Phish Defeat Audience in Chess During ‘Dinner and a Rematch’ NYE Broadcast
On Dec. 31, Phish presented a special, year-end edition of their ‘Dinner and a Movie’ broadcast series. Re-dubbed ‘Dinner and a Rematch,’ the band aired their monumental New Year’s Eve 1995 performance at Madison Square Garden. Simultaneously, the four members of Phish – guitarist Trey Anastasio, drummer Jon Fishman, bassist Mike Gordon and keyboardist Page McConnell – played in an online chess match against the audience, recalling their in-person Band vs. Audience matches in 1995.
The four-and-a-half hour broadcast began with a re-airing of the band’s parody video announcing the broadcast. Gordon then made a pre-taped opening move (king side knight to F3) from a chess board taped to the back of a flame-themed bass. However, just as it was time to begin the game (and as the show kicked off with opener “Punch You In The Eye”), Chess.com, the popular chess site hosting the online game, crashed. The band and the site quickly pivoted, resuming the game in a different format with a moderator making the fan’s moves.
In between sets, the broadcast cut to a live zoom call between all four band members, during which they discussed their next moves in the game and chatted. At various points, Gordon and Anastasio picked up guitars, and Gordon had a surreal projection of a chess board floating behind him at times. During the first break, McConnell referenced the technical difficulties. “I’m sorry this didn’t work out to plan, but nothing this year did,” he said with a laugh.
During the break between the second and third sets, the shenanigans increased, with drummer Jon Fishman following through on an off-hand promise to shave his head. (At first, the other three band members didn’t even notice.)
Ultimately, the band defeated the audience, as they did in the original Band vs. Audience chess match in the fall of 1995. (The audience later avenged that loss, eliciting a resignation from the band during the very show that was airing.) Down to just their king, queen and a few pawns, the audience resigned as the band was up a pawn and still had a rook and queen on the board. After the resignation (and still in the middle of Fishman’s head-shave), the band wished the audience a happy New Year before returning to the show’s final set.
As the clock struck midnight and 2020 turned to 2021, fans were treated to footage of Phish’s 1995 New Year’s gag, which saw the band dressed as scientists playing synths in the “Phish Time Factory,” which Anastasio had referenced in the first set’s “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent” narration. Fishman was lifted in a bed as “Father Time.” As the year turned to 1996, Gordon, McConnell and Anastasio returned to their instruments to play “Auld Lang Syne.” Meanwhile, Fishman was “reborn” as “Baby New Year.” The band then kicked into “Weekapaug Groove,” as the first set had closed with “Mike’s Song.” Check out the full setlist from the show below
As with each ‘Dinner and a Movie,’ Phish raised funds for a charity during the broadcast. “For this final webcast of the year, our beneficiary will be none other than The WaterWheel Foundation itself,” the band wrote prior to the stream. “Since 1997, the band and their fans have collaborated on a nationwide charitable endeavor by raising funds and donating the proceeds across the country. This year alone, collectively we have raised and donated nearly $750,000 to 27 different nonprofits during the Dinner And A Movie series. Join us in continuing to support those in need. Donate at www.phish.com/waterwheel.”
The entire webcast is still available to watch on Phish’s YouTube page; view it below. In addition, New Year’s Eve 1995 is an archival release and can be found on all major streaming platforms and LivePhish.com.
Dec. 31, 1995
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Set I: 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 II: Drowned -> The Lizards, Axilla (Part II) > Runaway Jim, Strange Design, Hello My Baby, Mike’s Song -> Digital Delay Loop Jam
Set III: Auld Lang Syne > Weekapaug Groove > Sea and Sand, You Enjoy Myself, Sanity, Frankenstein
Enc: Johnny B. Goode
 No whistling.
 Narration discussed how Phish makes time in the Phish Time Factory.
 Phish debut; Tom Marshall on vocals.