PUMPKINS RISE UP
Led by singer-songwriter-guitarist-control freak Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins was one of the biggest names in the alternative rock explosion of the 1990s–and also one of the most derided. In a movement that prided itself on its independent DIY aesthetic, the band was seen as careerists by indier-than-thou types for reasons both legit and not so legit.
The band began as merely Corgan, guitarist James Iha, and a drum machine. Bassist D'Arcy Wretsky jumped on board soon after, and it was only after securing a slot opening for Jane's Addiction in the Pumpkins' hometown of Chicago that Jimmy Chamberlin came on board as drummer. Their success was almost instantaneous. After issuing a pair of 7" singles, one on the then nascent Sub Pop, the group signed with Virgin Records. But in underground rock circles in those days, it simply wasn't cool to be on a major label, so to appear as indie as possible, the group released its excellent 1991 debut album, Gish, a bombast of crushing, swirling guitars, on Virgin subsidiary Caroline. The album did well enough at college radio that the group's next effort, Siamese Dream (1993), was released on Virgin proper.
The album was a, er, smashing success and vaulted the group into the upper echelon of the alt-rock world. The Pumpkins were so big, in fact, that they headlined the main stage of the Lollapalooza tour, in 1994—the same year that Pavement released a song called "Range Life," on which Stephen Malkmus famously sang, "Out on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins / Nature kids, they don't have no function / I don't understand what they mean, and I could really give a fuck." While underground rock heroes like Steve Albini and Bob Mould joined the diss train, the group's next album, a rarities and B-sides compilation charted even higher than Siamese Dream.
1995's ambitious double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness performed even better, and the band seemed unstoppable. But then the bottom began to fall out.
While touring to promote the album, drummer Chamberlin and touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin both overdosed on the same night. Melvoin died, while Chamberlin survived. Corgan's response? Fire Chamberlin and keep touring.
From there, it was mostly downhill. Each successive album saw diminishing returns both musically and commercially, while the group's remaining members slowly drifted out of the band. (Chamberlin returned for a brief period, only to depart again.) The band called it quits at the end of 2000.
Corgan and Chamberlin joined forces again for a new band, Zwan, which tanked commercially and broke up after a year. Corgan released a solo album that met with a similar fate, then announced that Smashing Pumpkins were reuniting—but without Iha and Wretsky. Last year Chamberlin, too, left the Smashing Pumpkins, leaving Corgan, who, to be fair, is Smashing Pumpkins, as the sole original member.
Even so, you can bet that the band will sell out the Rialto Theatre this week, and with good reason: Corgan is a masterful guitarist and his songs hold nostalgic meaning for a generation of fans. And if you doubt that nostalgia sells, just ask Pavement, whose own reunion tour this year drew bigger crowds than the band ever did while it was still extant.
Smashing Pumpkins, meanwhile, have spent the last year working on a new album, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, from which they've been releasing songs online, one at a time, since December of last year.
Smashing Pumpkins take the stage at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 1. Tickets are $40, and the show is all ages. For more information head to rialtotheatre.com or call 740-1000.
This week also brings us a pair of intriguing benefits.
First up, at Club Congress, is Every Dog Has His Day, a benefit for HOPE Animal Shelter, Tucson's only no-kill shelter for cats and dogs, and one very special dog, a Shetland Sheepdog named Atticus. Atticus' owner is Adrienne Lake, a former music writer for the Star and onetime booker at Congress who wrote to us that Atticus' "herding instincts and intuitive, calm nature has made it easy for him to help locate and capture lost and abandoned dogs that are fearful of human interaction," giving new meaning to the term "rescue dog."
Atticus recently developed a lump on his head so large that one local veterinarian told Lake it was too big to be removed. But another vet determined the lump could be removed and successfully performed the operation, with a friend of Lake's loaning her the money for the surgery.
Well, it's payback time, hence this week's benefit, which will feature Amber Mortensen's Fashion Show, for which rescue dogs will walk the runway with models wearing clothing from local boutiques and designers; performances by Colleena Candelabra, John Reidy, Lauren Malanga and others; live music from the Silver Thread Trio, Dead Western Plains, and Mr. Free and the Satellite Freakout; DJ Carl Hanni (a Weekly contributor); and emcee Serge. The night will also feature a raffle, as well as photographs of adoptable HOPE dogs by local photographer Doug Switalski, which will be available for purchase.
Every Dog Has His Day begins at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 27. Club Congress is located at 311 E. Congress St. Admission is a suggested donation of $5. For further details go to hotelcongress.com or call 622-8848.
Astute local music fans will remember that last year, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival, community radio station KXCI FM 91.3 held a tribute concert at the Rialto Theatre in which local acts performed a set of songs originally performed at Woodstock, with proceeds benefiting the station. This week KXCI will present a sequel of sorts: KXCI Celebrates 1970 will feature 10 local acts performing songs from an album released in its namesake year. Participants are Whole Lotta Zep, performing songs from Led Zeppelin's III; Gaza Strip (Black Sabbath's self-titled album); Top Dead Center (the Grateful Dead's American Beauty and Workingman's Dead, both released in 1970); Leila Lopez (The Beatles' Let It Be); Cheepness (Neil Young's After the Gold Rush); Drama Club (Ike and Tina Turner's Come Together); Namoi Brennet (Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water); The Wayback Machine (The Band's Stage Fright); The Tangelos (Van Morrison's Moondance); and Chris Holiman (James Taylor's Sweet Baby James).
KXCI Celebrates 1970 begins at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 28. Tickets are $11 for general admission floor, $16 for reserved seats in the balcony. Kids 12 and younger will be admitted free with paid adult admission. For more info, point your browser to rialtotheatre.com or call 740-1000.
0N THE BANDWAGON
Lots more good stuff is happening around town this week, but, alas, we've just about run out of room. Here's a quick look at other worthwhile events: Bobby Bare Jr. free show on the patio of Hotel Congress on Monday, Aug. 30; Powhaus Productions presents Fun Time Party Go!, "a night of Japanese pop music, pop culture, and pop fashion" at the Rialto Theatre on Friday, Aug. 27; The Delta Mirror, RCougar, and Discos at Club Congress on Tuesday, Aug. 31; The Ghost of 505, the Parson Red Heads, and Muddy Bug at Plush on Friday, Aug. 27; Sex Robots (featuring a member of Bunnygrunt), The Creamys, and Acorn Bcorn at the Red Room at Grill on Monday, Aug. 30; the Deadstring Brothers and Gila Bend at Plush next Thursday, Sept. 2; The Bar-Kays at Monsoon Nightclub at the Desert Diamond Casino (Nogales Highway location) on Friday, Aug. 27; Steff and the Articles, We Were Once Heroes, A Lot Like Murder, and DJ Jimmy Japan at Skrappy's on Sunday, Aug. 29; Al Foul at the Surly Wench Pub on Friday, Aug. 27; on Wednesday, Sept. 1, Billy Sedlmayr begins a residency playing each Wednesday at the Red Room at Grill.
Finally, in Phoenix, Calexico will headline the Voter Registration Concert and Rally at the Marquee Theatre on Friday, Aug. 27. Also on the bill are Miniature Tigers, Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta, Big Son (featuring members of The Format and Reubens Accomplice), the Sand Rubies, Salvador Duran, and Kinch. Admission is free to anyone who pledges to vote in the Nov. 2 midterm election. For more information, head to VivaArizona.org.