Camel Cigarettes Sin City Tour w/The Faint
Cigarettes don’t bullshit, they prevaricate. That first bic click swears all-night parties and dragon breath and “Crazy In Love” on repeat; the reality is a half-assed Vegas parody over at midnight, $9 vodkas, and a cover of “Crazy in Love” by the fucking Snow Patrol. Lies, I say; I even had to fake my way into this gig. “I’m on the Faint’s list.” Nope. “No, not the Faint’s list. I’m on the list…of Faint. I’m in the Faint.” Sorry. “I’m Sia Michel?” Sia Michel is standing right in front of me.
At least inside Camel kept the subliminals liminal: Only the cool guys–the smokers, the bad-asses who shared their driver’s license and home phone number with a cig rep because these bad-asses actually didn’t give a fuck–got to enter the roped-off, semi-exclusive Pleasure Lounge. “Pleasure Lounge” because, according to the rep, “Anything you’d ever want is in Pleasure Lounge. Tattoos, gambling…everything.” Semi-exclusive because smoking kills and when nobody looked, your boy snuck up the side. Burlesque dancers kept Camels in their garters; magicians only performed tricks that involved them eating and/or smoking cigarettes; “Shack Up” played and, blame the carbon monoxide, the dude next to me thought it was the new Franz–and loved it.
Casual smokers, casual hipsters–both screamed “Slayer!” at the event’s worst strawman, a mock-Vegas casino-style cover band. No need to check off the moustachio- and sleazy sequin-type cliches; barely one to rep the foppish frontman’s what-the-kids-like take on Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” (“I love that guy Reese’s Pieces”). But let’s talk about their Darkness cover–let’s talk about how off these people are when it comes to Las Vegas, where entertainment is so damn professional, so meticulously overblown, so undeniably spectacular, that there is no such thing as Las Vegas parody, just Las Vegas poorly done. Assail middle-class dreams, if that’s your thing, hire a hula-hooper, but spare Las the (useless) irony.
And then the Faint played. What? People debate their placeness/out-of-placeness, but for a night of more than meets the eye (and less), the Saddle Creek act’s synthgoth-as-rock+roll masquerade (with real rock+roll instruments) fit snug. Understandably, they leaned on their back catalog a bit, and that revealed the ruse: Keyboard-heavy songs like “The Conductor” and “Sex Is Personal” and “Worked Up So Sexual” will always benefit from live drums and guitar stabs, never need them though. Personally I liked the Faint when they all used to jackknife over synthesizers and do the stage-is-slippery thing, and I think they did too.
Maybe I’m making all that up, but it’s not like the Faint need to entertain on stage anyway: The top-notch video projections they bring with them, stocked with twisted Marilyn Monroe footage and politicians mouthing along to lyrics (get this) they would never sing. Especially with some of the balder, less artful, or just shittier material off Wet From Birth–“Erection,” “Birth,” and yes, your imagination will serve you well there–the projections of fetuses and fallopians did double-duty.
But for this one thing–this one beautiful thing–believe your eyes. After the Vegas band but before the Faint played, Pleasure Lounge had a 30-minute return to normalcy–poker games rejoined, and those hard-as-nails dancers dutifully returned to their poles. The iPod DJ in the soundbooth put on the Rapture, Death From Above 1979, stuff like that. Then, Wolf Eyes’ “Stabbed In the Face.” The one dancer dealt with the noise song’s steady razorblades-in-molasses slurp as best she could, but the other stopped cold, broke character. Her forehead furrowed, her arms went limp, and for the fifteen or so seconds the song played before the DJ realized what a fucking idiot he was, I bet she really wanted a cigarette.