Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan hosts benefit for July 4 mass shooting victims

Alt-rock guitarist introduces new song in reaction to Highland Park massacre

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His signature star-embossed Yamaha guitar in hand, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan introduced a new song he had composed in response to the July 4 mass shooting that killed seven people in Highland Park, Illinois.

“I don't know if it's a good song or a bad song. But it certainly expresses the way that I feel,” the alt-rock star said.

Tucked inside Madame Zuzu's, a tea house that he and his partner Chloe Mandel own and operate in the Chicago suburb, Corgan gathered musicians to raise funds for the victims of the latest high-profile mass shooting to afflict the US.

He said that the gunman perched on a rooftop only one block away and rained bullets on innocent parade-goers.

“I've lived here for 20 years. I've never seen anything like this in my life,” Corgan said at the start of the live-streamed benefit on Wednesday evening.

“Here's what I already know. I certainly didn't know that a few weeks ago, this community will stay with those affected by this tragedy, all the way down the line.”

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rodering echoed his sentiments.

“Communities that go through gun violence suffer not just physical pain, not just emotional pain," Ms Rodering said in remarks recorded for the benefit.

"But it's a psychic issue that will continue with all of us, we know, for the rest of our lives."

People queue outside Madame Zuzu's in Highland Park, Illinois, for a live-streamed benefit concert hosted by Billy Corgan. AP

The benefit, “Together and Together Again”, raised $60,000 for the Highland Park Community Foundation, which will aid those directly affected by the shooting, the live-stream's YouTube page says.

Corgan said the event's name reflected the community's determination to always remain together.

“We begin to reclaim that for how to bring that message to the world,” he said.

Corgan weaved in and out of sets with saxophonist Frank Catalano, Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction, Canadian electronic duo Bob Moses and others.

He joined in on Duke Ellington and John Coltrane jazz standards, Jane Says, and a cover of The Beatles' With a Little Help from My Friends.

“You read up about … horrific events and you feel kind of helpless,” said guitarist Tom Howie of Bob Moses.

"And you know, the one thing we knew know how to do is play music, so we hope that by being here we contribute in some small way."

Between playing some of the Smashing Pumpkins' best-known songs, Corgan reminisced about how Chicago inspired some of his lyrics, including those to Thirty-Three.

But the moment never got away from him, dedicating Like Lambs to a boy who is recovering after he was paralysed in the shooting.

Wednesday night's benefit was part of a journey that the community had started as it healed from tragedy, Corgan said.

“Thank you for starting that journey. Very proud to be here in Highland Park,” he said.

Billy Corgan poses for a photo with his family during a handprint and footprint ceremony for Smashing Pumpkins at TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, on May 11. AFP
Updated: July 29, 2022, 12:00 AM