Now, almost 20 years (and, let's just admit right here, a good bit of imagination) later, they've come full circle, landing a gig with the Sea Dogs to open every Saturday home game for the 2012 season. It's a dream come true. A saving grace, even.
>> SLIDESHOW: The Kastaways <<
"Really, the band saved my life," says Pete Puffin, during that break at practice. "My smackeral addiction almost killed me." You get used to that kind of thing, hanging out with mascots.
None of it would be possible if they didn't have the chops, though (oh, and human hands — that's a connection they all luckily share). A kid walks by in a Red Sox game jersey? They need to be ready to launch into Smashmouth's "All Star" immediately, just so they can stop abruptly and Herman can say with a fair bit of panache, "Oh, wait, sorry guys. That's not really David Ortiz. That's a two-year-old."
You think it's easy to deliver a line like Simon and Garfunkel's "a nation turns its lonely eyes to you" when your eyes don't actually move?
The crowd, as you might expect, loves it. More than one family that made the mistake of going past the ticket-takers (does anyone know why they carry Harry Potter wands?) and into the stadium find themselves arguing with the no-re-entry policy as their kids beg to go back out and see the band. Any number of kids just promptly sit down on the ground and stare, or dance in circles like the fringes of a Phish concert. There's certainly no way any other band in Maine found themselves in the background of more photos on Facebook last weekend. An old-timer with a little too much time on his hands chats them up at the set break, gushing like a 13-year-old who just got a couple of minutes with One Direction.
Really, the only one who doesn't seem to even notice the band as he walks by to get into the stadium is Al Diamon. But he's been a season-ticket holder since day one, so he's seen just about everything by this point. Also, I've heard he's more cynical than most.
This is the band's transcendent return gig, though, so you have to expect some jitters. The three-part harmonies in "Twist and Shout" are solid, but Herman and Nigel sometimes just don't seem concerned with their mic control. I mean, it's like they think they have microphones wired straight into their heads or something. Herman nails the "is she really going to take him to the game" lyrical change-up on Joe Jackson, but he just can't seem to get that snarl off his face, and a few of the kids in attendance look a little wary. Spike's power chords on "Blitzkrieg Bop" have some serious punch, but he sometimes looks stilted, like he sometimes forgets his bright-red quills mask his emotions so effectively.
No matter. By the time Pete Puffin closes out their last 20-minute set before gametime with Percy Mayfield's "Hit the Road Jack," the Kastaways have won a legion of fans (so what if most of them are in the K-5 set? Everyone knows you can monetize the kid fanbase) without anyone seeing them so much as break a sweat.
Maybe they were a little nervous, but fur, feathers, and an exoskeleton come in pretty handy in such situations.