I try not to revel in others’ misery (it doesn’t really make me any happier), but I’d lie if I said I wasn’t amused at the continual train wreck that the Smashing Pumpkins reunion tour has become. Numerous reports from the road – Stereogum, Fluxblog, and most recently Pitchfork - all chime in with the same story – Billy Corgan’s band (consisting of drummer Jimmy Chamberlain and generally anonymous dopplegangers for the other original members) is playing setlists full of newer songs from the universally panned Zeitgeist with a few of the classics peppered among tracks from recent singles/EPs, cover songs, and even newer songs whose descriptions (“drone metal,” “prog wankery”) give me little incentive to actually listen to them [EDIT: thanks to Matthew for setting me straight. I might be pissed off, but I don't want to get my facts confused]. To top it off, Billy Corgan routinely berates, degrates, and taunts his audience – remember, these are people who paid a lot of money to see a band that hasn’t been relevant in a decade.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I’ve never been a huge fan of the Smashing Pumpkins. I liked some of their earlier, rougher songs, and they have a few undeniable killers (of course I turn up “1979,” “Zero,” and “Cherub Rock” whenever they come on the radio), but I’ve always been bewildered by the number of die hard devotees to this band. Sure, I’m sure plenty of people think the same thing about the bands I love, but the obsessive Pumpkins fans seemed more a byproduct of their ubiquity on the radio in the late 1990s. Regardless, I have little sympathy for someone who claims to care so much about his music that has such a belligerent attitude towards the people who let him live an affluent life off of it. Of course, Corgan is allowed to indulge his artistic whims and try new things, but there’s a difference between pushing the envelope and pushing away your fans.
Evidently, one of Corgan’s rants suggests that his band as an “Alternative” band means that his band should be different from “those reunion bands that go out and just play the old songs.” There’s something to be said there – a band that gets back together for a cashgrab by playing just the greatest hits (which Corgan’s group could do, and would make many of the people I went to high school with very happy. Hell, I might even enjoy that show too!) isn’t the same as a group that gets back together to make new music. Even the msot diehard fans will allow their favorite groups to play new songs too. Again, there’s a marked difference between playing new material mixed in with older songs and yelling at your audience to “appreciate” what you’re trying to do. It just makes you sound petty and pathetic.
Am I being unfair here? I don’t think I am. I just see a bitter, fading star angry that his time has passed and running dangerously close to alienating the few people keeping his band vaguely relevant. I’m not saying he should kiss his audience’s asses (he shouldn’t), I’m just saying that he probably shouldn’t actively taunt them for coming to his overpriced shows. I’ll spend my money on bands that enjoy what they do and like sharing that with others (for example, the night the Pumpkins were in New York, I saw The Hold Steady – a band that perpetually seems like they’re having the time of their lives on stage and thus creates that atmosphere for the audience as well).
If you want to hear some of the rants (and I suppose the songs too), click through to those articles linked above.