Small town awaits Smashing Pumpkins gigs

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- When the Smashing Pumpkins reunited after seven years to plan a U.S. concert series, they made a surprising choice for their first shows: a small club in the mountains of North Carolina.

The Orange Peel, which has a capacity of 942 people, will host the alternative rock band when they open Saturday for a nine-show run in Asheville.

"It's a legendary band in a small setting," said Cory Gates of Asheville, a longtime fan who saw the Smashing Pumpkins play in New England in the mid-1990s. "I don't know if you can get much better."

Locals hope the concerts -- the band's first extended-stay performance in 13 years -- puts this sleepy mountain town on the music map.

"It's an automatic home run for Asheville," said Mike Rangel, co-owner of the Asheville Brewing Co. brewpub and restaurant, just a few blocks from the Orange Peel. "It puts us up there with the big boys."

More bands reject rather than accept invitations to play at the club, said Karen Ramshaw of Public Interest Projects, which owns and operates the Orange Peel. But the Smashing Pumpkins sought it out, said Tennessee-based music promoter Ashley Capps, who helped coordinate the band's U.S. return.

The shows are the biggest event in the club's history.

"We started the discussions two or three months ago," Capps told the Asheville Citizen-Times. "They were already interested in the Orange Peel at that point. It's testimony to the Orange Peel and to the Asheville community. The region has been so supportive of live music. Asheville is such a cool town."

The Smashing Pumpkins sold millions of albums and won two Grammy Awards before breaking up in 2000. The band's last so-called "residency" was a four-show stint in Chicago in 1994, before the release of "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness."

Since beginning their return in May -- reunited under frontman Billy Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, with others to be announced -- the band has performed more than a dozen shows across Europe.

Their Asheville shows will be followed by eight concerts at the historic Fillmore in San Francisco from July 22-Aug. 1.

The band's new album, "Zeitgeist," is set for release next month.
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