Category Live Shows

Shiny and Oh So Bright: Smashing Pumpkins at United Center

When I was thirteen years old, I stood at the sink, washing dishes, wearing a Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt, and informed my father, who was drying, how lame it is that bands go on “we still hate each other but we ran out of money” reunion tours and how lame the middle aged people are who go to them, trying to recapture their lost youth. We had a lot of discussions like that, many centered around the center of my life, The Smashing Pumpkins. 

And I was obsessed. Obsessed in the way that an awkward, often-lonely person can be when they feel understood for the first time in their lives. I channeled that obsession into spending my time on the internet discussing the band on Listessa. I scoured the at-the-time brand new website eBay for memorabilia, rare cd singles, a print of their first album before it was slightly remastered and reissued under the parent label, fan-made merch…anything I could get my hands on and my babysitting budget would allow. I had a closet full of Smashing Pumpkins t-shirts and when I saw them live (my first concert, Summerfest ’98, opening bands were Blonde Redhead and Hum), I bought four more. I got in trouble with my parents for using too much printer ink printing photos of the band I’d found online. I bought that hundred dollar (or more?) black and white hard shelled mini suitcase of singles and b-sides. I committed to memory track names, song order, lyrics. I started taking guitar lessons and bought Smashing Pumpkins tablature books so I could know the music. I lip-synced in the mirror. I drew fan art. I waited in line for nine hours to meet the band on their Machina signing tour. I would evangelize the band to anyone who would listen. If they were willing, they could also listen to the music on the portable cd player I carried during the only years of my life when I had pants with pockets generously sized enough to accommodate a portable CD player. (They were so generous I probably could have wedged a smaller boom box in there.)

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Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good: Pinata Bash 2015


I heard about the Pinata Bash about six months before the actual event date, which was plenty of time to make a killer pinata. Naturally, given six months to make it, I really only got started in earnest the week of the event, because time pressure makes me excel, or at the very least, gives me a primo excuse for not making something to the best of my abilities (“What did you expect, I put it together in ten minutes?“). I ultimately ended up making a dragon pinata primarily out of cardboard with a thin skin of paper mache, because I remembered all too well how quickly the last pinata I made was sliced in half.

The rules were as follows:

-Your pinata must contain a prize pocket

-The contents of the prize pocket can be anything so long as it’s not liquor, liquid, or potentially hazardous (but it was indicated that it would be ideal if you put in things that people would actually want)

-The pinata can’t be bigger than 5’x5′ or too heavy to lift with a rope and pulley


That was pretty much it! My dragon rolled in at just under five feet long, with jaws that snapped up and down when he moved, and was stuffed with seven pounds of atomic fireballs and chocolate coins. I was happy with my construction and my chances at snagging a prize until I got to Re-bar and realized that some people had worked way, way harder on theirs than I did and deserved the prizes way, way more than I did.

clash of the titansClash of the Titans

death starDeath Star

emoji twinsDancing Emoji Twins

ghostbuster pinataGhostbusters

kandi kidzKandi Kidz RaverBallz

romy michelle escape helicopterRomy and Michelle’s Escape Helicopter

smash the patriarchySmash the Patriarchy


The first portion of the evening was the judging portion–the judges checked out all of the pinatas, made some initial notes, and then each builder was invited onstage to answer questions about their pinata. Seattle’s Mayor of Burlesque, Jo Jo Stiletto, wanted to know my dragon’s name, backstory, and magical powers, and I was suddenly thankful for all of the bullshit I make up on a regular basis, because while I walked into the club with a generic nameless dragon, I was able to come up with something on the spot. “He’s an…uh… Icelandic dragon who goes from house to house at night, breathing in his minty fresh breath through the windows. Whenever people wake up in the morning and say “Ooooh, it’s crisp!”, that’s him. His name is, uh, Skarsgård.”

After everyone talked about their creations, the judges conferred and selected the winners.

First place: Clash of the Titans. Obviously! This thing had light up eyes and the creators spent a full six months perfecting it.

Second place: Smash the Patriarchy. This one surprised me–sure, the name and concept were funny, but I would have pegged the death star or the ghostbusters ghost for this slot.

Third place: Ghostbusters. It even came with a proton pack smashing stick!

Last place: Sadzilla, where the only prize was a hug from the judges. They were openly cruel to this girl, not just about her pinata, but about her–one said she seemed retarded, and I was appalled. It doesn’t seem like this is how you should treat someone who spent time, effort, and money creating something so you could have an event to destroy it AND paid more to enter a pinata than they would have if they’d paid cover as a smasher. That was the big bummer of the evening to me.

