Music

How The Smashing Pumpkins Can Still Salvage Their Slow-Selling Reunion Tour

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After weeks of teasing, Smashing Pumpkins finally announced their kind-of, sort-of reunion tour set to hit arenas across the US this summer. And after only a few days of being on sale, the tickets are reportedly moving at a sluggish pace. Using just Ticketmaster as the most basic of research tools, Twitter user Kyle Matteson (as pointed out by Consequence Of Sound) noticed that some of the show dates have a disconcerting amount of remaining seats available. For a tour that was so hyped and so filled with inherent problems from the get-go, it is not a surprise that some people are relishing in this apparent stumble.

But all hope is not lost. We’re still here bundled up in our winter coats (or, in LA, our light winter flannel shirt) and these concerts aren’t set to take place until the dog days of summer. There is still time to turn the ship around and make this tour the event that longtime fans have been waiting for. The proposed setlist is packed with some of the strongest songs of their era, and as revealed in text messages to uninvited bassist D’arcy Wretzky, bandleader Billy Corgan is promising “a Broadway-level show” that will be “timed to the minute.” If they pull it off, it should be very impressive. But first, they need to put people in the seats. Below are five areas that could bolster the tour’s prospects, and turn those blue Ticketmaster seats into faded grey.

Openers

As of now, no opening acts have been announced for the Smashing Pumpkins tour, which is pretty ambitious of the band to think that their name alone could fill arenas. When I saw Soundgarden play an arena on their 2011 reunion tour, they had the Mars Volta in tow. Or, to put things in perspective, just a handful of years back, the Pumpkins were touring with Marilyn Manson in support and still playing just amphitheaters rather than these ambitious sporting venues. The only difference this time around is that James Iha will be playing guitar and the band will be drawing from only their early material, but its hard to say if that is really worthy of the bump in venue size, especially without some help.

So who would be best to bring along for the ride? Ideally, it would be someone that both fit the band’s aesthetic and overlapped during the timeline that the Pumpkins would be performing. Not taking into account the possibilities of conflicting plans or tour dates, alternative icons Garbage seems like a no-brainer for this, as the band managed to find a similar blend of commercial and critical success around the same time as the Pumpkins. A little less exciting would be someone like Stone Temple Pilots or Alice In Chains, two touring groups who are on cycle but aren’t quite the same bands they were in their heyday, having both lost their leads to drug overdoses. Still, if nostalgia chasing is what this tour is about, they would fit the bill perfectly.

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A little less realistic and more ideal would be another reunion from a former Corgan collaborator, Hole. This could even do some damage control for the many fans who feel alienated from the Pumpkins for removing their sole female member from the equation, having Corgan share the bill with a feminist icon with whom he has had some public beef. Heck, maybe even just get Courtney to play solo if she doesn’t want to get the band back together.

A three-band bill would ultimately make sense, giving room for an iconic band of a similar ilk like Dinosaur Jr. or a band that Corgan has himself influenced like Strand Of Oaks. After all, if you aren’t Kanye West or Justin Timberlake, it is hard to get away with touring without support.

Walk Back Some Of Billy’s Trumpy Tendencies

Allow me to be the millionth person to point out that these are politically charged times. Still, Billy Corgan has long had no problem spouting off opinions that have him labeled as problematic to say the least (our own Steven Hyden recently entertained the question if supporting the Pumpkins tour was morally wrong). Is it possible that some of his fans are turned off and not supporting with their money because of his controversial past statements? You betcha. With a history that includes appearing on conservative conspiracy talk radio, printing “F*ck You Anderson Cooper” shirts, and having a former bandmate compare him to Trump, any of his more politically-minded fans could lump him in with Amazon and Macy’s on their boycott list.

But Corgan could easily mend this. One well-thought statement condemning Trump and his policies could do wonders to repair his image and get any people who felt conflicted about supporting him back on board. It’s been widely said that being a musician in 2018 requires you to get political, and for Smashing Pumpkins to survive in this environment, the generally outspoken Corgan needs to watch his tongue, be careful who he associates with, and make sure he gets on the right side of history.

