Film : Smashing Pumpkins reunite
The documentary, "If All Goes Wrong," follows the reunion tour of The Smashing Pumpkins. Getting closer to the band than any zealous groupie could, the film playing this Friday and Monday at the Capawock Theatre shows as much footage of lead guitarist and vocalist Billy Corgan dressed in his bathrobe as it does of him onstage. True to its namesake, the movie celebrates the grit and exhaustion involved in the reformation of the band as much as it celebrates their heights, cutting straight through the glamour so often associated with rock stars to examine them at their most vulnerable. What results is an intensely human portrait of the band - a depiction of rock stars that isn't larger than life.
Following their breakup in 2000, Mr. Corgan reformed The Smashing Pumpkins with original drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and three new musicians, guitarist Jeff Schroeder, bassist Ginger Reyes, and Lisa Harriton on keyboard. The band announced they would play eight shows at a small club in Asheville, N.C., followed by 11 shows at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, which holds only 1,250 people. Tickets to the shows, which occurred in the summer of 2007, sold out immediately.
Directed by Jack Gulick and Daniel E. Catullo III, the film presents the resuscitated Pumpkins as a band with impossible expectations. Mr. Corgan's motive for reforming the band that he founded in Chicago in 1988 seem ultimately pure, but reconstructing a band that was for a time the essential alternative rock band in America is not something that is done on a whim. Fans worshipped The Smashing Pumpkins, and the impossible expectations brought on by their revival are documented and then weaved into what amounts to a 19-show journey.
Mr. Corgan himself is a rare blend of adjectives. A depressive perfectionist who was one of the first prominent entertainers to publicly talk about the abuse he received as a child, he has an interesting integrity. It is the weight of his character that drives the documentary forward. He seems to answer the movie's title with a loud, "Keep going," repeatedly regaining momentum as everything from tired audiences to disillusionment with San Francisco challenge what his band is or should be.
Despite the film's tendency to provide only parts of songs, the music is presented wonderfully. One of the heights of the movie is the strobe-strewn guitar solo of "Gossamer," which has impressive energy coming through the Capawock's sound system.
The ups and downs of the band are not too painful if only because the movie covers such a short period of time. Recording good days and bad days, "If all Goes Wrong" stands as a testament to the resiliency and mental toughness that it takes to maintain both a band and a soul.
It is filmed as if the cameras were rolling nonstop and then the best and most interesting moments were strung together in a logical form. This creates a detailed picture of the interactions and instances of The Smashing Pumpkins' tour. It's fast paced for a documentary.
Though the movie is not an introduction to The Smashing Pumpkins' musical catalogue, it doesn't need to be. Whether familiar with the band or not, viewers should find "If All Goes Wrong" an engaging documentary and a treat to see on the big screen.
The movie is one of two rock and roll music events that will be coming to the Capawock Theatre this fall, the other being "The Who: Live At Kilburn 1977" which will show the following week.
"If All Goes Wrong," Capawock Theatre, Friday, Nov. 7, at 9:15 pm and Monday Nov. 10, at 7 and 9:15 pm.
West Tisbury resident Ben Williams regularly contributes to The Martha's Vineyard Times.