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May 17, 2022

New Phillies organist brings '90s fun to Citizens Bank Park

A Philly musician was tasked with giving classic hits a ballpark feel

Slap a bracelet on your wrist, feed your Tamagotchi and walk into Citizens Bank Park ready to transport yourself back to the 1990s. The Phillies' Throwback Thursday festivities, where they don their iconic baby blue uniforms, have a '90s theme this season. Beyond the retro uniforms that make fans go wild, the Phillies are taking an even greater step to provide that sweet nostalgia this year: a new organ playback system filled with '90s jams composed by a Philly yacht rock band frontman.

Whether you've been in South Philly as a spectator or simply watch Phils games on TV, you're sure to have heard some recognizable beats blaring at CBP.  That music comes from Brian Anderson, a Philadelphia musician who's been given the task of turning the most recognizable tracks of the '90s into organ music fit for the ol' ballpark.

For people of a certain age, "Still D.R.E." by Dr. Dre is the most iconic beat for this generation. In a star-studded performance at this past February's Super Bowl in Los Angeles, that infectious piano intro was played to hundreds of millions of football fans across the globe. 

"It stemmed from the Super Bowl halftime show with Dre and all those guys," Anderson says about the performance that included Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Mary J. Blige, artists that became superstars right before the new millennium kicked off. "It led to '90s Throwback Thursday being the theme this year and the organization asked if I could play a Dr. Dre song on the organ. I said 'Well, I can try!' 

"Obviously, you can't play a Dre song without a beat. I had to drop a beat in there and we did and it was cool. From there it went from this more traditional thing to these drum beats that give it a different feel... All the hip-hop is super fun to do. It's so unique, the way you've never heard this stuff. Adding a beat into it just brings a different element. I like tweaking the traditional format without taking things too far." 

Sean Rainey, Director of Video Production for the Phillies, helped spearhead this undertaking and bring Anderson's '90s-loving organ creations to Citizens Bank Park.

"One thing we take pride in is trying to give fans a new experience. One thing our players typically like is going to other stadiums and hearing the organ," says Rainey, who's in his 14th year with the Phillies. "What we wanted to really do is bring that experience here and put our own little twist on it. We thought it would be great if someone could do more traditional tunes and the classic crowd prompts as well."

It was clear from the jump that this was going to work in the eyes of both Anderson and the Phillies.

"As soon as we heard the first track, we knew we had something," says Dee Kelchner, an integral member of the Phillies' Video Services team who is in her fourth year with the organization.

While an organ playing a few quick notes before tens of thousands of fans yell, "CHARGE!" in unison has been commonplace in baseball for decades and decades, the time felt ripe for something new. The beginning of the 2022 season brought fans back to the park from Opening Day onward at full capacity, something that hadn't happened in a few years. A new approach was born as people poured into CBP like they haven't done in seemingly forever.

"I think we wanted to approach this a little bit differently, something fresh," Anderson says. "It was tricky because you're taking something that's very traditional, but it's a game we're trying to bring a younger audience to."

Anderson is not playing a live organ at Citizens Bank Park, however, as these are pre-recorded tracks that fall upon the Video Services members to deploy at the right moment. Kelchner is tasked with taking these "bumpers," clips of music that Anderson had recorded previously, and playing them whenever the Phillies take the field or are in between at-bats. Kelcnher uses a playback system and the Clip Effects program to do so, laying out more than 200 options before a game even starts.

CBP can go full-'90s and play "Smells Like Teen Spirit" after the Phillies record the final out of an inning or queue up the more traditional "Gonna Fly Now" theme from "Rocky" during clutch situations late in games. Whether it's rock or rap or quintessential baseball fare or Philly cliches, Anderson's organ music leads the way. 

Speaking about the energy Anderson brings, Rainey says, "My favorite thing is that he's such a big Phillies fan. He's such a good musician. Just to work with him. It's a great relationship." 

"Big Phillies fan" might actually be underselling it, as Anderson uses a Phillies-branded organ to cook up songs for the ballpark from his home studio. 

"This is just so cool as a musician and a Phillies fan," Anderson says. "I'm loving every second of it. I'm super honored." The reaction has been great so far this season. Anderson has fun with it, monitoring fan takes on Twitter with his @MaestroPhillies account. 

Anderson has also incorporated more modern hits into his repertoire too, such as Harry Styles and Dua Lipa. While a certain PhillyVoice staff member requested Third Eye Blind, it remains to be seen whether the late-'90s pop rock hit-makers will be included at Citizens Bank Park this season. At the very least, Phillies fans may hear a track that transports them back to elementary or high school this summer, the ultimate trip down memory lane for a sport so tied to its past. 

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