Fourteenth and U was swelling as I stumbled out of the Gibson around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday—-the time D.C.’s busiest intersection for nightlife would be winding down on a normal weekend. On this evening, the whole street seemed to be in a highball haze, and it still had a couple hours to go. For worse or for better—-embarrassingly or to our credit—-inauguration is D.C.’s quadrennial mardi gras.

Even as more than half a million people crowd the National Mall today, this year’s D.C. mardi gras won’t be like the last one. Four years ago, it was a historic moment of which we all wanted a piece; this time, it’s a day of relief, chastened expectations, and perhaps—-if you’re the kind of person who’ll brave the crowds just to watch the ceremonial swearing-in on a Jumbotron—-determination in the face of frustration. Whoever you are, it’s a given you’ll be thinking back today to the promise—-and to the parties—-of 2009.

Four years ago, Darrow Montgomery chronicled inauguration weekend in a City Paper photo essay. Before you look ahead to President Barack Obama‘s second term, take a look back.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery