The entire room was hazy with smoke, beer was spilling from plastic cups, women wearing scandalous, glittery clothing gyrated and thrust their hips against poles.
While a comedian joked about women and sexual positions, people wearing thrift-store clothing handed out free boxes of Camel cigarettes to the 21-and-over crowd. The Camel logo was everywhere.
Believe it or not, this was a scene at an indie rock concert at the Trocadero Theatre in Center City. The band I had gone to see on that strange, smoky night is known as The Faint. The Faint took part in the “Sin City Tour,” a Las Vegas-themed ad campaign for Camel cigarettes.
Had I known that the concert was going to be a burlesque show, I would not have coughed up the much-needed $10. As my healthy lungs became polluted, I felt angry that I was there to see one of my favorite bands and was subjected to something I would not normally seek out: tons of cigarette smoke, drunken loud boys, half-naked women and Las Vegas.
I don’t mean to sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but if I wanted to experience that, I would have gone to a skeevy bar.
There I was, watching pole and cage dancers send this message to women: You will look like me if you smoke Camel cigarettes; and this message to men: You will find a girl that looks like me if you smoke Camel cigarettes.
We all know cigarette companies are pretty evil for selling death and addiction to people. But to come to an indie rock venue and put on such a display is frightening to me. Camel knows young people frequent the Trocadero for concerts all the time-what better way to market their product to 20-somethings?
My biggest qualm is that The Faint and the Trocadero accepted the tour with open arms. For those of you unfamiliar with the term ‘indie,’ it usually refers to an independent company that makes and produces its own works that are completely separate from larger corporations. The Trocadero hosts independent bands all the time.
For infinite reasons (companies marketing addictive drugs to people being one of them), many fans of independent music and films do not typically support products made by larger corporations.
The Faint is on a fairly small Omaha label known as Saddle-Creek records. Bands that are on independent labels do not usually cater to large corporations either. To do so would compromise the band’s artistic integrity, also known as “selling out.”
Unfortunately, The Faint and the Trocadero sold out by taking part in a campaign that sells carcinogens to naïve young people. It’s a wonder how much they were paid to do so. Since many rock fans smoke, there were certainly many people completely unfazed or thrilled by the Camel campaign.
Then there were people like me; upset about the blatancy and avarice of such a campaign. Even if I was a smoker, I would have been just as infuriated.
If Camel has enough power to persuade the hallmarks of musical inventiveness and integrity to be a part of their tour through money, there’s no telling how far cigarette corporations will go to market their drugs.
Ellen Minsavage can be reached at email@example.com.