Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Polaris brings its irresistible jangle pop to Northampton

(Official Polaris Facebook Page)

This Friday night, Polaris, the band behind the soundtrack to the cult 1990’s Nickelodeon television show “The Adventures of Pete & Pete,” will hit the stage of the Pearl Street Clubroom in Northampton. Even 20 years after the show’s cancellation, the timeless, evocative indie pop songs that gave the show so much of its charm live on.

Polaris is a project that sprung from the ashes of the New Haven, Connecticut indie rock band Miracle Legion. Despite critical acclaim and a loyal following throughout New England, the band never saw the commercial success that visited so many of their 1980’s underground contemporaries.

But, diving into Miracle Legion’s rich discography reveals the creative blueprints that Mark Mulcahy, the lead singer and primary songwriter of both Miracle Legion and Polaris, would use later in the latter group. In the songs of both Miracle Legion and Polaris – aside from the obvious similarities like the jangling guitars that give it so much spirit – there is an innate, startlingly clear understanding of the yearnings and trappings of youth.

The creators of “The Adventures of Pete & Pete,” Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi, were both fans of Miracle Legion, and saw those qualities in Mulcahy’s surreal but nostalgic songs as a perfect fit for their new show. With Mr. Ray Neal, Miracle Legion’s lead guitarist, unavailable at the time, Mulcahy and the band’s rhythm section – bassist Dave McCaffrey and drummer Scott Boutier- decided to produce music for “The Adventures of Pete & Pete” under the name Polaris.

“The Adventures of Pete & Pete,” an always-weird, but beautifully made show about two teenage brothers named Pete and their adventures in suburban New Jersey, couldn’t have been a better outlet for Mulcahy’s songwriting. Whether the show’s characters were investigating the mysterious neighborhood ice cream man or trying to pass an impossibly difficult driver’s education class, Polaris’ songs always managed to accentuate both the plot and the stranger traits of the characters.

The band itself appeared in the show’s opening credits, performing the show’s delightful theme song, “Hey Sandy.” The trio even chose to adopt nicknames for the series, with Mulcahy going by the name “Muggy,” Boutier adopting the name “Jersey” and McCaffrey taking the name “Harris Polaris.”

Polaris released a cassette entitled “Happily Deranged” – named after a line in “Hey Sandy” – in 1995. It contained three tracks from the show, plus an introduction and closing comments from the older of the two Pete’s from the show. This cassette though, was only available by mail-in from Nickelodeon’s record label, and has never seen wide release.

The band’s sole album, 1999’s “Music from The Adventures of Pete & Pete,” was actually released three years after the show’s cancellation, and contained all 12 tracks the band had recorded for the show. In Oct. 2014 though, in the midst of its first concert tour, Polaris released a digital and cassette single, containing the new songs “Great Big Happy Green Moonface” and “Baby Tae Kwon Do.”

Polaris will bring the same sort of magic it brought to “The Adventures of Pete & Pete” to the Pearl Street Clubroom this Friday night. The Fawns and Fiesta Brava will open the proceedings. Tickets are $17.50 in advance, and $20 at the door.

Jackson Maxwell can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @JMaxwell82

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