“And in the eyes of the jackal, I say…”
Close to 20,000 of us held our breath as we waited for Billy Corgan to finish the line… It was Sept. 11, 1996, and it was my first Smashing Pumpkins
concert at the nearly brand-new Molson Centre in Montreal.
We were maybe an hour and a half into the show and the Pumpkins were on their first of three encores, playing the second song of the set – X.Y.U. off the second disc of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Twilight to Starlight.
Corgan and company – the original SP lineup, save for drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, who had recently been fired followed a heroin overdose incident – had been simply unbelievable all night. I was 16 years old and it was the beginning of the longest-running love affair of my life.
My wife, Johanna, and I often say we wish the love we have for each other upon everyone in the world – when you have a connection like we do, you understand why the Beatles sang “All You Need Is Love” … It’s possible to have that kind of connection with music – well, maybe not quite on the same level, but close.
That’s what the Smashing Pumpkins are for me.
I was inspired to write this post after stumbling upon archive.org, a site that hosts a bunch of stuff, including a ton of amazing live music. On it I found two live Pumpkins concerts that each had a profound influence on my life in their own way.
The first is from SP’s 1996 “Infinite Sadness” tour, as mentioned above. The recording I got today is actually from their Vancouver show the following January, but it was more or less the same set as that show in ’96 – which was truly a musical watershed moment in my life.
The second recording is from the Pumpkins’ reunion tour at Montreal’s Osheaga Festival on Sept. 8, 2007 – that concert was mine and Johanna’s first date and the beginning of a truly great and lasting love affair of its own.
What music means
The way I see it, music can go one of two ways for people: It’s either a defining part of your existence, or you listen to Mix 96/Virgin Radio and it’s as important to you as any other bodily function – you fart because you’re gassy, not because you have a yearning desire to connect with your inner soul.
Either way that’s OK – there’s nothing wrong with thinking Justin Bieber is the greatest thing since 98 Degrees. I
happen to have a physical reaction akin to wanting to vomit my lungs onto the floor when I hear Lady Gaga, but if her music makes people happy, then so be it. I just want to be clear that I’m not judging people for their own musical tastes here.
But music for me is a spiritual experience.
Billy Corgan is by no means God – but when I hear him play guitar through my headphones, I feel like I’m connecting with a higher power. There are
songs – and I’ll cover some of these in other posts – that make me tremble, there are some that make me smile, there are some that sometimes move me to tears.
Of course, the Pumpkins aren’t the only band I like; they’re just the only band I connect with on this level.
When Corgan paused before finishing that line, the whole planet may have stopped turning, time could have stopped – hell, the stadium could have been invaded by aliens – I wouldn’t have noticed. I just stood there with the rest of the crowd… 20,000 people feeling connected at the heartstrings, waiting for the Smashing Pumpkins to go “ka-boom!”