It was March 1996, I was 16 years old and a band called The Smashing Pumpkins had recently come to my attention. They were playing in Adelaide (07.03.1996) and at the last minute I decided to buy a ticket. That gig had a huge impact on me, it was like nothing I had seen before and as I stood and watched from the cheap seats I am sure my jaw was dropped the entire time. I left the Adelaide Entertainment Centre that night wanting to know everything there was to know about The Smashing Pumpkins.

Skip forward nearly 20 years and I find myself in the extremely fortunate position of being able to photograph three of The Smashing Pumpkins gigs on their 2015 Australian tour (starting in Adelaide at the Soundwave Festival, then on to Festival Hall in Melbourne and The Big Top, Luna Park in Sydney).

Having been lucky enough to see The Smashing Pumpkins on every tour of Australia since 1996 I have seen many different incarnations of the band in many different venues across the country and watching this line up of Billy Corgan, Jeff Schroeder, Brad Wilk and Mark Stroermer was incredible and exceeded my expectations. So I thought rather than just dump a whole bunch of shots up here I would share a little bit about my experience.

 

Smashing Pumpkins - Scotopic Lux Photography

ADELAIDE (22.02.2015): I feel the need to speak about the Adelaide Soundwave set which Billy has commented on in the media. There is no doubt that the turn out and crowd response for Smashing Pumpkins gigs in Adelaide has been hit and miss (that is the reason that we have been skipped on a number of tours) and Soundwave was no different.

The Smashing Pumpkins played at the very end of a two day, outdoor, metal festival in the middle of the Adelaide summer, with punters (and photographers) having spent two days in 40*C (104*F) heat. The turn out for the entire festival was low, and as such the festival will not be returning to Adelaide next year – which is such a shame.

There are all the usual excuses:
1. Adelaide is close to Melbourne (about an hour flight) and so Adelaide fans will often travel to Melbourne to see shows, especially side shows. I know I would rather see an full length solo show by a band I love than buy a ticket to a festival where there may only be one or two bands I want to see.

2. In February and March in Adelaide we have the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Adelaide (Arts) Festival, the Clipsal V8 car race, WOMADelaide, St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, Future Music Festival as well as many gigs from bands touring Australia through summer. For a city of our size, this may well just be overkill. I know that the audiences don’t cross over too much, but $180 for a Soundwave ticket may well rule out any other events for some people?

All I can say is that those of us who were there to see The Smashing Pumpkins absolutely loved it, and hope that the band aren’t so discouraged that they wont consider returning to Adelaide.

This was not technically my first Pumpkins shoot. I had shot them at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre Theatre in 2010, but that shoot was from the sound desk, so when the band walked on stage in Adelaide and I was the only photographer in the pit (everyone else was over at Slipknot) it was an amazing moment for me and one that I wont forget.

As for the shoot, it was hard work! It was so dark on that stage and there was minimal front lighting so it was really hard to get some clear shots. Combine the low light with the constantly changing lighting and it was also hard to get a lock on focus at some points. I went home that night and edited my Soundwave shots until 3:30am, hoping that we might get some better lighting at the side shows!

Smashing Pumpkins - Scotopic Lux Photography

MELBOURNE (23.02.2015): I don’t think there is a less appealing venue in Australia than Festival Hall. A cement box with side seating that is behind wire fencing, it feels like you are walking in to a cage fight not a gig. Though I was so happy that I had come to Melbourne for this gig as from the moment The Smashing Pumpkins walked on stage it was a whole different experience (band and crowd) than it had been in Adelaide.

Kicking off with three singles (Cherub Rock, 1979 and Ava Adore) the crowd was totally into it, the band were in a great mood and it was times like this that I really do feel so lucky to get the chance to do what I do… being up close to artists that I respect and admire, doing what I love and getting to watch them perform some amazing songs.

After the standard “first three songs” were up there was a mad dash to the car to dump our gear and then back in to the venue to watch the rest of the gig. As I said, I have seen many Pumpkins gigs and what I saw tonight was incredible. The band had never sounded heavier than with Brad pounding those drums, and I could happily watch Billy and Jeff jam out United States every night for the rest of my life. It was amazing.

Good news is that the lighting was better at Festival Hall and I got some decent shots, though it was still dark and difficult and my shots are full of grain as I had to up the ISO. That said, I am always my own harshest critic and the more I have looked at some of my shots the more I like them.

Smashing Pumpkins - Scotopic Lux Photography
Smashing Pumpkins - Scotopic Lux Photography

SYDNEY (25.02.2015): Having not travelled to Sydney too often for gigs I had never been to Luna Park let alone The Big Top venue within, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the venue as a punter or as a photographer.

Tonights gig had support from Japanese band One OK Rock and from Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance) who is actually a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan, and told a story of his first Pumpkins gig which was nice to hear. The venue was much smaller inside that I had expected but the floor filled up nicely by the time the Pumpkins came on and the atmosphere inside wasn’t too bad.

Same set list as Melbourne but different attitude and some variations to songs as Billy seemed to be a little frustrated with his guitar or his sound at one point. Ending with a killer version of David Bowie’s Fame (a cover I really enjoyed each time!)

Lighting tonight wasn’t quite as good as Melbourne I don’t think, though still better than at the festivals which was a blessing. The stage was quite large and I was able to get some full body shots even with my 70-200mm!

Shooting Smashing Pumpkins

My shots of The Smashing Pumpkin’s sideshows were taken exclusively for Ozphoria, the Australian Smashing Pumpkins fan community. A huge thanks goes out to the band for providing the access to allow this coverage.

My full set of Soundwave Festival shots (including The Smashing Pumpkins) from the Adelaide leg can be found at MetalObsession.net.