Smashing, Pumpkin: or my surreal @Billy Corgan experience. – life+running

Smashing, Pumpkin: or my surreal @Billy Corgan experience.

It’s taken me a while to compile my thoughts for this post. You see, this whole experience was surreal to me, and I’m still in la-la-land and left wondering, “Wait — did that actually happen?”

If you know me, have been a long-time follower of this blog, or happen to listen to my radio show, then you know that one of my all-time favorite artists is The Smashing Pumpkins. As a kid, they were the first band I discovered that was really me, and they made me realize from a very young age that being an outcast was OK (anybody seen the video for Today?). Music by the Smashing Pumpkins covers more than two decades and many genres of music, but they are most well-known for being one of the bands who defined the alternative sound of the ’90s.

Long pre-amble aside (I addressed my back story in a previous post), jump to April of this year. I found out that the Pumpkins were going to be doing an intimate/small acoustic-electro tour in the US, and our city (Des Moines) was on the docket as one of eight venues. My friends and I jumped on tickets (although it sold out so quickly we weren’t able to sit together), and the countdown began for this fabulous experience. I’ve always wanted to see the Pumpkins play some of the songs they typically don’t play live (softer stuff, lesser-known tracks), and this was finally my chance.


^ this is probably an appropriate time to note that I’ve been learning Spanish … 

In Plainsong // image from Pitchfork

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Saturday, June 20 was the Des Moines date. The music was amazing. The setlist was amazing. Billy (who now goes by William or WPC) was also amazing. (Shout out to the guy who tuned all the guitars — he was also amazing). The crowd was anything BUT amazing. I won’t get into too much detail, but people were being rude and shouting things at the band (ranging from requests to “Hey, it’s Ed Sheeran’s Dad!” [ really ?! ] to “Somebody stole my wallet!”). I wanted to stand up and yell at everybody to SHUT UP but I didn’t want to contribute to the problem. Long story short, the crowd definitely ruined the show for me. A lovely experience I (and others) had been looking forward to for months (years if I’m being realistic) was ruined by a bunch of drunk idiots shouting.

So, I took to Twitter to thank Billy for playing and to rant about idiot drunks being rude. I was so disappointed in our show I decided it would be worth spending the extra money to get a ticket to the Minneapolis show that following Thursday. I was planning to visit Mark anyway that weekend, so it would be just an extra day up there to go. I got the go-ahead from Mark to buy tickets, but a kind gentleman on Twitter informed me that the Minneapolis show was sold out …

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… but it sounded like he could pull some strings.

I could not believe that my long-time creative hero not only responded to me on twitter, but offered to get me into the show. Talk about random acts of kindness! I did not know what to do and I didn’t want to somehow mess up the opportunity by putting my foot in my mouth (as you know, I’m a pro at that), so I waited until the day of the show to see if the offer still stood.

Meanwhile, my friends who had heard about the offer kept telling me that I should bring the band members a thank-you gift for being so generous. My friends and I also thought it would be nice to do since Des Moines was so rude to the band. So I enlisted the help of my friend Amanda who makes fantastic ceramics, and who had some pieces that seemed to would fit the personality of the band (WPC seems to appreciate puns: “Road trip? Alpaca my bags!”). Ceramics aren’t ideal for touring, so I snagged some travel mugs for the necessary caffeine after inevitable late nights on the road.

llama mugs by amanda m barr ceramics // photo by

I packaged the gifts up, and realized I should write everybody a little note … but when I started writing my “little” note to WPC, I quickly understood that could turn into 1) a teenage-girl fan letter or 2) a 10-page long epic. I tried to keep it short and sweet, and I focused on thanking him for his creative contributions rather than “fan-girling” about all the Pumpkins stuff over the years. I’m a little embarrassed I included it, and part of me hopes he didn’t actually read it. But, it’s out there. The day of the show I brought a few of my LPs on the off chance I got to meet the band. I brought my original copy of Adore on vinyl, and the book from Mellon Colliewhich would have been a birthday gift for my friend. I didn’t get to meet them, but I feel like that would have been asking for too much.

Thursday came along and Mark and I went to the Pantages Theatre for the show. It was the most surreal experience to go up to the ticket booth, hand them my ID, and say “Um … I guess I’m on the list?” I signed for our tickets and once in hand, I noticed that they were 3rd row seats. Mark had to stop me from crying on the spot.

pantages theatre in Minneapolis //

my tickets to the Smashing Pumpkins in Plainsong tour //

Both the Des Moines and Minneapolis shows had fantastic openers. Katie Cole was the opening act and provided the bass / backup vocals for the Pumpkins at both venues. Des Moines had YB as their supporting act, and their music is really good, but the lead singer’s vocals are absolutely killer. I will definitely be playing them and The Eeries, the opening act for the Minneapolis show, on my radio shows in the upcoming weeks. I’ll also be playing some of Katie’s solo stuff. I had to creep on the merch table in Des Moines to tell her she did a lovely job, and again in Minneapolis to hand off the thank you gifts.

Billy had 2.5+ hours of music lined up for both shows, and stuck to the setlist. Since I saw the same show twice, I got to really appreciate some of the songs they had chosen to play for us. My favorite part of the show (both times) was the Adore suite, in which they played a chunk of (5?) songs from Adore, which is one of my favorite (and most underrated) Pumpkins albums. It was really exciting to hear these songs played as they were written, especially “Blissed and Gone”, which was played on ukulele (at the Minneapolis show, Billy said, “If that song about my dead mother didn’t shut you up, the ukulele will.”). I haven’t been able to get that rendition out of my head, and I can’t find it anywhere online (somebody, I’m sure, bootlegged it, or will likely do so). I loved that song so much that I am actually considering purchasing a ukulele so I can learn it before my memory fades.

in plainsong des moines //

Here’s a shot from my balcony seat in Des Moines (zoomed in a LOT), and a shot from the 3rd row seat I had in MPLS. I wish I had brought a good camera (I should have checked one out from the University for the 2nd show, but I was so giddy I didn’t think about it. 

in plainsong minneapolis //

Both performances were passionate and enthusiastic. I have seen a ton of bands, and each time I have seen the Pumpkins, the stage presence always wows me. Billy is very generous with his fans and typically jokes, shares stories, and asks for participation (the audience participation on Today was having us sing the electric guitar part, which was so, so much fun). At the end of the Minneapolis show, he thanked the fans with an early Pumpkins story, and reminded us that it is because of us that he is where he is today.

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I had such a good time at the Minneapolis show. Thank you again, WPC, for making one fan’s Pumpkins dreams come true!

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