Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen?

As longtime readers of Places Parallel may know, I have a love/hate relationship with Billy Corgan.

Love, because the Smashing Pumpkins dominated the soundtrack of my college youth, and the undeniable power and genius of Siamese Dream as well as the giddy creativity of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness have long outlived the flannel shirts and professional angst of other '90s acts. (And for the record, Adore was extremely underrated, imo.) Billy Corgan was also important to me as a local boy made good. When Billy hit the pinnacle of his fame, I was trapped in the blue collar, closed-minded region of Northwest Indiana. It was so close to Chicago, geographically and mentally, that you could go to one of the beaches in Gary, not too far from the smokestacks of the steel mills and oil refineries, and just across Lake Michigan, you could make out the lights of the Chicago close, you could almost touch it, and then it was curfew time. Bah! It was easy to think of Billy as one of artist, sensitive, misunderstood, who clawed his way to the top--not just in Chicago, but all over the world.

Hate, because since the breakup of the Pumpkins, Billy has seemed more of an infomercial charlatan with a lot of product to push than the silver-pants-clad rock god of my not-so-distant memory. After a forgettable little project with ugly cover art called Zwan and some disappointing solo efforts (some bad poetry, an album that no one bought), Billy "reunited" (a term I take strong issue with, considering that no one named James Iha or D'arcy Wretzky is involved) the Smashing Pumpkins and proceeded with Project "Exploit the Die-Hard Fans." You can read my prior complaints here, but mostly I was dismayed at Billy releasing about 7,000 versions of the same goddamn album, with one track available at Target and one track available at Best Buy and another track available in a limited edition Happy Meal at McDonald's. Just kidding about the latter, but maybe Billy is kicking himself for not thinking of that.

Also, I was pissed because the Pumpkins really seemed to go out of their way to avoid Chicago, their home town. Remember, Billy, how "the embers never fade, in the city by the lake"? My previous post was written in June 2007, and as of nearly August 2008, the Smashing Pumpkins have STILL not deigned to visit the Windy City.

But according to an email message I recently received, they will be visiting the city of MY birth, Hammond, Indiana. On Saturday, August 9, they will be playing at The Venue at the Horseshoe Casino. They're opening their a Northwest Unless one is playing Vegas, performing at a casino smacks of a lack of dignity. However, Mr. Maise did point out that I was being a snob. The newly built Venue appears to have cost an awful lot of money and is supposed to be a, venue. And maybe Mr. Maise is right. Maybe I *am* being a snob. After all, the Stone Temple Pilots aren't too good for The Venue. Neither is Bette Midler. Or Lynryd Skynyrd. Or Billy Idol.

But what really gets me is the fact that to see this half-ass reunion of the Smashing Pumpkins at a Northwest Indiana casino will cost one $83/ticket (not including Ticketmaster fees). Oh, Billy, really?!! The people of Northwest Indiana (or as we affectionately refer to ourselves, the "Region rats") are, by necessity, extremely thrifty. I really can't imagine, in a recession, people in NWI lining up to pay $83/person to hear half of a famous band from the '90s play a lot of tracks from an album that no one bought (or maybe a few people bought 10 times each). Hell, I'm no laid-off steel mill worker, but I don't spend $83 per ticket on a show unless it's really fucking good. I think the last time I paid that much was for the Police, and shit, I waited like 25 years for that show and got all three of them!

I guess there will be some sort of 20th Anniversary show scheduled in Chicago--finally! No one yet knows what that will entail...a sold-out crowd at a teeny-tiny venue, like the Metro? Bombastic arena rock, like in the Mellon Collie days? But is it too little, too late after all of the missteps of the previous year?

Maybe I'm the only one troubled by these issues in the first place. The thing is, as much as I'm hating, I do kind of want to see the Smashing Pumpkins again. I can forgive. But there would have to be a lot more rock and a lot less exploitation of the common fan.


