Thursday night, I saw Pepper perform at a sold-out Neumos. And, they were excellent.
Thursday night, I saw Pepper perform at a sold-out Neumos. And, they were excellent. It was just the sort of show I expected them to have, complete with crowd requests and shirtless guitar solos. Pepper channels the Hawaiian surfer-dude type like no other, and after a stressful week of finals, I was ready to relax with some reggae.
However, one thing about the show did surprise me. Pepper's entire tour was sponsoRed by Camel Cigarettes. Neumos was transformed that night into a Camel party, with fluorescent Camels and large tents outside for smokers.
When Pepper took the stage, they gave Camel a big shout-out and thanked them for helping bring their music to Seattle, something otherwise impossible for the Hawaii-based trio. They also encouraged their fans to try the new Camel Cigarettes, whose booths were toward the back of the venue. There, Camel brand representatives took your information, gave you a free pack of Cigarettes and a free drink coupon.
Does this mean that Pepper sold out?
By accepting the sponsorship of a major corporation, a major cigarette corporation at that, they give up some artistic license (e.g., the big Camels everywhere). It also marries their music to a corporation, which can only spell death for artists who don't maintain an individual style and lose their fan base because they "sold out" or became too mainstream.
Don't even get me started on corporate America thieves.
It was surprising to me that Pepper, of all bands, accepted Camel's sponsorship. I think they were doing it to save money for traveling -- financing your own tour is very expensive -- but I also wonder if it was a big f*** you to everyone who would judge it. They didn't seem to care they had to pitch Cigarettes to their fans -- they were just happy to be there. (And, judging from what I heard earlier in the smoker's pit outside from a friend of theirs, Pepper spent the night before the show at a downtown strip club before going on-stage, which probably helped relax them a little bit.)
But what about the heart of reggae? About freeing yourself from mental slavery, of not following "the man"? The answer seems easy, but it's not.
But maybe Pepper does have a Rastafarian heart after all -- they just didn't care what you think. Pepper put on a great show, they asked their fans throughout the whole set what they wanted to hear, played only requests and told us the big secret: they're releasing their new CD in Seattle first. That's right, they promised to release their new album here a week before it drops nationwide, and they said if we send them e-mails they'll consider releasing it as early as June.
Pepper loves Seattle, Seattle loves Pepper. All they wanted to do was bring their music to Seattle, and I'm going to believe that, and try to get those fluorescent Camels off my mind in the meantime.