Review: Polaris at The Chapel

Spoiler alert: Polaris sounds exactly the same live as they do on their recordings. And I mean this in the best way possible.

Friday night, when the band took its Waiting for October tour to The Chapel in San Francisco, was a giant 90s throwback, from their performance of the former Nickelodeon show’s theme song “Hey Sandy” to their cover of REM’s 1992 hit “Man on the Moon,” which included audience Elvis imitations.

The show wasn’t sold out, but everyone who made it through the doors of The Chapel, a former cathedral that is now a concert venue in San Francisco’s Mission WP_20150424_016District, needed to pinch themselves to believe it.

This is largely because Polaris, despite being around since the 90s, never toured until last year. We thought our exposure to Polaris would forever be limited to old CDs — they’re not even on Last.fm (high fives, hipsters) — and Pete and Pete DVDs (though now the show is on Amazon).

The audience favorites were “Hey Sandy” — the crowd lost it when lead singer Mark Mulcahy said “this one will require counting down,” because we all know the song’s epic intro begins with “4-3-2-1” — Little Pete’s favorite song “Summerbaby,” and “Recently,” which someone politely requesting by passing a piece of paper with the title written down along the crowd to Mulcahy.

A few other, lesser-known songs were also worth mentioning. “Waiting for October” has the power to elicit nostalgia for something that never even happened, and “Saturnine” transports you to a summer drive with the windows rolled down.

Mulcahy, Dave McCaffrey (guitar), and Scott Boutier (drums) — known on Pete and Pete as”Muggy,” “Harris Polaris,” and “Jersey,” respectively — seemed genuinely excited to be playing their songs, perhaps because they recently picked them back up after a long latency period.

And man has this period been long for the band’s cult following. “You saved my life on more than one occasion!” one audience member shouted. (I know what you’re thinking and no, said “member” was not me.) “We’re not really in the life-saving business, but whatever we can do,” Mulcahy responded.

Now that I have jumped up and down singing “I wasn’t aroooound, nobody knows, nobody knows” not just in the privacy in my bedroom but also in front of the actual people who created that song, how am I going to make the rest of my life matter? Have I peaked at 24? This concert has brought up some pretty big questions for me.

I’ll try to figure out some way to make the rest of my life measure up, but in the meantime, thanks, Polaris, for giving me and the rest of your fans the opportunity of a lifetime, and one we never thought we’d see in our lifetimes.