Lindsay Foley and her roommates weren’t surprised to see bright lights flashing into their second-floor apartment window at Commonwealth Avenue Wednesday night.
Earlier that day, their landlord had warned them about projections being displayed on the side of the building to celebrate the return of legendary Boston rock band Aerosmith ahead of the group’s Fenway Park concert Thursday.
But as they walked outside of 1325 Commonwealth Ave. and aimed their phones at the colorful Aerosmith iconography swirling across the facade, they were shocked when a black SUV rolled up — and frontman Steven Tyler walked out.
“Is this real? What is happening?” her roommate, Gabrielle Dixon, exclaimed in a video taken as the singer emerged. “What the heck!”
A crowd of about 50 people soon formed around the 74-year-old rock star as he returned to his old stomping grounds, the Allston apartment where members of the band lived in the 1970s. Clad in a trench coat, Tyler struck a pose outside the front doors.
Foley said Tyler hung out for about 20 minutes taking pictures with fans and taking a walk down memory lane.
“He was talking about where the liquor store was when they used to live there and pointing down the street,” Foley said. “And how they used to set up recording equipment in the basement of the building and soundproofed it so they could have a private rehearsal space.”
Tyler also talked to one of the apartment’s current tenants, Emerson College student Amun Prophet. He said Tyler told him that Prophet’s bedroom used to belong to Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry and that the unit’s hallway was once crammed with amplifiers and other music equipment.
“He was so cool,” said Prophet, 22. “He shook my hand and was grabbing my arm all excitedly when he was talking about the apartment. He was pretty enthusiastic.”
The apartment building — where the band lived while trying to make a name for themselves in Boston — has become a landmark for Aerosmith fans. A plaque that commemorates the history and describes it as the “Aerosmith Apartment” hangs on a wall outside. The group is currently on its twice-postponed 50th-anniversary tour.
A representative for the band said that Tyler decided to visit his old building, one of five across Boston that hosted Aerosmith projections Wednesday, after wrapping up at rehearsal. Longtime rock ‘n’ roll photographer Ross Halfin was there to capture the moment on camera.
The light display was scheduled to return to the apartment building Thursday night, with others planned for locations on Boylston Street and in the Seaport District, the spokesperson said.
This wasn’t the first time Aerosmith swung by their old place. In 2012, the band showed up at the building and performed a 45-minute set that drew thousands of people and closed down the street.
It was a quieter affair this time around, and Tyler didn’t belt out any tunes, Foley said.
Foley, a first-year graduate student at Boston University, said she was intrigued by the building’s place in music history when she moved in from Colorado last week. (Her unit is adjacent to the band’s.)
“But we never expected to see Steven Tyler,” she said. “We were like, ‘What are the odds?’”
Spencer Buell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerBuell.