A few weeks ago, I pulled some of my old band shirts down from the attic. The fibers of each shirt are made up of semi-fleeting memories, and the whole lot of them is a nbomb of nostalgia. In the pile, there was one shirt that I had almost forgotten about… one very odd choice of merch procured on an all-nighter of a roadtrip.
And this is how it began…
The Smashing Pumpkins were my favorite band growing up. God help you if you knew me as a teenager. While most girls my age were spending hours of time poring over makeup and celebrity gossip in the shiny pages of Seventeen and YM, I was busy soaking up every bit of trivial knowledge available online and in hard print about the Pumpkins. Listessa, Netphoria, Siva/Blamo, SPFC, and on and on. I was a walking encyclopedia of facts, rumors, news, and of course, lyrics. The band was my life. So much, that I traveled to Chicago in 2000 for their final shows and wept on the sidewalk in front of The Metro with other inconsolable fans during that last freezing and heartbreaking night in December. Somehow, when the love of your life drops you like a broken turntable, you find it in you to move on and fill the void with other things. Zwan came and went (I saw them 2 or 3 times). And somewhere around that era, I ended up making friends with a few other people who shared my love (obsession?) for The Smashing Pumpkins.
In 2005, Billy Corgan released a solo album called The Future Embrace. My new-ish Pumpkinheaded friends, Holly, Miranda, William, and I decided to go to the closest show on the tour. So, four days after the album was released, we woke up early in the morning, piled into William’s old gold Saturn and trekked five hours from Greenville, NC to the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC. Late June afternoons in the District can be real sizzlers. By 2pm, we were lined up behind a few other fans next to the club’s brick exterior with absolutely no solace from the sun. It was one of those days where you drink obscene amounts of water, but never really need to find a bathroom because you’re just sweating everything right back out. We were given promo posters. People in line kept showing us their Smashing Pumpkins-related tattoos. A guy dressed like Flavor Flav walked by and danced for us. We ate lo mein in shifts. Until the doors opened.
With arms resting on the barricade, I still remember the surge of excitement when Billy Corgan and his backing band took the stage. The lights were mesmerizing; an entire backdrop of hundreds of digital tiles that all changed colors and sometimes pictures. At that time, it was the most advanced, high-tech stage set I’d ever seen, and it truly felt like being in the future (embrace, hardy har).
After about an hour and a half of songs off the album and a few covers, Billy ended the set with a lot of talking, and a song version of the Hail Mary. The crowd filed out quickly, but my friends and I took our time and stopped at the merch table. I chose this shirt.
Exiting the 9:30 Club, we spotted Billy standing outside and autographing things for fans. I asked him to sign a promo booklet I’d been given earlier that day. I also asked him why he never came through North Carolina with Zwan or the solo tour. He told me it wasn’t the way of the business. (Then, two years later, The Smashing Pumpkins reformed and played a 9-night residency in Asheville, NC. Coincidence?)
You can listen to a streaming bootleg of the majority of this show here. The song titles in the streaming player are mislabeled, but you can match up the proper titles in the “Description” (they’re all one track off).