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Troubles prove Pumpkins' mettle
October 6, 1996, 11:00 pm

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Troubles prove Pumpkins' mettle
Jae-Ha Kim. (Music Critic). Chicago Sun-Times. October 7, 1996

The Smashing Pumpkins, who have triumphed over calamities that could have crippled a less determined group, celebrated their homecoming over the weekend with three sold-out shows at the Rosemont Horizon and a private party Saturday at Smart Bar.

About 400 of the band's closest friends - including actor Billy Zane and members of the bands Catherine, Jesus Jones and the Frogs - gathered at Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, late Saturday to help the hometown heroes celebrate their Horizon shows and to mark the end of a tumultuous few months. This summer's tragedies included the heroin overdose of touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin and the subsequent firing of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, who is accused of shooting up with Melvoin.

The only thing more difficult than snaring a ticket to the Pumpkins' sold-out weekend concerts was gaining admittance to the Smart Bar party. People in line outside could be heard parroting the same plea to the doorman: "But I really did lose my invitation."

It was a weekend to remember.

It doesn't seem that long ago that the Pumpkins were playing to apathetic audiences at Metro, back when it was Cabaret Metro. But this weekend they filled the Horizon, putting on a spectacular show.

After Friday's nearly 2 1⁄2-hour performance (and three encores), the house lights came up to illuminate a strange sight onstage: Singer Billy Corgan was still there, acknowledging his cheering fans and obviously relishing the band's triumphant homecoming.

And regardless of the band's sentiments for Chamberlin, who was their friend as well as their drummer, his absence didn't make much difference. Chamberlin, replaced by Filter's Matt Walker, may have been the group's most accomplished musician, but it's Corgan's voice and words that make up the Pumpkins' soul. The band played cuts primarily from the current double album, "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," in a blistering show that was tinged by fierce musicianship and Corgan's primal scream.

At Saturday's party, the vibe was surprisingly loose and laid-back, despite the band's superstar status. Corgan, guitarist James Iha and bassist D'arcy didn't remain roped off in a V.I.P. area. Rather, they roamed around the room, fetching their own drinks, chatting with friends and family members and talking to anyone who came up to say, "Hi."

The party kicked off at 11 p.m., but the band members didn't start trickling in until almost 1 a.m. Sporting a cleanly shaven head and a snazzy striped sweater, Corgan was the first to make an entrance and, predictably enough, was quickly surrounded by admirers. Willowy D'arcy arrived next with her husband Kerry Brown, drummer for Catherine. They were followed by Iha.

"This is really exciting for us," said Iha, who showed off some groovy, solid moves on the dance floor. "It's really a lot of fun."

Jungle-music fan D'arcy and the house DJ apparently had a disagreement about what tunes should be cranked through the sound system. The throbbing music stopped abruptly for about seven minutes, while the two, uh, discussed the options.

Eyeing the room, bassist Adam Geiger of local band Ball Peen said, "This is a pretty happening party. Everyone is giving each other plenty of room to breathe. It's a nice change of pace."

Pausing, he added, "But that's pretty much the Pumpkins' way."

Credit: Jae-Ha Kim