Ro said...

Oh, Maise, I assure you, you are not the only child of the 90s troubled by Billy's apparent money grab that was "Zeitgeist." Perhaps Billy was led astray by some retarded record execs (at least I'd like to think so, anyway). Whatever the case may be, he's managed to alienate a hometown fanbase that would gladly shell out big bucks to see a REAL reunion (that is, not just another Zwan rehash). Shit, I practically prostituted myself for a ticket to the Pumpkins *final* show at the Metro, and I don't think this shit, even at $83 a pop, could compare, especially when it's in the armpit of the Midwest.

Anonymous said...

I was going to go into a whole (very interesting) diatribe about how ticket prices are set, but I'll spare you. Unless you're really really interested, in which case I'll have no choice.

Instead, I'll say this--after doing a tiny bit of digging on Pollstar, etc., I believe that Mr. Corgan's fee is probably $150,000 per show. (Keep in mind that probably includes everything, including sound equipment, etc--it's not like all the money is going to the band and their agents.)

They also just added like four more dates, so that means that folks are willing to pay (and by "folks" I mean promoters). Ticket prices aren't available for those shows yet, but I'm sure they'll be consistent.

Anonymous said...

Funny enough, poking around the internet this evening, I came across this, on Jason Loewenstein's website (yes, Jason from SEBADOH, who is playing for Maise tomorrow night), about the Butthole Surfers going out on tour:

"Woah! $45 tickets... They must have insane guarantees for the shows.
Funny though. There was nobody like the butts when they were happening... they had a big effect on their contemporaries, and now nobody ever mentions them!!!

Totally weird.

Having said that, I hope there are some cheaper tickets.
Otherwise its gonna be bong hits in front of the CD player for me."

I luv, luv, LUV the fact that the guys in Sebadoh keep it real. And that they are amazed that tix are high at $45 a pop. Cause you know that Sebadoh's guarantee is probably five grand.

maise said...

Actually, I would be interested in hearing how ticket prices are set so that if I'm unfairly blaming Billy, then I'd know better.

I mean, I know that not ALL of my complaints are 100% his decisions. I'm sure the record label and venues have a role to play. However, he does have a reputation for being Mr. Control Freak. Plus, pretty much every other band in the world manages to release one definitive album that you can purchase anywhere and keep their ticket prices to around $50-60 at the most.

Anonymous said...

Okay, here's how it works:

1. Bill Corgan decides to go on tour.
2. The management team figures out how long to go on tour, what equipment they'll need, what kind of staffing that is going to entail, etc.,etc.,etc.
3. They set a price for each show based on all of the expenses (which includes, of course, payment for the talent).
4. They sit around a table and say, "Yeah, but is this enough to piss Maise off?"


Okay, now that I'm done amusing myself, I'll you THE REAL DEAL.

1. Somehow, the persons responsible for selling the product (in this case, a performance by a band) set a price for that product. You could consider it the wholesale price. I don't know how they arrive at that price, but it's likely a combination of things, including demand/exclusivity/keeping the perceived value of the performer at a certain place/cost to tour the show/equipment/road crew, etc. Say the price is $100.
2. They shop the show around. For touring productions (not rock n roll, but dance, Broadway, etc), there are conventions a few times a year where you go and see showcases and stuff, and essentially buy shows. Everyone negotiates, based on their circumstances. Promoters (also called Talent Buyers), purchase the show. Let's say they buy this $100 show for $90.
3. The promoter finds a venue. Some promoters have their own venue, others rent places. This is where they are going to sell their product, the show. Based on all kinds of factors, that can vary from performance to performance, they set their ticket price. They might do one price for the whole house, two prices, three prices, whatever. They have to figure out how much they need to sell to break even or turn a profit, and then work backward from there to set the ticket prices. If they're putting the show in a large venue where it's likely that a lot of people will show up, the ticket price can go down. If they are putting the show in a smaller venue, and it's an expensive show, the ticket price HAS to stay high or they'll lose their shirt. If they are putting the show in any sized venue, but there isn't a large critical mass that will come to the show (they'll sell 50%, say), that affects ticket prices. If they think there is a potential large audience but they're going to have to spend a ton of money on advertising to reach them, that affects ticket prices. You get the drift.
4. So let's say that this show, that cost $100, but that the skilled promoter negotiated down to $90, is going into a ten-seat venue. Tickets are going to have to be at least $9 each, but that would only cover the cost of buying the talent--you've still got to consider either overhead (if it's your own venue), or rental of a venue, insurance, staffing, advertising, etc. Let's say for the sake of argument that that will add another 20% on top, that brings tickets up to $10.80, and there is still no profit.
5. Okay, how much profit do you want to make? What's your time worth? Sounds to me like a $10.80 ticket should go up to maybe $12. But that's assuming that you'll sell all ten tickets. If you think that you might only sell six tickets, then you have to jack your prices up even more, to like $16+.

