"Pumpkin Heads"
Michigan native D'Arcy ready for more successes

Something terrible happened on the way to the Smashing Pumpkins' first arena tour of the United States. A 17-year-old fan was crushed to death in the mosh pit - that rolling mass of primal humanity - at a concert May 11 in Dublin.

"I never experienced anything like this concert in Ireland. It was just really horrible," bassist D'Arcy said in a recent interview from Chicago, where the band rehearsed for an American tour that began last night in Saginaw.

The South Haven, Mich., native says the crowd was out of hand from the start of the show. "We had told (the crowd) repeatedly, 'Look, there are people being crushed in front of the barricade,'" she said. "Sometimes people would go down and we'd stop the show. We told people to chill out and back up. We tried to get through to them what was going on."

They were unsuccessful. So they stopped the show entirely. They were horrified by what they saw as they walked off the stage. "I can't tell you how horrible it was," she said. "The people they had pulled out of the pit were laying around on the floor unconscious."

One of the wounded, Bernadette O'Brien, 17, died the next day. Shaken, the band sent flowers and canceled its next show. "Nobody wanted to play. We didn't want to play at all. We couldn't imagine playing," D'Arcy said.

They resumed a few nights later in London, a decidedly mellower place, without incident. "Ireland was an anomaly," D'Arcy said. "The kids there are starved for entertainment. They're just crazy."

Anomaly or not, the band isn't taking any chances now. Two padded barricades will divide the audience, and, they hope, make it harder for mobs to press against the barricade at the foot of the stage.

"This is going to be the biggest tour that we've done, so we have to do everything in our power to try and keep the kids protected from themselves," D'Arcy explained.

Up to this point, things have been pretty peachy for the Pumpkins. Formed in the late 1980s by singer, guitarist, songwriter, producer and visionary Billy Corgan and guitarist James Iha, the band quickly vaulted into international prominence with a sound that combined punk rage with '70s classic rock melodicism and histrionics on the albums "Gish" and "Siamese Dream."

They headlined Lollapalooza in 1994. Last year, they released "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," a sprawling, ambitious double-CD containing more than 120 minutes of music.

Like everything else they've done, the album defied the odds to become a huge commercial and critical success, selling more than 6 million copies.

"We had been talking about it for a couple of years," she said. "Actually, we were writing for a long time in sound checks and stuff. Some of those songs are older than you might think. At the end, we had an awful lot of material. We probably could have put out two double-CDs."

For D'Arcy, it's just another dividend for all the band's hard work and dedication. "We really believe in what we're doing. That's the only way to keep doing it. We really do love what we're doing."

That makes it easier to suffer the slings and arrows of resentful alternative-rockers and a music press that has had a love-hate affair with the band, and, particularly the outspoken Corgan. "He just talks a lot more than the rest of us," she laughed.

Born D'Arcy Wretzky on May 1, 1968, in South Haven, where her parents still live, D'Arcy received formal training on the violin and oboe and sang choral music. But she was lured by the post-punk music as a student at South Haven's L.C. Mohr High School and started playing in cover bands.

After graduation, she moved to France to join a band that had broken up by the time she got there. She wound up in Chicago with little but her bass guitar and prized teddy bear. She moved in with a sister, joined a band and met Corgan a few months later.

"I listened to his tapes from the band he was into prior (to the Pumpkins) and I really liked the music they were doing," she said. "I wanted to be doing it, too. I loved it."

She followed Iha into the band, with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin joining a few months later.

As obsessed as she is with the band, D'Arcy has found time for other things. She married Catherine drummer Kerry Brown, with whom she shares a farmhouse in Michigan City, Ind. They formed Scratchie Records, which has released singles by the Chainsaw Kittens and others.

Though not as obsessive about the band as Corgan, D'Arcy says its hard to be complacent about what they have achieved. "Things are a little more relaxed, a little more comfortable in that respect," she said, "but I still worry."

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