Mr. Greengenes opened its 2012 schedule last night with a full house at PJ Whelihan's in Cherry Hill. As I watched Bryen and gang plug in and warm up, I was struck that I had been watching these guys (or some incarnation of them) pack bars and clubs since I was in college. They led us bar to bar at the shore like pied pipers in the summers of my young adulthood. My bachelor party culminated with me singing on stage with the band in West Chester.
Later on, after my marriage broke up, and I was looking for things to do on summer weekends without kids, MRGG brought me back to the Delaware beaches, rocking The Bottle & Cork and reminded me how much fun Sea Isle had been as a kid.
There we were when the Phillies won it all in 2008, at the Bike Race in Manayunk, the Hair o' the Dog, and Thanksgiving Eve. I've seen Harry leave the stage, play acoustic and make a triumphant return.
But last night, early in the first set, I leaned my tired 40 something year old body against the the wall behind the sound board and sipped a soda. The lights blasted through the smoky haze and '99 Red Balloons' gave way to 'Sweet Child of Mine' and 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' and I was taken further back than all that. To a time when we were just out watching our buddies play in the cigarette smoke of The Old State Tavern, or in a fraternity house basement, or in a high school gym in Garnet Valley.
Back then it was still Bryen leading the show, but Harry was on the keys before Joe, Rob was playing lead guitar, Timmy wasn't behind the kit yet, no one had wireless mics and Chicken had probably helped do the load out. Most of the people at PJ's last night weren't even out of diapers yet back then, 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' wasn't an oldie, Carlo still came out to see the guys play, and my name was the answer to a ZBT initiation quiz.
As the first set wrapped up and my soda was empty and my legs were aching, I decided that my night of nostalgia was over and headed home early. As I walked across the parking lot, a 20 something young woman called to me from a car where she was putting on eye makeup. 'Is it really packed in there?' she asked.
Yep. Twenty years later it's still really packed and everyone is still having a good time.