Now you are qualified to work with me.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and then some unscrupulous promoters and venues just gouge because they think they can. Bad long term strategy.

Anonymous said...

And it's time, once again, for the JR Trifecta. A third point!

I think it's pretty appropriate to blame Billy in this instance. As I said, I'm guessing that his fee is like $150,000. I'd bet big money that it's not less than $75,000.

Anonymous said...

Maise, I am dying to hear your revew of Pitchfork Day 1, and I sure hope I don't have to wait.

Who was better? Mission of Burma, Sebadoh or Public Enemy?

Who am I kidding?

Anonymous said...

For anyone else who is dying to hear what Maise thought of Sebadoh, and who needs an Eric Gaffney fix, I've just slapped a five-song mini(ish)-podcast on JR.

Check it out and get yur Gaffney on. Now. No more excuses.

maise said...

Actually, you won't have to wait too long because although I wasn't in the best position to see the actual shows, I was privy to some fun backstage stuff.

I'd go with Public Enemy for the win.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god.

Dish, girl.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I hope you post something tonight, or I won't be able to sleep.

Was there a food fight?

Did Flav mess up the Burma's tapes?

Did Jason Loewenstein and Chuck D talk sneakers?

Was Lou Barlow whiny?

Were there rider issues? Did someone misinterpret the request for an "all-white dressing room"?

Were there jokes? Inside or regular?

Was humidity a factor? I don't know how well Gaff's hair would hold up.

Oh Maise, you're KILLING ME!!!


Anonymous said...


And Maise, I'm not as concerned with the Burmas, but I am expecting a full set list for the Sebadoh and Public Enemy sets.

And I bet Public Enemy only won out because Sebadoh constantly has equipment issues. Though I still be they kill. D is the MAN.

I haven't even read any reviews online because I'm waiting for the straight dope from you, Maise. Hurry!

Iris said...

Get a hold of yourself, JR. It may not be tonight that you hear the rest of the scoop from Maise. I think she's back out there at the festival now. Just thought I'd mention that so your head doesn't burst with excitement first, although, I'm pretty pysched to hear what all went on too.

Anonymous said...

I'm so bruised from kicking myself for not having bought tix to this fucking festival. I knew about it for a while, but decided to pass. And now, all week, I've been listening to a random mix of Public Enemy and Sebadoh and being petulant. I'd be okay with MoB, too, but it's really seeing PE and Sebadoh on the same bill that has me all crazy.

Does Maise even know how lucky she is?

P.S. I bet she's a Gaffney fan, now.

Anonymous said...

I held out as long as I could. I gave in and have started watching footage on YouTube.

Maise, it's official, I am SO JEALOUS.

I'll get to the PE and MoB stuff later; of course, I had to start with the Sebadoh stuff. Here's one of my favorite Gaff songs ever, and it KILLED. Oh, and I recognize that gray head with the blue t-shirt directly in front of the stage...that's my J Mascis!

