Review | Polaris - Live at Lincoln Hall


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From my informal surveying of people I know talking about it on social media, Record Store Day is a divisive issue. It’s either the best day of the year, or a day designed to separate hipsters from their money, or a depressing day where you get rewarded for your dedication with disappointment. This may help! For those of you who get super amped about Record Store Day, this is a double album that was released that day! For those of you who think it’s all a marketing ploy, this particular album wasn’t a RSD exclusive. And for those of you who are bummed out because some blowhole bought up all the brand new Polaris albums at all the stores you visited (which was the case for literally every person I know, in every city), well, this is a brand new Polaris album!

Now, granted, it isn’t that same Polaris album. They released two albums on Record Store Day, and guess what, you can buy BOTH of them now on their website. I’ll wait.

Ok, are you back? Great. So, this album is a live album from a show they did last year in Chicago. Which, come to think of it, is another way this album may improve your life: what if you didn’t go to that show? What if you didn’t go to any shows? Now it’s like you did!

It’s a double album, because you get your money’s worth at a Polaris show, evidently. And yes, they play the hits. It’s awesome to hear the crowd recognize the first couple notes of “Hey Sandy” – we’ve all been to shows and we know this happens, but there’s something fantastic about hearing it happen when you aren’t even there, and feeling that same excitement build in you just as if you were. And, of course, because it’s a live show, things happen, and sometimes a band has to stop and restart the song and the crowd goes even wilder when they start it the second time.

Wait. Do I need to back up? Is some explanation needed? Are there people reading who are too young, or too Canadian, or too un-awesome to know what I’m talking about already? Ok, Polaris was the house band of The Adventures of Pete & Pete, a tv show that aired on Nickelodeon from 1993-1996. Why don’t more shows have a house band? So anyway, everyone loved the show and all its original music, and Polaris putting out records and playing shows is making a lot of people in their 30s and maybe 40s very happy.

Onwards! (Please read that in an Artie, The Strongest Man in the World voice.)

Like I mentioned, they played “the hits,” songs everyone will recognize from the show, like “Summerbaby” and “Hey Sandy” and “Waiting for October.” They also brought out some Polaris deep cuts – shout out to The Nuclears for reminding us about “She Is Staggering” the other weekend; that’s the second track off the album! They also played a couple of new songs, including opening with “Baby Tae Kwon Do” off the Great Big Happy Green Moon Face cassingle that this show’s tour was supporting.

But frontman Mark Mulcahy started out in another band, Miracle Legion, and he played a handful of Miracle Legion songs, so if you’re listening to the record and don’t recognize something, that’s probably why. Those songs tended to be quieter, although you can tell his style and signature in everything he is involved with.

So far, though, I’ve only talked about songs that you can hear on an album of some kind. That’s well and good, but the purpose of going to a show – and by extension listening to a live album – is in the way it enhances the experience of sitting at home and listening. I am talking about banter, people. Banter and covers and audience interaction. The record does not disappoint! Probably the best is when they cover “Man on the Moon” and then segue right into an audience quiz: Pete & Pete was famous for having tons of musicians guest-star, and Michael Stipe was one of these, as Captain Scrummy. So, audience quiz: what was Captain Scrummy’s famous line? Highlight below for answer:

“You look like a bona-fide Sludgesicle man!”

And what else would make a Pete & Pete fan’s day at this show? Well, of course, if Danny Tamberelli – Little Pete himself – came out onstage and sang with Polaris for a song. What could be more pipe?

Well, if you are already a fan, you’ve probably ordered your copy (if you haven’t, you can here), and if you’re not, you probably thought this post was way too long. Either way, though, you should probably go home tonight and watch all the episodes of Pete & Pete you can get your hands on.

In conclusion, I will leave you with the immortal words of Artie, The Strongest Man in the World: “Begone, pulpy, before I fold you into some kind of brochure!”