By Francis Cabal

The Smashing Pumpkins concert in Manila was marred by a lot of things,‭ ‬none of which were the band‭’‬s‭ ‬fault‭;‬ unless you count the fact that it took the band twenty years before playing a show in this country.‭ ‬But as Billy Corgan said during the press conference  for the concert (which you can listen to at the end of the article) ,‭ ‬“You gotta come the right way‭; ‬so finally we‭’‬re here,‭ ‬under the right circumstances.‭”‬ The concert that was supposed to be on August‭ ‬7‭ ‬was moved to the next day,‭ ‬and while the weather was certainly better than the previous day,‭ ‬it was still pretty bad.‭ ‬Add to that the massive traffic jam on EDSA and the seemingly hundreds of people‭ ‬in line for the MRT,‭ ‬and you‭’‬ve got yourself a quest worthy of any boy wizard or unassuming hobbit.‭

Trust me though,‭ ‬it was all worth the hassle.

 

Teargarden Of An Epic Scope

When Billy Corgan got together with drummer Mike Byrne,‭ ‬guitar player Jeff Schroeder,‭ ‬and bassist Nicole Fiorentino,‭ ‬it was not‭ ‬to try to capture their former glory.‭ ‬It was an active effort to create something new,‭ ‬rather than an attempt to recapture what‭ ‬it was that made the band work the first time around.‭ ‬Corgan is not a fan of nostalgia tours,‭ ‬to the point of dismissing these reunions altogether.‭ ‬“They‭’‬re essentially coming back only to make money playing their old albums and maybe somewhere in the back of their mind they‭’‬re thinking there might be a future.‭”‬,‭ ‬Billy Corgan‭ ‬said during the press conference.‭

Before you even say‭ ‬“Get off your high horse,‭ ‬Billy‭”‬,‭ ‬you should realize that this current incarnation of The Smashing Pumpkins was put together with the idea of making another record in mind.‭ ‬Ignoring the criticisms that were thrown at‭ ‬“Zeitgeist‭”‬,‭ ‬Billy Corgan and company set out to make the‭ ‬44-song epic‭ ‬“Teargarden By Kaleidyscope‭”‬.‭ ‬Their latest album‭ ‬“Oceania‭”‬ is a part of this project,‭ ‬a smaller part of a bigger whole,‭ ‬yet something that holds its own as not only a cohesive album but a return to form for The Smashing Pumpkins.‭

When asked about‭ ‬“Teargarden By Kaleidyscope‭”‬,‭ ‬Corgan lamented the poor reception of the EPs they released prior to Oceania,‭ ‬saying‭ ‬“In that period,‭ ‬everything we put out was like‭ ‬‘It‭’‬s not old Smashing Pumpkins‭! ‬It‭’‬s not old Smashing Pumpkins‭!‬ Of course it‭’‬s not old Smashing Pumpkins,‭ ‬I‭’‬m not in old Smashing Pumpkins.‭”‬

 

“We tend to kind of be a little bit isolated from other bands, we’re not very social that way.. that seems to be a smashing pumpkins tradition.” – Billy Corgan

Billy Corgan is on a quest to prove himself time and time again.‭ ‬This has made him one of the most polarizing figures in rock music,‭ ‬and in turn,‭ ‬this has made The Smashing Pumpkins one of the most polarizing bands in rock music.‭ ‬But whenever he doesn‭’‬t try to please anyone is when he succeeds the most,‭ ‬and these successes are what made The Smashing Pumpkins also one of the most beloved and respected bands of its era.‭

“Oceania‭”‬ is one such success,‭ ‬an album that managed‭ ‬to please the fans and critics‭ ‬while still subscribing to Corgan‭’‬s vision of what The Smashing Pumpkins should be.‭ ‬It was heavy,‭ ‬it was melodic,‭ ‬it was psychedelic,‭ ‬and it had everything that was good about the early Pumpkins records and more.‭

 

Tonight,‭ ‬Tonight

A Smashing Pumpkins Manila show has been a long time coming,‭ ‬but it was inevitable.‭ ‬Billy Corgan has been in touch with the Filipino community‭ ‬since his early days,‭ ‬and he even gushed about how humbling it is‭ ‬to play for a country whose culture he ultimately respects.‭ ‬And this love was returned in spades by the fans who braved the rain in order to see the band play.‭ ‬It was the only time I saw that many people in the Araneta Coliseum in a long time,‭ ‬and what‭’‬s even more fascinating is that these were all familiar faces:‭ ‬fellow musicians who are also fans of the band,‭ ‬friends who‭ ‬were there because of a shared love for the Pumpkins.

