Smashing Pumpkins: Live in Cleveland7/1991 & 10/1991

The stage was just a couple feet tall and Billy Corgan, James Iha and D'Arcy Wretzky were standing right on the edge of it, just inches away from us, loud and beautiful. The Smashing Pumpkins became one of the biggest alt-rock acts of the 1990s, but in the summer of '91 the Chicago quartet had just released their first album, Gish, and the band was playing small, dirty clubs like the Babylon A-Go-Go in Cleveland, Ohio. After the show they sat on the edge of the stage and talked with fans in the bar. Better than that (for me), Corgan and Iha honored this amateur journalist with a long pre-show interview for my self-published, photocopied 'zine. That's how accessible and passionate they were then -- and it was clear from the beginning that the band could make loud, beautiful music from any size amps. Three months later I saw them again, playing with Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers at the much larger (and cleaner) Cleveland Music Hall -- but now there was a deep orchestra pit between us and them. The Pumpkins were on their way up, like a bullet with butterfly wings.

This short piece was included in a collection of memories of seeing bands play before they made it big.

By Bill Keaggy | Originally published in the A&E section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11 Dec 2005i am