even within Phish’s famously opinionated fanbase. It checks all the boxes—from big jams to Gamehendge classics to onstage shenanigans, and beyond. Before we talk about this show, however, let’s talk chess. In late 1995, as Phish traveled around the country on an extensive tour, they initiated a new challenge with their fans: chess. Using a massive board behind the stage, the band played chess against the audience, a couple moves per show, throughout the tour. The first of two matches started on 9/30/95 at Shoreline Amphitheatre, where Page McConnell and a tour kid named Pooh played out the first few moves of the match as the band appropriately jammed on Jefferson Airplane‘s “White Rabbit”. The match continued on 10/2/95 in Seattle with some moves as the band played “Night Moves”. More moves came on Halloween in Chicago, and Trey Anastasio taunted the audience with some “We Are The Champions” teases during their move on 11/9/95 in Atlanta and finally won the first match in Tampa, FL on 11/15/95.
With plenty more tour left, the band and audience jumped straight into the second chess match the following night, 11/16/95, in West Palm Beach. The opening moves were made during a short jam following “Runaway Jim” that featured Trey on percussion. Watch the beginning of the second Phish vs. Audience chess match from 11/16/95 below:
Phish vs. Audience Chess Game 2 Begins – 11/16/95
The second match was off and running—but Phish would have a tougher time repeating their victory. With a chip on their shoulder after the loss to the band, the audience made a comeback in game two and finally prompted Phish to resign after capturing their queen on New Year’s Eve 1995 at Madison Square Garden—the same show we’ll revisit tonight on its 25th birthday.
Of course, we couldn’t possibly recap this matchup better than Phish did themselves with the Dinner and a Rematch announcement video, which casts the Phish vs. Audience chess competition as a classic sports rivalry a la NFL Films. Take a few minutes and watch the clip below:
Phish Dinner and a Rematch Announcement Video
Now, 25 years later, Phish will finally settle the score on the long-tied band vs. audience chess competition from the late-1995 tour. Along with tonight’s showing of 12/31/95, Phish will once again battle the audience in a game of virtual chess. With Queen’s Gambit currently stealing headlines left and right and this milestone anniversary of the storied Phish vs. Audience chess saga upon us, the stakes have never been higher. It’s one-one. They won one. We won one. This one’s for all the (pebbles and) marbles. Get the info on how to join in on the Phish vs. Audience chess rematch as part of Dinner and a Rematch below:
We’ve teamed up with the fine folks at Chess.com to host the Band vs. Audience online chess game which will start right at the top of the show and move at a decent clip. In short, fans will have 5 minutes to move their piece (the band will have no more than that as well). At the end of 5 minutes, whichever move has the most votes is the ‘audience’ move. Stick around during the set breaks as the band joins in from their various homes, playing a few moves and providing scintillating commentary on the game.
To join the audience in voting for moves against the band, you will first need to become a member of Chess.com. It is free and you can click here to go directly to the registration page. After you verify your account by email, click here to join the official club for the audience side. We will post and send out the actual game link on 12/31.
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Now, for the show. Much of this late-’95 tour is lauded as all-time Phish, but this show is often singled out as one of the greats for how well-rounded it is within its general ’95 greatness. It’s quite difficult to poke holes in any aspect of 12/31/95, and its only detractors seem to lower its proverbial rank based on overall impressive quality of the shows that surrounded it on the band’s schedule—1995 was quite a time to be alive for fans of Phish. A few of the many highlights include a “Punch You In The Eye” opener, back-to-back-to-back 10+ minute jams in the first set (“Reba”, “The Squirming Coil”, “Maze”), a “Forbin’s”/”Mockingbird” featuring a Tom Marshall-assisted cover of “Shine”, part of a narration about how Phish, in fact, creates time at the “Gamehendge Time Factory” and the years wouldn’t move forward without them. Pause to wipe that wistful tear off your cheek… and that’s just set one.
After the audience won the second 1995 chess match to open set two, the band—who felt like they were “drowning,” as Trey joked in the chess rematch announcement video—opened the set with a weighty “Drowned”, still fresh on everyone’s mind after the Quadrophenia Halloween show a few months prior. A glorious run through “The Lizards” and a raging “Axilla (Part II)” preceded another highly noteworthy jam on “Runaway Jim”. A monster, 20-minute “Mike’s Song” helped to close out set two before dissolving into a “Digital Delay Loop Jam”.
The greatest highlight of New Year’s 1995 was still to come, as the band returned to a stage set with a “Phish Time Machine,” all four band members aptly dressed as scientists, creating time.
With some theatrical magic, Jon Fishman was lifted up in a bed as Father Time and was reborn as the Baby New Year as the band welcomed 1996 with “Auld Lang Syne” and the segue into “Weekapaug Groove” still owed from set two. This “Groove” was no slouch, either, as it stretched to nearly 18 minutes in length before moving into “Sea and Sand” and, in turn, a celebratory “You Enjoy Myself”. With time for a few more, Phish dusted off “Sanity” for the first time in 147 shows and followed that with a “Frankenstein” set closer. A “Johnny B. Goode” encore finally closed out the memorable affair.
The show has long been available as an official release, and it so happens to have been this writer’s first introduction to 1.0 Phish as a young nooblet. That said, having the chance to relive the full video of the show—and finally take part in this storied chess rivalry—surely takes some of the sting out of a New Year’s Eve without live Phish.
Here’s to the great creators of time for helping push us out of this nightmare of a year in epic fashion (you know, within the prerequisite restrictions). And here’s to you, fellow fans, for what will surely be a resounding defeat of the Phish on the chess board tonight. Game. On.
Setlist: Phish | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 12/31/95
Set One: Punch You in the Eye, The Sloth > Reba, The Squirming Coil > Maze, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird > Shine > Fly Famous Mockingbird > Sparkle > Chalk Dust Torture
Set Two: Drowned -> The Lizards, Axilla (Part II) > Runaway Jim, Strange Design, Hello My Baby, Mike’s Song -> Digital Delay Loop Jam
Set Three: Auld Lang Syne > Weekapaug Groove > Sea and Sand, You Enjoy Myself, Sanity, Frankenstein
Encore: Johnny B. Goode
 No whistling.
 Narration discussed how Phish makes time in the Phish Time Factory.
 Phish debut; Tom Marshall on vocals.
Reba did not have the whistling ending. The narration in Mockingbird discussed how Phish makes time in the Gamehendge Time Laboratory, which set up the New Year’s Eve stunt. The Phish debut of Shine featured Tom Marshall on vocals. Trey teased Shine in Runaway Jim. Mike’s Song contained a Dave’s Energy Guide tease from Page. The second set ended with a Digital Delay Loop Jam out of Mike’s, and the third set opened with the Phish Time Factory machine. All four band members dressed as scientists playing with synths while lights flashed and Van de Graaff generators zapped. Fish was lifted up in a bed as Father Time and was reborn as the Baby New Year. Weekapaug featured Auld Lang Syne, Dreaming (Blondie), and Spooky teases and was unfinished. This was the first performance of Sanity since June 24, 1994 (147 shows). This show was officially released as New Year’s Eve 1995 – Live at Madison Square Garden.
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