Stories from the Canister: The Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins
10/22/1993, Hollywood Palladium

If you look really close, you can make it out.

I never took a date to a rock concert, at least not in the early stages of dating. With the level of noise, the heat and the inevitable smell of the place, it never struck me as an ideal setting for romance’s beginnings. Still, that never stopped others from using the dark and the noise to facilitate putting their hands, mouths, and other parts on to the parts of another.

1993. The Smashing Pumpkins had recently released their breakthrough album Siamese Dream and were scheduled to play the Palladium in Hollywood. Their album was on constant play in my stereo; the thick and heavy guitar sound was gushing with awesomeness with Billy Corgan giving a vocal style that ranged from the tender offerings of a new parent to the hollerings of a mad person with their hair on fire. I have to admit that initially, I didn’t know if the band’s singer was a man or a woman. The video for “Cherub Rock” yielded no clues either.

Off we went, my friend Jimmy and I, once again into the heat and muck of the Palladium. We stationed ourselves on the first landing behind their huge dance floor along the ledge. The opening band came on, a band now rightfully forgotten. The lead singer brought out his phone on stage to call his girlfriend back east to wish her a happy birthday. A bad signal made the stunt awkward and ultimately a fail, much like the band. It was a welcomed sight having the evening’s headliner come on stage.

A nudge from Jimmy halfway through the concert and a point to look down from the ledge we were on showed a sight that caught those of us in that area to temporarily take a pause from the concert, whether out of blatant voyeurism or out of “Jeeeez…!!!” disbelief. Sitting where the dance floor met the ledge was a guy and his lady friend tongue deep into an uninhibited public display of their affection towards each other. He sat with his back against the ledge while she laid across his bent legs – a lower case ‘t’ of reckless lust.

They were drunk, of course. Or high. Still, they kissed each other as if the potion to cure to all their life problems lay just behind the tonsils of the other. Heavy make-out is common enough at a rock concert, but they weren’t about to stop at just common enough. His hand went from desperately grasping her thigh to suddenly lunging under her top as if it suddenly had the thought, “Oh shit! That’s right! That potion is over here!”

Some fumbling of his hands under her top – like a puppy franticly lost under a blanket – and her front-opening bra was unfastened. Since he didn’t bother opening her black zippered sleeveless top (and thus exposing her breasts to everyone…the guy had standards, apparently), he simply pushed aside the two halves of her now-opened bra out of each arm hole of her top. If one squinted in the concert darkness, it looked like she had four covered breasts all lined up across her chest.

With his confidence rising, the guy decided to go for gold. His hand exits from under her top, makes a straight line south, and begins to burrow inside her denim jeans. After some moments, perhaps due to a sudden sliver of embarrassment or clarity or a simple “let’s get the fuck out of here and finish this”, she abruptly pushed him away, managed to somehow stand up, and decided she wanted to leave the area. The guy followed close behind.

Because the two cups of her front-opening bra still remained outside the arm holes of her black zippered sleeveless top, they rhythmically flapped back and forth with every step of her quick but drunken retreat. It’s as if the bra cups, in their rhythmic flapping, were waving good-bye to us all as she left.

If the years haven’t colored the memory too much, I recall someone behind or next to me clapping and whistling in appreciation as they left.

The Show

With more than two decades now passed, the fact that I can still remember details of the show is a testament to how great it was. “Geek USA” was the opening song and I recall that Corgan’s distortion was not on for the first two strums when the guitar comes in after the drums in the song’s intro. Yes, that clear of a memory. Chamberlin’s drumming was perfection, D’arcy never faltered on the bass and James Iha was nothing less than impressive. Still, Corgan was the focal point and he carried his obsessive drive for perfection from the recording studio on to the stage. We in the audience were left to be the lucky observers.

There’s a live version of the song I mentioned in the post, “Geek USA”, from this same concert but “Quiet” really is an underrated song…and the crowd agrees.

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