The Swarm

September 13, 2007

J(oe Camel) Mascis: Dinosaur Jr. reunion tour was truly to die for

David Prince

UPDATE: Kill Rock Stars: Camel targets indie rock

UPDATE: Flaming Lips blow smoke in fans’ faces

A couple of weeks ago, The Daily Swarm posted an ad for the Camel-sponsored Dinosaur Jr./Dr. Dog show at Webster Hall in New York City. Well, the brief reunion jaunt wrapped up last night at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland and we’ve been getting some pretty interesting reports from the road along the way.

(Photo credit)

AOL‘s Spinner caught on earlier in the week, reporting that “Dinosaur Jr., Band of Horses Give Smokers Sweet Treats”:

Tobacco smokers that catch Dinosaur Jr. with Band of Horses on the remainder of their tour will enjoy something rare for those that light up: preferential treatment. At what appeared to be a typical tour stop Sunday night in San Francisco, a marketing company representing Camel cigarettes gave away hundreds of free tickets (to smokers), handed out backstage passes (to smokers) and reconfigured the venue itself with interactive kiosks and lounges—for smokers.

Among the concert installations are a “make-your-own spin art” booth, a “rock art” poster exhibit and an outdoor smokers’ tent with free refreshments and a live feed of the show. The alliance between indie-rock forebears such as Dinosaur Jr. and a corporation that, as one attendee commented, “is basically the devil,” raises more than just one philosophical question. But, in the end, we can sum it up with just one: What would Neil Young do?

And according to several eyewitness tipsters, the Camel branding at the shows was, as one Seattle fan wrote, “really next level – unsettling to say the least.” Yeah, they had Camel girls handing out free smokes; giant light boxes with the Camel logo and the band’s faces; Camel reps offering lighters, stickers, drink tickets, and posters to people willing to take a survey; and 30 minutes of non-stop Camel ads on the video screen before the band went on. But the kicker was this: the tour touched down at mostly non-smoking venues, so Camel parked several tour buses out front – to use as deluxe smoker’s lounges. Gross.

Yes, the gigs were essentially free shows, and venues were instructed to tell interested fans to meet their “Camel Field Agents” at various bars in advance to pick up tickets, so nobody can say they weren’t informed in advance about what they were getting themselves into. (Update: not entirely the case. Tickets were also on-sale to fans, and nowhere on Dinosaur Jr.‘s website is the Camel sponsorship mentioned.) And apparently Dino Jr. put some of their ill-gained riches back into the show: the production was an arena-quality set-up in small and mid-sized venues (though the colored lights behind the band looked suspiciously like a Camel pack).

But really, if this was the only way to profit from the reunion, why bother getting back together at all? Or as one fan on the Dinosaur Jr. fan forum put it:

Yeah, I don’t like it much either. But talking with Lou earlier this year he said those shows paid bank. If I was in his position I’d probably do it too. I guess as long as Camel keeps throwing money at them they’ll stay on tour and ultimately together. So thats a good thing.

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