JR = jealous, jealous, jealous, jealous, jealous. Maise, you have no excuse now for not loving on the Gaff. He is TOO COOL and YOU KNOW IT.

maise said...

JR, you should have come out! It was a lot of fun, and I do have a report I will be writing up v. soon. Have to try to get some work done today, but I'll see if I can sneak it in this afternoon.

In the meantime, THE DARK KNIGHT...discuss.

Anonymous said...

My husband is dragging me to the matinee of the Dark Knight today, so I'll be more qualified to discuss later on.

He is as excited as an 8 year old boy.

maise said...

I honestly think you will enjoy it. It is dark and operatic. It's more like watching a noir or police thriller than a superhero movie.

I was sad when Heath Ledger died, but after seeing this, I'm rather despondent. He is so fantastic, he becomes THE Joker, and I can't imagine anyone even attempting it again.

D:ANGEL said...

Guess who I saw yesterday at Lazer Blazer (indie DVD store here in LA)buying a copy of SIMON: KING OF THE WITCHES?

maise said...

Did you see Trent Reznor buying a copy of Simon: King of the Witches? If so, that would be a little unfair, given that you mostly feel "meh" about him.

D:ANGEL said...

Nope, Danzig!

If I saw Trent I would have gotten something signed for Gabriel, not that Gabriel doesn't already have his share of Trent signed stuff.

Anonymous said...

It's hero weekend, alright.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to report that the Batman movie did nothing for me, guys. Except to prove to me that yes, Christian Bale is attractive. I was also disappointed in Heath Ledger's performance--I was really expecting to be wowed. I thought he was good, but if you're in a film like that, isn't "good" a baseline? The way everyone has been frothing at the mouth...I expected a lot more.

My husband, of course, is a big Batman nerd and he really liked it, though he gave it an 8.3 out of 10 (seriously).

D:ANGEL said...

JR, you are nuts.

I give it a 9.5 out of 10.

Anonymous said...

Uh oh, I MUST be wrong--DA and I disagree!

Seriously, though, can you tell me why you thought it was so great? Did you really think that Heath Ledger's performance was spellbinding?

I liked the cinematography and the scoring, and I guess the writing/storyline was good, since I didn't get distracted in the 170 minutes, but I didn't get engaged by it at all.

Anonymous said...

I should also mention that film is not my medium, though once upon a time I was actually a film major. But it was film production. I was supposed to be an auteur, not an audience member.

And I don't like fiction. So I tend to be a bad film fan.

maise said...

I hate getting in debates involving, "I loved it!" vs. "I hated it!" But Heath Ledger is worthy of some defense here.

Heath Ledger totally reinvented this character, to the point where I don't want to consider anyone else tackling it. He completely embodied the Joker, thoroughly disguising himself in the process. And disguising himself not only with makeup, but with his voice, his posture, his mannerisms. This seemed to be a completely different person than the actor Heath Ledger or any other character that Heath has previously played.

Compare his performance to that of say, Jack Nicholson's Joker. As much as Jack Nicholson can be fun to watch, is a person ever NOT aware that he/she is watching Jack Nicholson?

In addition, if you consider the character of the Joker as he has been portrayed on TV and on the big screen, the factor that's been missing is real menace. Sure the Joker has little one-liners and jokes, hence the name. But Heath's Joker was scary as shit. From the repulsive scars on his face (as well as his changing narrative on how he obtained those scars--so much for the armchair psychologists) to the peeling makeup to the cold, dark eyes to his hunched shoulder...everything about the Joker screamed real malevolence, befitting of the anarchist plots he implements. I mean, if someone like that caught my eye and started walking towards me, I'd probably fucking piss myself.

