Last night, Amelie and I caught most of the third Smashing Pumpkins show at the Orpheum in Boston, MA. “Most of…” being the operative word, and I’ll get back to that in a second. But first, I want to share with you something Amelie wrote before the show. Her LiveJournal is mostly “friends only,” so if you’re not an LJ friend of hers, the most you’re gonna find is some entry from a year and a half ago. It makes sense, as she’s a teacher, and the last thing she needs is for one of her employers to discover her blog, where she occasionally uses words and discusses subjects inappropriate of a grade school drama teacher.
However, she gave me permission to repost this here. It’s all true, and this is why she’s a “keeper”:
There was a lonesome, skinny fifteen year old girl who had dyed black hair, wore her dad’s old clothes to school and who’s most intimate relationship was with her radio. It was 1995 and music was doing something it hadn’t done before in her lifetime, something it hadn’t done since her parents were teenagers. Suddenly music was dangerous, unpredictable, dissonant and painful as growing up itself. For the first time, music was honest. It seemed to be saying all the things she couldn’t say herself. All the things she couldn’t describe in hastily scrawled 3rd period poems or frantically penciled sketches.
That year of her life would be a jumble of hastily passed notes, intense, torn up friendships and mix tapes dubbed off the radio. Of all the music she’d become obsessed with that year the way only a freshman girl can, she fell the hardest for the Smashing Pumpkins. There was something about the way Billy Corgan’s effeminate whine vascillated between shrill and vulnerably breathy, and the lyrics that were aggressive yet without the all out despiar found in a lot of other music at the time, that seemed to have been ripped straight out of her little adolescent chest.
Not so far away, in a very similar leafy suburb, lived a similarly angsty teenage boy. Although the two crossed paths a few times, they never actually met until they were both much older. Later one of the first real conversations they’d ever have would revolve around their favorite Pumpkins songs.
Over time, their musical tastes changed and matured, the sharpie markered SP hearts faded from jeans and sneakers and the mix tapes wore out, lead singers shaved their heads, bands broke up, but the boy and the girl never forgot what it felt like to lie on a musty bedroom rug in their respective suburban homes and listen to Mayonnaise on their headphones with the volume turned all the way up.
13 years later it still feels the same.
Tomorrow night the boy and the girl will be honoring their teenage selves by seeing The Smashing Pumpkins (and by “The Pumpkins’ we mean Billy Corgan, rehab alum Jimmy Chamberlain and two stand ins for D’arcy and James Iha) live at the orpheum. I have no idea whether I’ll be elated or my adolescent idol will tumble even further from my esteem. There’s one thing I know for sure though, having a boyfriend who works for a radio station is pretty cool. Having a boyfriend who knows exactly how you feel when you hear Geek USA on your car radio? I don’t think I could ask for anything better.
Yeah….. ::sighs happily::
But anyway: back to 2007. The neat thing about being a DJ at A Major Local Rock Station is that, yes, I can occasionally just drop in to my music director’s office and say “hey, Music Director, do we happen to have any Smashing Pumpkins tickets lying around, per chance?” and sometimes the Music Director says “you know what, Andy, here ya go,” and voila, two tickets to the Smashing Pumpkins just land in your hot little hand. I rag on my job a lot, but it’s moments like this that make it awesome.
That was Monday. The show was Tuesday. So was rehearsal.
“Amelie” and I are both appearing in Tomes Of Terror II, a live action radio drama produced by the Post Meridian Radio Players in Somerville, Mass. She’s in a live action version of the Halloween episode of Our Miss Brooks, I’m in a spooky story about a 19th century sailing ship that runs into a Medusa-like creature called The Stone Ship. The tickets for the Pumpkins show said that doors opened at 7:30, the same time as rehearsal. Fine, no big deal – I’m one of those people who actually likes catching the opening band, but I’ll forego Explosions In The Sky for the sake of a previous commitment. Up until that night, rehearsals had only lasted about an hour anyway.
Last night, we added “foley”,” which means that we started integrating the live-action sound effects crew (you know, shoes pounding on blocks of wood, coconuts for horse hooves, that sort of thing – it really is very cool.) Plus, everyone was talking and socializing and that took a lot of time, and usually I’m one of those people talking and socializing but goddammit, the bald headed one awaits!
“Oh bald headed one,” incidentally, is what “Amelie”‘s mom called Billy Corgan. Sort of like how my parents referred to all the music I listened to in the ’90s, collectively, as “Pumpkin Jam.”
The readthrough for my play didn’t start until 8:50, which is when I got a text message from my friend Angie, who was already at the show, saying “they’re on.” Well, crap.
So, we got to the Orpheum at 10pm. We caught the last half of the show, more or less. It was still electric, it was still magical, it was still mind-blowingly amazing in the way that only a performance by one of your favorite musical acts can be. They played a new, harder, stomping version of “Ava Adore” and a version of “Heavy Metal Machine” that seemed to go on forever and they played “Muzzle” in a way that made me love it like I was 16 and lying in my basement. Okay, Billy still wanked a bit too much solo-wise, but I can forgive most of his egomaniacal tendencies. The man is the celebrity I probably identify with the most: a sensitive kid who just wants to rawk, awkwardly cool, coolly awkward, sometimes a control freak but generally good hearted, occasionally unable to finish projects and occasionally unable to stop working.
I realized those things as I stood in Row M of the Orpheum that night – if I were a band, I’d be The Smashing Pumpkins. So there.
So, I’ve been listening to them all day, because I don’t feel like I got quite enough. And that’s fine – they’ll be back, and at least I got to see them for a while, and at least it was free. At some point, I’ll write up a big entry about the Pumpkins, with my Top 10 Pumpkins songs, and I’ll go into more detail about how amazing they are and how you’re totally wrong if you hate them.
But for now, here’s the end of “Cherub Rock” from the show. The sound quality is terrible, so turn down your speakers and just enjoy the pretty lights. You can also see “Amelie” rocking the hell out. Ain’t she cute?