The other bummer was how damn stingy builders were with their prizes, which is what I found out when we got to smashing. The entire point of smashing open a pinata is to get at the goodies inside, so yes, it is a total dick move to stuff your pinata full of glitter, opened fortune cookies, and old dirty socks. Or three starburst.

glitter floor

one sad smiley face

skarsgaard strung up

emoji twins swingSkarsgård went down in one hit (the pinata curse continues), and the crowd fell on him and pocketed his guts within seconds. Someone carried around the head like a trophy, eyeless, because someone else had ripped them out as their trophy. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’m even more convinced that I would not do well in a mob-type situation. Someone get these people some candy, stat! And take away their sticks!

It’s just reinforcing the class system of…horses…sitting on their high horses….sorry, I gotta go!


A couple of years ago, Jason and I attended Cavalia, an equestrian and acrobatic show that’s essentially Cirque du Soleil minus the clowns and with horses, and I loved every minute of it. When I saw a billboard for their new show, Odysseo, I mentioned to Jason that I’d like to attend. The next day, he sent me a message: “Do we have plans for SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2014, 8 P.M?”  There was no way he hadn’t directly copy/pasted that from a ticket purchasing site, and I couldn’t play it cool for even a second. “No…are we going to the horse show?!” “No, I, uh, signed us up for a, uh…cross-stitching class.”


I needled him about cross-stitching class constantly in the weeks that followed, asking about where it was, what we were learning, their flowing manes, but he stuck to his story, finally exhaustedly presenting me with the tickets on Valentine’s Day. Because nothing says “I love you” like the end of weeks of pestering. Little did he know that while it was the end of waking him up with a flashlight in the middle of the night to interrogate him about our supposed cross-stitching class, it was also the beginning of shaking him awake in the middle of the night to let him know exactly how many hours until horse show time. What I’m saying is, when his coworkers would see how wretchedly tired he looked, waggle their eyebrows, and say something coy about newlyweds, they really had no idea.

When the day finally came, we followed standard protocol and removed all cash and means of credit from my person, and not a moment too soon, as Cavalia has stepped up their merchandising considerably and moved it front and center, so within seconds of entering I was squeezing supersoft plush horses to test their fitness as a friend to Napoleon (verdict: ringing in at $100, they are much too fine for the ten minutes of ass-ripping they would endure in my household). They’ve also got DVDs of this show and the previous one, soundtracks, calendars, shirts, scarves, etc–the usual. What I didn’t see, and what no force on Earth could have stopped me from purchasing, were the SkyRunners, because I’ve got a number of bones in my body which have never been broken, and I’m certain they could help me remedy that particular problem.


Our seats were pretty excellent; as we were off to the side a bit and angled to see the arena, there actually were no seats in front of us so I didn’t have to worry about the Jolly Green Giant sitting in front of me and blocking my view, which is what normally happens to me at every event. When I saw RoboGeisha in the theater, I couldn’t see the subtitles at all, so I essentially invented my own reasons for why someone might gouge out another person’s eyes with shrimp tempura. When I saw That1Guy recently, the tallest man I’ve ever seen in my life came in three quarters of the way through the show and pushed his way through the crowd until he was standing directly in front of me, and this was so inevitable that I only wondered what took him so long; maybe he lost track of time while shooting himself up with human growth hormone.

The show itself was amazing and beautiful, showcasing strength, athleticism, beauty, grace, and precision. The horses themselves are extremely well-trained, but they’re not forced to do anything they don’t want to do, and that gives the overall production a sense of spontaneity and wonder that it may not have if everything were clockwork. With their enormous screens, sets, and costumes, you’re transported from an enchanted forest to the African savannah, from Easter Island to space itself; woven throughout are the strands of companionship between human and horse, the appreciation of beauty in motion, and the joy of being alive. They incorporated all of the traditional dressage of a Lipizzaner show, but made it entertaining instead of godawful like an actual Lipizzaner show.

There’s a short intermission between acts, during which Jason asked me which part was my favorite thus far. “Every part. Every part is my favorite.” During said intermission, they send someone out in a mini steamroller to pack down the dirt in the arena; you can totally see him out there steamrolling behind the curtain in careful circles, making sure each part was packed down perfectly. The only suggestion I have to the producers is that they could turn the intermission into a little steamroller ballet–put a few of them out there, set them to music, and have them perform some of the same movements as the horses.

While both Cavalia and Odysseo were excellent shows, of the two, I prefer Odysseo, as it integrated the horsemanship and acrobatics more; at some points during the show, it felt like there was so much to see that I couldn’t possibly take it all in. They’ve got four more shows in Seattle before they leave: don’t miss it!