It was weird for me to see the Smashing Pumpkins. Not bad, just weird. They were my favorite performance of the festival, but I felt like the entirety of my music-loving life was hanging on my shoulders as I watched them.
You see, the Smashing Pumpkins were my gateway into music obsession. Proving that from its very genesis, I’ve had bad luck in timing my musical discoveries, I got into the Pumpkins on the day they broke up. I was at a friend’s house and heard the news on MTV. I remembered that I had a lot of older friends who were into them and figured I should maybe lend an ear. At that time I was only moderately interested in music with a focus on the Beatles, Beach Boys, Monkees or Rolling Stones. Accessible, catchy and classic made up my collection. So when I heard the crunch of “Zero” and the honesty of “Muzzle,” it was as if I was seeing life in a new range of colors.
My next memory of the Pumpkins is of being in Louisville with my dad at the Great Escape. Until that point, I’d mostly been interested in the store because it was the greatest comic book shop in Kentucky. But that day I plunked down a wad of cash and picked up the Aeroplane Flies High box set. Considering how often I switched discs in my CD player, it’s a wonder that I still have the set in good condition.
So you can imagine that seeing Billy Corgan front my one-time favorite band less than ten feet from me is something that was both beautiful and shocking. After all, the band had never existed as more than a memory to me. Every live recording I’d heard had long ago been committed to tape. All the photographs of the band were years and years old. This was like seeing Joe Strummer rise from the grave to play “White Riot” with the Clash.
Though I’m not a fan of the new Pumpkins record, I have to say that their show in New Orleans was fantastic. The setlist left a lot to be desired, but that’s almost to be expected when the band has covered as much musical ground over such a span of time as the Pumpkins have. Still, there was “Hummer,” “Set the Ray to Jerry” and covers of “Born on the Bayou” and “I Love Rock and Roll” (WHICH I WILL NEVER FORGIVE MYSELF FOR MISSING). Fantastic highlight to a great festival. Thank you, Smashing Pumpkins.