Billy Corgan and Chloé Mendel on Highland Park Fundraiser, Reclaiming ‘Space in the Community’

Together and Together Again takes place on July 27 at 8 p.m. CT
Courtesy of Billy Corgan & Chloé Mendel

The shooting in Highland Park, Illinois during a Fourth of July parade, which left seven people dead and 46 others wounded, became a tragedy that the entire nation felt. But for Billy Corgan and his partner, Chloé Mendel, it hit much closer to home — quite literally.

“When you go through this, it’s like you don’t want to walk past where this happened,” Corgan tells SPIN over Zoom. “I mean, we were there last night eating ice cream literally right beneath where the shooter was. We’re there all the time, and we have to reclaim our space in the community.”

That reclamation is why the two owners of the neighborhood’s tea shop and plant-based emporium, Madame ZuZu’s, are hosting Together and Together Again — A Benefit for the Highland Park Community Foundation, a live-streamed concert to raise money for victims of the shooting.

“Madame ZuZu’s is located at the doorstep of the horrible event on July 4,” Mendel says. “We discussed making it a bigger event and going to a different venue because we do have the ability to have a much larger show. But for us, it was really important to keep it at home with the people we work with every day — and respecting the space in the town that we’re in.”

Of course, Together and Together Again isn’t just a live-streamed event for a good cause. The July 27 concert is also a multi-genre, two-hour experience unlike any other show that will be performed this year. The event — which is free to stream on The Smashing Pumpkins’ YouTube channel, although donations and purchases of the merchandise featuring artwork by Gary Baseman are obviously encouraged — doesn’t just feature Corgan, but also his Smashing Pumpkins bandmate (and neighbor) Jimmy Chamberlin, Perry Farrell, Bob Moses, jazz saxophonist Frank Catalano, Lincoln Trio, and more.

“When are you going to have all these awesome musicians come together in a room and play with a common passion to heal and help people and just have a great show?” Mendel says. “It’s going to be unique and special. Just the names alone — they’re all world-class musicians. Even if it didn’t have a charitable goal, I’d be watching it too.”

“Our main thing is just to put on a real positive and unifying show while raising funds for the community,” Corgan adds. “After talking to so many people who have been affected and were there — people who work with us, members of their families, people in local businesses, friends of ours who are doctors and were a block away, so they rushed in to help treat people — and hearing those stories again and again and again, you feel like ‘Gosh, I really want to do something.’ Then you start thinking ‘OK, what can I do that would actually have any kind of meaning here?’ I think Jimmy and I in particular just fall back to what we know, which is to play music.”

 

 

Beyond the help that Mendel and Corgan hope to have on their immediate community following the tragedy, the duo (who have lived in Highland Park for nearly two decades) believe their neighborhood could be a turning point in the national debate on gun control.

“Highland Park is such an influential and affluent community that it might just be Highland Park that finally tips this debate publicly and gets some real change going with legislation,” Corgan says. “This is a very liberal and progressive community. These issues really matter to this community, and they mattered to this community before this horrible event. I think the level of motivation here can move things in those directions and really sort of step up. Our personal friend, Mayor Nancy Rotering, was literally just testifying in Congress talking about what happened. She’s an incredible person — somebody we love and support — and she’s the sort of politician that can really bring a clear and unifying voice to what is normally a super politically divisive issue. There may be this other echo that comes out of this where Highland Park ultimately becomes the change agent for something that is obviously desperately needed.”

With Lollapalooza kicking off a day later in Chicago, Mendel and Corgan know that they could’ve made Together and Together Again into a significantly larger production. They could’ve pulled some strings both locally and within the music industry to make it a pre-Lollapalooza spectacular, but a modern-day Live Aid didn’t feel right for the occasion. In addition to the convenience of Madame ZuZu’s and its immediate proximity to where the July 4 shooting took place, the owners believe their venue will also provide a unique atmosphere that captures exactly what they want to convey.

“The beauty is [Madame ZuZu’s] is made to be intimate, and I think the intimacy, in this particular instance, is perfect,” Corgan says. “It’ll be a warm, inviting atmosphere that we’re going to take to hopefully the world — or at least whoever wants to watch and hopefully donate. I think we’ve all seen the big concert with all the A-listers, whereas this is really a representation of this community. There’s a different sort of vibe up here. It’s a little laconic, a little bucolic.”

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