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Play Smaller Venues

Here is just a thought. Maybe an arena tour for a band that hasn’t had a hit record in 20 years — yet has toured pretty consistently in the time since — is a little too bold? While it is admirable that the band is making the tour so extensive and hitting many smaller markets as well as the expected big cities, a 13,000-cap venue in Sioux Falls, South Dakota or similarly sized rooms near Boise, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, and Omaha might be overdoing it.

But this could be a blessing in disguise. Bands change their venues all the time, and maybe a Smashing Pumpkins run would make more sense at big clubs or even amphitheaters. Even better, if some of these venues had general admission offerings (the Pumpkins are opting for a seated floor on their current arena dates, which means more money in their pocket in exchange for an infinitely more sterile atmosphere), more fans might show up in light of the more democratic opportunity to get close to their favorite band. Sure, it will be less money in the end for Corgan to take home, but the size of the venues won’t help if they can’t get people to show up to it.

Charge Less For Tickets

Let’s go back to Sioux Falls for a second, which has many, MANY tickets available. If you want to get on the floor at the Denny Sanford Premiere Center, it is going to cost you at least $99 plus service fees. And that’s still all the way in the back of the floor — remember, the floor is seated, so there isn’t any chance of getting up close. There is still a four pack of fourth-row seats available that hasn’t been snatched up already, but that’s going for nearly $400 a seat. There are technically some tickets available for a very reasonable $29 plus fees, but it is hard to say if those are technically within the city limits.

If you want to see the band in NYC, though, you are talking $166 for the floor seats far away from the stage, and for 3rd row far to the left of the stage, it’s almost $700 apiece. Sure, the promoter is probably responsible for the pricing tiers, but it is pretty absurd to think just how much the tour is catering to the super rich, and exploiting the premium seats for an absurd amount of money. A band like 30 Seconds To Mars, which is using the floor of MSG for all GA space, is getting around $115 for each of those tickets. It all goes to show how the Pumpkins have embraced legacy band pricing, distancing themselves from more contemporary stars.

A lot of times when we see these tours get off to such sluggish sales figures, the promotor will offer discounts and bundles as the dates approach. For fans of Smashing Pumpkins, holding out might be the smartest decision if they are looking to do less damage to their wallets.

Make It A Real Reunion Tour

Despite what our own Steven Hyden observed about all the pre-reunion drama surround the band’s bassist from the era that they are touring, D’arcy Wretzky, there has been a downside to all their pre-announcement press. Regardless of whether D’arcy is physically up to the task or still possessing the musical chops she used to, there is a strong contingent of ardent Pumpkinheads that doesn’t consider this a proper reunion without her on stage.

This gets particularly complicated for the band when you consider the social atmosphere that they are returning. The entertainment industry is a place where women and men both are speaking out against the long history of harassment and marginalization that women experience, and the last few weeks have resonated as another example of this kind of behavior. D’arcy has been called a liar for speaking out against truths she can prove, and, most importantly, has been sidelined for performances that she is willing to turn up for. When women complain about being treated like they don’t have a voice in the workplace and having their hard work disregarded and called unimportant, D’arcy might as well be the poster woman for this kind of behavior.

Even if D’arcy could not physically perform for the duration of the 2-3 hour shows, there are still solutions. For one, the band could just have her come out as a guest on select songs or during the encore, as it’s doubtful that bringing along one more person on tour would greatly impact the bottom line when you are charging hundreds of dollars per seat. And though no bassist has yet been announced, maybe try replacing her within the confines of four announced members with another woman (Melissa Auf der Maur anyone?) rather than turning the band into a collection of dudes by making guitarist Jeff Schroeder a marquee member. On a tour that is about nostalgia and honoring the band’s tradition, fans want to see a band on stage that represents the band that they remember. Instead, we’ve had a cycle that has erased the group’s lone woman as both a creative influence and as a visible part of their legacy.

And while it looks like the recent weeks have only frayed this relationship further, a reconciliation could turn this Smashing Pumpkins reunion into, well, an actual, real reunion. You know, the kind of tour that 40-year-old fans are willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for, or are willing to fill up the cheap seats just to catch a glimpse. With many months still until the run launches in Glendale, Arizona on July 12, there are many moves which could still turn this endeavor into a success.

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