Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.

GIVING UP THE GHOST (OF BILLY CORGAN)

When I was in ninth grade, the Billy Graham Crusade came to Charlotte, N.C. and set up camp at the newly-built Carolina Panthers stadium. Charlotte was close enough to my home town to constitute a field trip for my church's youth group, so they packed us into a van and carted us off to Youth Night. This was the heyday of Christian alternative rock, and also a year or two after Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness came out, so after a brief show by two relatively big-name alt-Christian bands, Billy Graham took the stage and inadvertently introduced me to the Smashing Pumpkins.

I had led a relatively sheltered life up until this point, so I didn't recognize the reference when Billy Graham started quoting Bullet with Butterfly Wings: "Billy Corgan sings, 'Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage,' but I am here to that young man, you do not have to have all this rage; you do not have to feel like a rat in a cage!"

The audience exploded with applause, and up in the nosebleed section, I clapped as hard as anyone else. But later, when I started wearing a lot of black and hanging out with my boyfriend's theater and art class crowd, I got a chance to hear the song and decided Billy Graham was wrong: Jesus probably wasn't going to make Billy Corgan feel any lest angsty and full of disaffected, youthful rage.

In high school, I loved just about every Smashing Pumpkins song ever recorded, partly because pre-Marilyn Manson, it was still edgy to like them. Now I get more excited when David Sedaris does a reading a Malaprop's. Is it possible I'm even more of a dork than I was in high school? But since every other person in town is freaking out about the Smashing Pumpkins playing in Asheville, I suppose I should mention it, too. Baaa. I'm a sheep. Oh well.

The band is playing a nine-night straight gig at a local club, The Orange Peel, which holds a little under 950 people. Why on earth a group of genuine rock gods would deign to visit our little town and book a club with less than 1,000 person capacity is beyond me. The Orange Peel is a cool venue, but I'd never have guessed Billy Corgan and his ilk would play there, especially since mid-level bands like The Decemberists seem to have decided it's too small for them. Our local newspaper has been running articles and op-eds left and right about how cool the Pumpkins are and ohmygodBillyCorgantalkedtomeoutsidethis restaurantsitwassofreakinawesome!

Since all nine shows sold out within 20 minutes and scalpers are now asking somewhere in the range of $900 to a grand for tickets, Jeremy and I obviously aren't going. What surprises me is the kinds of people who are going. Far too many baby boomers are fawning over the Smashing Pumpkins for me to hang on to my previous conception of reality, where Billy Corgan was a sexy alt-rock bad boy. If my own little brother hadn't informed me that our mother, a preacher's wife, actually liked Rob Zombie while he was visiting us the other week, I wouldn't have been able to keep it together when my 50-something-year old boss started gushing about the Smashing Pumpkins show.

Has my parent's generation become completely desensitized to the content of modern rock music or has the standard for what's edgy shifted so completely that the Smashing Pumpkins are now wholesome entertainment? I think I'll go put on some Cat Stevens and watch Jeopardy, just to even things out.

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