Smashing Pumpkins at The Orbit Room, Grand Rapids

The Orbit Room, 08 July 2010

It took all day for it to happen, but it did. I was excited for this show, and from the look of the lot in front of the Orbit Room, so were many, many other people. Doors opened at 7:30 for this $50 show (damn) and we arrived at 7:50. I see a thick line of people weaving their way back across the whole lot to Nordstrom Rack and back 40 or so people to the left. This will not do.

The decision to kill some time was presented to me as ‘be an adult’ or ‘rocking out teenage style’. Usually the easiest answer is ‘screw being an adult’. Not in this case though, sitting in a car drinking booze when you are old enough to not have to, just doesn’t need to happen. Not when a four buck pitcher of the smoothest in white trash beer was waiting just a few miles away. So exit stage left over to Mulligan’s Pub for some PBR action. Once we had our bellies fresh full of trailer juice, we resume course.

It’s shortly after 9pm now and other than a few roaming smokers, everyone is inside now and we stroll right in. I take a bit of time to talk to the fans coming in, you know, get a feel for if this is going to be a show of new fans or old, what sort of mix is happening out there… I moved on after about the fifth or sixth person (quite drunkenly) told me about how much they loved this band, yes, most actually said ‘loved’, as if the Smashing Pumpkins did not exist again until this moment. Still, it’s a bit strange to understand where they are coming from as if I am now that guy excited to see Jackyl or Motley Crue because something awesome happened that summer in 86. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen many bands that were around before the past ten years, just not one that I could relate a memory to of that time; it just makes you realize that these bands from the 90’s are having the same affect on a new generation when they come back, as bands from the 80’s did.

So here we go: you’re here to hear about some music, so let’s get into that. I missed the very first band of unknown name and origin; I could look it up but I no longer care. I came in about halfway through Kill Hannah. Honestly, listening to them I really looked hard to see if anyone saw me, to quickly let them know my apt behavior as a professional. If you are into the whole jump around type band that obviously tries hard to get that right ‘look’ for the show, and if you like your music watered down, then YES, put down your Justin Bieber poster and hit them up. Me? I have taste so no go.

Luckily that did not last long before I was saved shoving something sharp into my body and those around me. Funny thing though, the closer you got to the stage, the age of the crowd dwindled sharply. Quite sharply. Hmmm, maybe I could have used some 16 year old for my rampage? Either way this place was packed and as everyone waited for the Pumpkins to come on stage it got worse. So their set starts. The stage is flanked on either side with these two windmills and has that very 90’s blue and mellow feel to the whole thing as dozens of lights begin to glow across the rest of the stage. The crowd screams in wild glee as Billy Corgan hits the stage. I will say this, I was quite pissed not to have even half of the band I knew show up, but they did well considering; James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlin were one of my favorite bottom end combos of the time.

They kicked it off with the song “Astral Planes”, one of the newer tracks from their Teargarden By Kaleidyscope project. Considering myself a pretty aware guy when it comes to music, I should have thought to make some effort to have gotten this music beforehand. After having heard of few of them now, I am thankful the space on my hard drive is open for something of greater quality. You can understand where the sound of this band is coming from and are deeply familiar with where it once was from, only now it is being presented on a serving tray I have never seen or would ever like to see, giving me my dinner.

With some of the new out of the way, up next I was quite pleased to hear “Ava Adore”, a song that almost brought me back to them as a serious fan after the whole Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness debacle. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good songs on there, but how many times does one need to hear “1979” before wanting to destroy the radio? The answer, by the way, is 42. It was actually a good rendition, missing some of the darkness and heavy edge that a good snyth would have brought.

The next few songs I have to admit, I just did not really enjoy despite the fact that they were doing a good job at what they do, except for the fourth song “As Rome Burns”, where Corgan actually stopped and apologized for messing up, then began again. At this point, everything is really just blending together. For the sixth song they pulled out the one that made them famous, “Today”, and you really saw the biggest reaction of the whole night as the crowd sang along to every word.

Again, I am lost for what to say about the next few songs other than the song “Eye”, which reminded me of how bad I wish Jimmy Chamberlin was sitting behind that very nice set.

After a while, I started to watch the crowd for people wearing ‘Zero’ t-shirts. Hell, in 1996 you couldn’t swing your sac without hitting a dude in one waiting for Halloween to make a sweet “Crow” costume. I saw ONE, and I am tall as shit, so that was crazy. As the night drew to a close, I found myself actually enjoying (yes actual enjoyment) “Bullets With Butterfly Wings”. A song I was sure I would ever like to hear again. It was the one that put Corgan on my Getty Lee list. (a list of great musicians whose voices’ make me want to kick people. Way to get me to the door. On a high note. A very whiny high note. It was an end to an overall good night.