The Younger Version of You
It was 1995, and a friend of mine and I scored some cash from all the Christmas money donated by our families. We headed out to the local music store to cash in on some CDs. We were wise and did not repeat any of our purchases so we can get a larger array of albums to listen to together. Among those purchases was Siamese Dream.
At this point "Today" was blaring on the radio, and Smashing Pumpkins were pretty big, but what I remember the most, was listening to the songs I didn't know. I was instantly in love with the loud crunchy distortion guitar screams that have defined this amazing band. My favorite song of all was "Drown" which was on the Singles soundtrack I had purchased earlier on cassette tape. (Yup, you heard right).
I became a very big fan and scored tickets through that same friend to see the Pumpkins at Madison Square Garden following the release of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Unfortunately, their keyboardist on tour OD'ed and Jimmy Chamberlin was kicked out of the band due to an argument following the death. Somewhere between the rescheduling of the show and some high school drama, and never got to go.
Through the years every time I hear about Smashing Pumpkins I associate them with bad current albums, live shows with half of the band still on board, or some social media of Corgan going on some insane narcissistic rant. Every once in awhile I'll put on one of their older albums and head back to my years of angst and teenage entitlement. How the years have passed and how this sound, that once was so original, sounded so outdated somehow.
This year the rumors of the band reuniting, with only D'arcy Wretzky missing, caught my attention. Here I am at 38 wanting to just get into a mosh pit of kids my age and just loose my shit to some gritty authentic grunge where I originally found my anger.
"Should I go?", became a question I compulsively have been asking myself since the beginning of the year. I am an adult (sort of) and can actually afford the over priced tickets. Will they play the stuff that will bring me back to being proud that I sport a pair of red DOCs still? Will it be a bunch young kids singing to their latest albums, or will my peers be there doing exactly what I will be doing, Letting loose and not caring about the shiny grey hairs peering out of my beanie.
I took the bait and got some floor tickets. Despite some drama with my ticket not working with the scanners I approached my well paid seat. It was a little unfortunate I would not be in a standing room and the mosh pit was not going to happen. I scanned the room and saw both young and, as I will cautiously say, older fans awaiting the Pumpkins arrival. We got to see Metric jam out some tunes and almost immediately the show started. It was pretty damn early for a show at the Garden.
They started off with some good ole fashioned songs from their earlier releases. The first hour was pure adrenaline. They met my standards immediately. They even played "Drown". I was in bliss and I felt that the decision I made to be there was a pretty damn good one. The crowd sang and I watched tons of guys still in their work clothes head banging. They left their kids and wives behind to possibly hang with some of the friends that once enjoyed the luxury of oversized skater pants, and Vans sneakers. The ladies were there too, and you could see the ghosts of the tri-colored hair, and blue lipstick.
Everything was epic till about an hour into the show where they started to play stuff I never heard of. It was soft and slow for a good while. The overwhelming imagery of Billy Corgan got a little too awkward in my opinion. I was constantly having to let people squeeze past me as everyone took the opportunity to buy some more beer or head to the bathroom. People started getting on their phones and talking. "No!!!", I thought. They got to get back to the core of their grunge driven talent. Then the most awkward moment occurred as they cleared a path for a statue to come through. It was a statue of Billy Corgan as a saint. I saw the imagery on screen, but it was actually coming towards me. It was the only photo I could capture on my phone.
Even though things seemed to die down, they got back into their best music again. If it wasn't for them coming back with "Cherub Rock", I think I might of just given up. They immediately got into playing "Today" and Bullet With Butterfly Wings" The last hour was a back and forth of old and new. They ended up playing a 3 hour show with an encore which was pretty impressive. I do give them credit for that.
I walked out feeling a little conflicted, but when I thought about it this morning I smiled because I remembered they played everything I wanted to hear. Hear for the first time live at 38. Despite the grays and the past that seems so faraway, the music will always be the one thing that will bring you back. The music of your childhood will always have a place in your heart. It will get you out of your super busy work week, in your rock outfit, and have you pumping your fist and letting your head bang into the night.