Among the responses to the fourth of July shooting in Highland Park, news went out earlier this week that one of its residents was staging a benefit concert — Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan announced he would host and perform in a livestreamed concert event July 27. Newly added to the lineup: Perry Farrell of the band Janes Addiction.
Titled “Together and Together Again,” the concert, put together with Corgan’s partner Chloé Mendel, will raise money for the Highland Park Community Foundation and its July 4th Highland Park Shooting Response Fund, and will take place at Madame ZuZu’s, the couple’s tea house and performance space in Highland Park.
It’s Corgan and Mendel’s way of giving back to their hometown.
“It’s almost impossible to put into words what this community is going through,” Corgan said in an interview with the Tribune.
The performance will be livestreamed via the Smashing Pumpkins YouTube channel; viewers will be able to donate as well as buy artwork such as posters and T-shirts from artist Gary Baseman, the proceeds also donated.
Corgan said the lineup is still taking shape, but the bill will include him and Smashing Pumpkins bandmate Jimmy Chamberlin, jazz saxophonist Frank Catalano and the also newly announced Bob Moses — the Vancouver duo of Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance and a Lollapalooza headliner.
Putting together his own song contributions has been a challenge, Corgan said.
“I’m looking back into my catalog,” he said, and he knows there are songs people will want to hear “but I also want to make sure they’re appropriate for the occasion.”
Also on the bill is Lincoln Trio, a classical music group with members who live in Highland Park.
Corgan himself has lived there for two decades, Mendel for a decade, now with their two children. For those unfamiliar with that northern history — how a famous rock star ended up settling down in a Chicago suburb versus New York or somewhere — Corgan said it started with being born and raised in Chicago.
“I did try to live in New York and in LA in different parts of my life but I always moved back to Chicago,” he said. He hadn’t lived in Highland Park when he was younger “but it was a dream of mine to live in the North Shore. I suppose it came from reading ‘The Great Gatsby.’ To live among the fancy people,” he laughed.
From his time in Soho in New York, he thought opening an art gallery would be cool; an earlier iteration of Madame ZuZu’s in Highland Park’s Ravinia District was closer to that. That business didn’t last, but the current tea shop, which opened in 2020 (“in the middle of a pandemic,” he adds) is their lives now. Both Corgan and Mendel say they spend a lot of time there, Mendel as a general manager.
Madame ZuZu’s Plantbased Emporium is located at 1876 1st St. in Highland Park, near where the mass shooting took place during the holiday parade.
“I had just been at the intersection and night before and it was empty. A few chairs out from people saving space for the parade,” Corgan said.
On the morning of the shooting, he remembers he had been texting with Mendel, who was on a flight from Europe with their children, and then quickly, texts from friends starting arriving asking if they had heard what had happened.
It was strange and awful, Corgan said. “I was in New York for 9/11 and it felt a bit like that. I was actually having flashbacks. It’s like you’re living history at the same time you’re experiencing it.”
He said he hadn’t often attended the parade himself in the past, but Mendel always did. Although Highland Park is generally respectful of his privacy, he said, “for things like that, I don’t usually insert myself into them. I don’t want to be there to make it about me.”
The same goes for Madame ZuZu’s, he said. Mendel said they created the space to be the kind of place that would be low-key, welcoming and fun, “the kind of place both of us would have felt welcome in while we were in high school,” she said. “Billy sometimes plays, if he feels like it.”
But he says lately he’s been keeping a lower profile. “Regular customers know to just be cool. But especially now with people coming to Highland Park and coming to the memorial,” they may come in expecting to see him, he said. “Expecting me to be the celebrity guy.”
Putting together the concert “has been a whirlwind,” he said. “I’ve never done anything like this.”
Mendel added, “This is our way a way to heal through music. Now more than ever, Highland Park has shown how strong our community really is.”
“Together and Together Again” will be 8 pm to 10 pm July 27, streamed on the Smashing Pumpkins YouTube channel; more information at www.zuzuscafe.com/eventtickets (limited in-person invites have been filled); artwork is now on sale at togetheragainhp.com