Chicago Sun-Times
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The (sort of) Pumpkins are (sort of) coming home

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The reunited but reconfigured Smashing Pumpkins have finally announced a concert date in the Chicago area -- that is, if you consider Hammond, Ind. in the Chicago area.

The group will perform at the Venue at Harrah's Horseshoe Casino in Hammond on Aug. 9. Tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. through Ticketmaster -- no word on the price as yet -- according to the band's Web site and email blasts.

One of the most celebrated groups of the alternative rock era and one of the best-selling acts to ever have called Chicago home, guitarist-vocalist Billy Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin resurrected the Smashing Pumpkins name and released the new album "Zeitgeist" in July 2007. Still missing in action and/or refusing the invitation to come to the party: band co-founders James Iha and D'arcy Wretzky, who've been replaced by hired hands Jeff Schroeder (guitar/vocals), Ginger Reyes (bass/vocals) and Lisa Harriton (keyboard/vocals).

In contrast to earlier tours in the '90s -- when the band often premiered its new albums in Chicago, or even previewed new material at local venues before recording it -- the Pumpkins Mach II have yet to perform here. And band insiders are taking pains to point out that the casino gig is NOT the group's long-awaited "Chicago show."

Apparently, with typical dramatic flair, Corgan has been waiting to time the band's big homecoming to its 20th anniversary some time in November or December. No word yet on exactly when or where that gig will take place.

Meanwhile, for local diehards who just can't wait any longer to see their heroes, Mapquest places the Hammond casino at a mere 22.84-mile drive from the front door of Metro, the Northside rock club where the band played its last gig back in the day -- and where it really should have played the first of its new incarnation, if you want to talk about a dramatic flourish.

No insult to Hammondites, but there is very little drama or poetry at a casino in Indiana.

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>>for local diehards who just can't wait any longer to see their heroes

Yep. Because Ginger Reyes and Jeff Schroeder sure are MY heroes...

Sorry, that's mean. I'm sure they're very talented.

No, really.

I'm assuming that if the Pumpkins were playing at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, no one would bat an eye. That's a casino, too. But because the Pumpkins are from Chicago and they're playing in Northwest Indiana, there will be a lot of barbs thrown -- such as "there is very little drama or poetry at a casino in Indiana."

Yeah, I get it -- it would be pretty sweet to have them reunite and play the Metro for their first gig back. But I think you're missing the bigger picture, Jim.

The bigger picture is, hey, lookie here -- perhaps we have a new entertainment option that is trying to poise itself to play with the big boys. While an argument can be made that the initial lineup coming to The Venue at Horseshoe in Hammond wouldn't necessarily sell out the UC or Allstate, they're not exactly Seven Mary Three playing at the Hobart, Ind., Jaycees Festival, either: the Pumpkins; Stone Temple Pilots; Billy Idol; James Blunt; and while not my cup o' tea, Bette Midler, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Michael Bolton, Liza Minelli ...

It's obvious Horseshoe is going after some fairly hefty names and wants to position itself as a player in the entertainment market. From down here in NWI, we're not going to complain. And Chicagoans and suburbanites on the Illinois side shouldn't complain, either. Or mock. Anyone wanna race from downtown Chicago to Allstate while I race to Hammond? Guess who's gonna win that one 99 percent of the time?

When the Smashing Pumpkins announced earlier this week that they would be going on a tour to perform in smaller venues next month, I was quite excited. Last year, I was fortunate enough to see the band in several small venues across the country, not the least of which was the Orange Peel (pictured at left) in Asheville, North Carolina. For me, the appeal of these venues lies not only in seeing the band up close and personally; rather, they typically offer charm or more unique qualities than big arenas.

When I read that the Pumpkins would be performing in the newly-minted performance space at the Horseshoe Casino, I'll admit - I raised an eyebrow. After last seeing them at the historic Fox Theatre in Atlanta and the Orpheum Theatre in Boston, I fully anticipated they would continue the trend of performing in these beautiful old culutural institutions - not a casino. While attending university in Chicago, I ventured once or twice across the border to Hammond, Indiana to see the nightlife just beyond the city limits and was never very impressed.

So what's the deal with this new venue? Why are the Pumpkins playing in Hammond? According to the press release, Horseshoe Casino has undergone a $500 million renovation, which included the construction of "The Venue" - a 2,500 seat "state-of-the-art entertainment center" that seeks to accomodate a wide variety of artists and acts. Boasting a hugely diverse August lineup that includes both Bette Midler and the Stone Temple Pilots, it seems that Horseshoe parent company Harrah's Entertainment is trying to bring a little bit of Vegas to the Midwest. If they're successful in bringing some glitz to an area historically known for its grit, I have no doubt the Chicago community could really see some interesting things start to happen south of the city in its working class 'burbs.

The venue itself sounds quite amazing, to boot - they describe everything from a "three-level lobby, featuring walls composed of LED pixels and immersive lighting" to three giant HD screens for "interactive special effects." The company behind the design of this new space hails from Montreal - Sceno Plus - and their list of accomplishments is a mile long, including everything from Sin City's Bellagio Theatre (Pictured above) to Orlando's Cirque du Soleil La Nouba Theatre (pictured at left). I would imagine this fantastic setup is a large part of what attracted the Pumpkins to play one of the inaugural shows here; it sounds like quite a sensory experience. I am excited to see how the Pumpkins take this opportunity to push their light shows and soundscape to a whole new level.

Though I now live in New York, I may have to make the trip out to see this spectacle firsthand - after spending the last six weeks in Las Vegas for work, this might just be the experience of a lifetime.

No. I do not consider Hammond "the Chicago area".

Jim, why so many posts about Smashing Pumpkins? I know they're from Chicago and all, but come on, this band has been irrelevant for a decade. The current touring incarnation doesn't include half the original lineup. Billy Corgan is leading a nostagia institution, for which casino venues are perfectly suited.

G has no idea what he's talking about and obviously hasn't heard the guitar/drum-rock glory that is zeitgeist. billy and jimmy were 90% of the pumpkins anyhow, and like earlier substitutions for darcy with melissa auf der maur, the new lineup changes don't effect the quality of the band. their live show is still amazing.

Two fact-checking notes: Billy and Jimmy are not the Smashing Pumpkins, and Hammond, IN, is not the "Chicago area." Headline should read "ZWAN PLAYS MIDWEST DATE."

Billy should go back to trying to be the next Steve Stone instead of continuing to insult the band's true fans with this ongoing fakery. And I think Billy knows it, too, or he'd have the balls to just play Metro. How big WAS that paycheck from AEG, hmm?

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on July 8, 2008 8:38 AM.

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