At the same time, I LOVED the Joker, even though he was completely immoral and did a lot of terrible things. He was frightful yet wonderfully charismatic. I silently cheered every time he was onscreen. I wanted to see him escape, just so there was the possibility he'd show up again with some convoluted and deliciously nasty plot. He didn't have cheesy one-liners; he mostly said simple things with such perfect timing that they were quite hilarious.

Honestly, what's not to love about this performance? Even if you're not into the superhero movie, as crime thriller, you've got to admit, the Joker was one of the most electrifying villains to grace the big screen in YEARS. This was a role for the ages, I think, and any Batman film in the future will be haunted by this performance.

I think you're just being contrary, JR.

maise said...

In addition, this is not the first time Heath Ledger has really knocked me out with a performance.

I was generally underwhelmed by Brokeback Mountain. I thought it was rather overrated, mostly because I couldn't stand Jake Gylenhaal's and Anne Hathaway's characters. Even though a lot of time was supposed to pass, I never felt that either of them was over the age of 24. Anne's character only seemed to age because her hair got increasingly bigger. And Jake's character was way too cloying to be a love for the ages.

But Heath Ledger really *became* this uptight cowboy. I've known men like that in my family, and they sound just like, they look just like that, and they act just like that. He was the only one who seemed to really age, and he was the only one who conveyed so much inner torment in such a subtle way.

Oh, and I liked Michelle Williams in it too.

My point being, Heath Ledger was a kick-ass actor who deserves all the props he's getting posthumously.

Anonymous said...

I'm really not being contrary, Maise, I swear.

I think that you hit on a really good point that might explain why, although I liked HL's performance and the character of The Joker, I wasn't blown away by it (as I was expecting to be)--because I really hadn't seen him in anything else. I saw 3-5 minutes of Brokeback, and thought he was magnetic in that (or at least the scenes that I saw), and I was actually looking forward to seeing him in this based on the advance reviews and the few minutes that I saw of BM.

But I think that what held me back from enjoying his performance more was as simple as lacking context.

Also, I don't really like dramas/thrillers, etc., for the same reason that I don't read fiction--I don't want to be told a story. I prefer reality. I have a hard time getting lost in a story or a character or whatever. So that's something else very personal to me that held me back from enjoying the movie.

Lastly, and I think I said this already, but just in case--I did like a lot of the cinematography, and the score. There were lots of shots that looked just like a cell from a comic book, but with humans instead of drawings, and that was neat.

I guess I have a tendency to watch a film like a director and see how I would have done it differently.

And I prefer documentaries. ;)

But thank you, really, for pointing out some really good food for thought.

And I'm not trying to be a contrarian. Really.

Anonymous said...

Oh, wait. I mean, I prefer verite.

D:ANGEL said...

Well - in general I am not a fiction fan either - unless it is something offbeat enough or with a compelling underlying theme...

I just finished Lords of Chaos... which was AMAZING.

But as for Dark Knight - I have loved Batman my whole life and while I appreciated the other incarnations... this was the film I wanted to see. I am older and jaded now and very little excites me, but this movie impressed me and left me exhilarated. The story was complex and layered, the characters rich and interesting (espeically considering their 4-color origins). I grew up on stuff like A DEATH IN THE FAMILY (the Batman story arc in the comics where Robin is killed by the Joker) and KILLING JOKE (where the Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara Gordon/Batgirl). I wanted a grim, gritty story. As a kid I wanted to be Batman... brooding, tortured, fighting all the time. As an adult, to see that story told intelligently was powerful. Ledger was great but it was the overall tapestry of the film that really engaged me.

Anonymous said...


pleeeeeeaaaaaaaase tell us about Pitchfork.

Why did the vid I saw make it sound like there was a saxophone playing during Dino's "Freak Scene"?

Come onnnnnnnn.

maise said...

I'm going to try to get to it today, I promise! But don't get your expectations up too high. It was really cool working backstage, but I didn't really get to absorb the music that much. There are good stories, though, so be patient...

Anonymous said...

I know. And I'm not patient.