Going Back To Wellsville: Six Great Musical Moments From The Adventures Of Pete & Pete

Michael Stipe as Sludgesicle-peddling Captain Scrummy.
Michael Stipe as Sludgesicle-peddling Captain Scrummy.

Like a defiant cannonball splash disturbing the tranquility of an adult swim, the Nickelodeon series The Adventures of Pete & Pete lives on. Over three seasons between 1993 and 1996, the show followed the adventures of two brothers each named Pete Wrigley, their parents, their friends, and the entire population of the fictitious suburban town known as Wellsville.

Barely noticed at the time, the cult of Pete & Pete has slowly gained traction in the intervening years. In tribute to that fact, the original cast reunited in Los Angeles last November for the first time since 1996. It's New York's turn on Friday, when the Bowery Ballroom hosts two shows titled "An Evening With the Cast and Crew of The Adventures of Pete & Pete."

Then, as now, Pete & Pete defied description. It came on like a warped Wonder Years, mixing surreal details and odd plot twists with an unusual, wholesome sweetness. But Pete & Pete truly distinguished itself in at least two ways. First of all, there was the galaxy of guest stars: LL Cool J and Violent Femmes singer Gordon Gano portrayed elementary school teachers; Adam West played the principal; Steve Buscemi showed up as a suburban dad; and Ann Magnuson was a postal carrier.

But perhaps more important was the music. These days, one can hardly watch three commercials without hearing some obscure nugget taken out of context, but that was certainly not the case in 1993. Pete & Pete was among the first longform shows, cable or otherwise, to incorporate indie-rock and underground bands into its very fabric. The long-running Connecticut band Miracle Legion performed the title track under nom de plume Polaris, and provided background music for most episodes. Years before 69 Love Songs cemented Stephin Merritt's place as a renowned songwriter, Pete & Pete used Magnetic Fields and 6ths tracks as bed music. Even the town name "Wellsville" was a deliberate hat tip to Wichita cult heroes The Embarrassment.

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In honor of this Friday's reunion, here are six of Pete & Pete's most memorable musical moments. If you didn't score tickets in time to attend, pour yourself a hot cup of Kreb Full O'Nuts coffee and enjoy these clips.

(Disclaimer: I had a hand in suggesting some of the show's background music. However, I didn't work directly on the show itself, nor was I paid for my input.)

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