It took a while before the band went onstage,‭ ‬but when they finally did,‭ ‬it was nothing short of electric.‭ ‬They played the entirety of‭ ‬“Oceania‭”‬ and it was well received by the fans‭ ‬that were there,‭ ‬even if some of them attended‭ ‬to‭ ‬watch the band play material from their earlier albums.‭ ‬They ended the first set with a cover of David Bowie‭’‬s‭ ‬“Space Oddity‭”‬ and marked the beginning of the second set of the night where they played classics like‭ ‬“Tonight,‭ ‬Tonight‭”‬ in all its haunting glory,‭ ‬“Bullet With Butterfly Wings‭”‬ (if you closed your eyes,‭ ‬Mike Byrne sounded like a young Jimmy Chamberlain‭)‬,‭ ‬“Luna‭”‬,‭ ‬and‭ ‬“Today‭”‬.‭

As a gift to the Filipino fans who were there despite the horrible weather,‭ ‬they played an extra long encore that included‭ ‬“Ava Adore‭”‬,‭ ‬“1979‭“‬,‭ ‬“Stand Inside Your Love‭”‬,‭ ‬and‭ ‬“Muzzle‭”‬.‭ ‬They ended the show with a little bit of levity when Jeff Schroeder suddenly played the opening riff of Kiss‭’‬ “Black Diamond‭”‬ that they performed in its entirety,‭ ‬a totally unplanned moment that left the fans and the band with smiles on their faces.‭

 

The Future Of Smashing Pumpkins‭ = ‬The Future Of Music

The show at the Araneta was another amazing show that‭ ‬The Smashing Pumpkins can tick off from their list on this generally well-received tour.‭ ‬But what‭’‬s next for the band‭? ‬Of course it‭’‬s still a long way before they finally finish their‭ ‬44-song masterpiece,‭ ‬but judging by Oceania‭’‬s success,‭ ‬they‭’‬re off to a great start.‭ ‬The songs are there,‭ ‬and most importantly,‭ ‬the chemistry is there.‭ ‬When talking about his current bandmates,‭ ‬Corgan states that‭ ‬““No,‭ ‬they‭’‬re not intimidated,‭ ‬nor should they be.‭ ‬How we work in intimate spaces is like a family:‭ ‬we eat together,‭ ‬we travel together.‭ ‬We don‭’‬t sleep together‭!‬ But we have musical‭ ‬respect and,‭ ‬also‭—‬ maybe in a way that was lacking in some of my earlier bands‭—‬we have personal respect,‭ ‬and that‭’‬s coming out in the music.‭”

That statement is pretty telling,‭ ‬and it‭’‬s pretty obvious when you listen to the new material.‭ ‬Billy has finally found his band.‭ ‬He is ready to move on with a new group of people,‭ ‬ready to perform to a new set of fans.

 

‭“‬We‭ ‬made a lot of people a lot of money by just being weird.‭”‬ –‭ ‬Billy Corgan

During the press conference,‭ ‬Corgan had a lot to say about how the media has co-opted alternative music.‭ ‬According to him,‭ ‬“Alternative culture is also about values:‭ ‬being yourself,‭ ‬being an individual.‭ ‬And when those things are hijacked and‭ ‬then it becomes more like a fashion show,‭ ‬show-off-y bullshit,‭ ‬I don‭’‬t know.‭ ‬That‭’‬s not the world I grew up in.‭ ‬And maybe I sound like an old man like that,‭ ‬but I don‭’‬t feel that.‭ ‬I feel that there‭ [‬are‭] ‬a lot of people out there who don‭’‬t want that.‭ ‬They‭ ‬love alternative culture because it says freedom,‭ ‬independent thinking,‭ ‬exchange of ideas‭; ‬not‭ ‬‘Hey,‭ ‬you‭’‬re not cool enough‭; ‬get out of here.‭”‬

His main point being that alternative culture is a culture that thrives through inclusion.‭ ‬Looking around the‭ ‬huge stadium that night,‭ ‬it was clear that everybody felt included.‭ ‬Everybody was there because they love the band,‭ ‬and it was also clear that The Smashing Pumpkins is ‬a band that is grateful to their fans.‭

Now,‭ ‬hopefully they come back here for another‭ ‬show,‭ ‬and hopefully the weather cooperates…‭ ‬perhaps we‭’‬ll see Araneta Stadium packed to the rafters with people,‭ ‬the way it was always meant to be.‭

 

 

Photos by Nina Sandejas

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