By Devin Ruiz, 16, Ramona Convent (Alhambra)
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The lights had just dimmed and a purple light lit the stage of the Fillmore in San Francisco, when I heard a loud drumming in the distance. The pounding got louder and louder, then from the shadows of the stage corner walked Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan, dressed in white pants and a white button-down with a black and white long-sleeve shirt underneath. Following after him were the rest of the band—Jimmy Chamberlin on drums and new members Ginger Reyes, Jeff Schroeder and Lisa Harriton. Billy grabbed his guitar and yelled into the microphone, “Love run the silent horses/ Some cried the shell shocked houses,” starting one of their new songs, “Blue Skies,” and the beginning of an incredible show.

I first heard the Smashing Pumpkins when I was 10 years old while riding shotgun in my aunt’s car. She was playing the band’s CD Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness. It was like nothing I’d ever heard before. Smashing Pumpkins was on a totally different level than the *NSYNC I had been listening to. I begged my mom to buy me the CD, and since then my interest in SP has turned from a like to a LOVE. In 2001 the Smashing Pumpkins broke up and I was devastated. I’d never be able to see them, no more new music—it was terrible. But in 2006 rumors started flying around the Internet that Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin agreed to reunite the Smashing Pumpkins. Hearing this news I freaked out!!!! Their first string of nine shows was in North Carolina, followed by 12 shows at the Fillmore. Going to San Francisco to see them was the only chance I had. I begged and tried to convince my mom to take me. She finally gave in, and at 10 a.m. when the tickets went on sale, I was lucky enough to grab a pair. I WAS GOING TO SEE THE PUMPKINS!!!!

The entire night I stood there in amazement, thinking Billy Corgan, THE Billy Corgan, is standing in front of me, the only thing separating us is three people, a barricade and one large bodyguard.

They played several songs off their newly released album Zeitgeist, and then a couple off 1994’s Pisces Iscariot and 1993’s highly acclaimed Siamese Dream. But it was not until Billy started to strum the opening chord of their b-side “Drown” that me and everyone else around me really started to cheer. Billy grabbed hold of the microphone and sung this tragic love song, and the crowd members who, like me, seemed to know it word for word accompanied him on back-up vocals. I sang the lyrics using ever fiber in my body to project the words, and as the song ended I “WOO-HOOed” and threw my hands up above my head clapping so hard it hurt my hand. Then, as if “Drown” wasn’t good enough, they played classics like “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” “Today” and another rare release “[Untitled].” I was worked up, and Billy had me in the palm of his hands, wanting more and more. Then suddenly the music stopped and everyone walked off stage. “WHAT?! IT’S OVER?! THAT’S IT, I CAME ALL THE WAY TO SAN FRAN FOR 10 SONGS!”

Then Billy, by himself, walked on stage with an acoustic guitar and to my complete surprise started to sing some of the prettiest lyrics I have ever heard, from a new unreleased song called “If All Goes Wrong,” which ended up becoming my favorite of the night. What followed were two acoustic renditions of “Thirty-Three” from Mellon Collie and the unreleased“ 99 Floors.” Billy then paused and started talking about a new song he had just written and how he was going to play it. He told us that the band was a new Smashing Pumpkins and that from here on it was a new start. He talked for 10 minutes, even making jokes like when the crowd was making too much noise he told us we had 60 seconds to talk and then he had 60, even gesturing to a non-existent watch on his wrist. He continued to casually talk to us, and it made me feel like it was more intimate, and like he was an actual person, and not just THE Billy Corgan

After his acoustic set, the rest of the band joined him to play 11 more songs, including a false start to “Cherub Rock” and then finally the actual song. As it started creeping toward 1 in the morning, keyboardist Lisa Harriton started to play the beginning of “Tonight Tonight.” I thought it was just another false start, but then the whole band started in. I sang along, mimicking every word that came out of Billy’s mouth, swayed along to the music and just let myself go, no restraints. The band left the stage and returned for a three-song encore, then left the stage for the final time. And all I could do was stand there in awe of what I had just seen. I walked out of the Fillmore with goose bumps down my arms, a smile on my face, and so grateful my mom let me go to San Francisco to see this incredible performance.