When Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray fame steps into a room, he has a way of enveloping every single person in it with the walls of his enthusiasm. A celebrity spreading his energy into a group of people gathered before them is normal, but that energy existing as pure, unbridled optimism is definitely rare — and McGrath exuded that optimism all night when the Crystal Pepsi Throwback Tour landed in Phoenix, effectively invading the city with ’90s throwback vibes.
Pepsi decided to bring a few journalists along for that ride, and what initially seemed like a chill day in a warm city eventually turned into an entertaining mix of home runs, fried foods, sunshine and 90s nostalgia. For the return of their mythical Crystal Pepsi, they teamed up with a team that was formed in the ’90s, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and a musical staple from the ’90s — McGrath and his band Sugar Ray.
To mark the momentous occasion, Pepsi took over Phoenix on a warm Friday evening as the Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs — complete with a large congregation of traveling fans that made the game feel like a home game for the Cubbies — and plenty of throwbacks to the internet’s favorite decade peppered into the festivities. The team superimposed the faces of several players onto iconic characters from the ’90s like Ace Ventura, Happy Gillmore or Steve Urkel and played old school ’90s hits from all genres all night. Throwback outfits were sprinkled throughout the stadium on fans and team employees, and even the four massive home runs hit over the course of the game were reminiscent of the ’90s era of juiced up baseballs and players.
Still, the star of the night was McGrath, who lit up the press room before the game as he rotated between reporters discussing his decades-long career, the ’90s era he helped define, and the Crystal Pepsi that brought it all together on the second night of a whirlwind, three-day tour that included a stop in New York with Busta Rhymes and another in Miami with Salt-N-Pepa. Part of that optimism he just oozes is rooted in his ability to embrace nostalgia, and what it means to be an act that maintains its reverence from fans years after his commercial peak.