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Salt Lake City Weekly Minty-Fresh Web

Another example of how the Internet is being used for evil, not good.

By Bill Frost

NOVEMBER 24, 1997:  What's the first thing that comes to mind when you want hot, rock & roll action? Or screaming, thrill-packed Internet excitement? What if I told you that you could get it all in one place? Where is this Utopia? This sizzling, Gen-X rock club of the future? What is the one word that means all this and more?

Mentos.

Yes, when you receive an urgent fax, stating "Mentos launches the Freshmaker Tour — log onto the live website demo and concert cybercast!" you know you've just hit bottom. Or, you've been handed an instant topic in a very slow week when you've got an alleged music column due.

For those who don't know, Mentos are minty candy treats that are basically Life Savers without the hole — or the flavor, or any shred of dignity within the United Federation of Candies. Mentos have also been granted a special place in pop culture because of a series of television commercials so cheesy and offensive to the irony-hungry consumers of the '90s that they couldn't possibly be real — or are they?

You've seen the ads: Fun-lovin' teen-agers in the mall, one of the kids' mom comes looking for him, kid poses as mannequin, hilarity and Mentos consumption ensues. Fun-lovin' teen-agers crossing the street, one kid gets cut off from the group by a car, kid opens back car door, scoots through, shoots goofy-ass smirk at driver, hilarity and Mentos consumption ensues. Fun-lovin' teen-agers visit a remote camp in the woods, hockey-masked psycho systematically kills off the kids, Mentos consumption and terror/hilarity ensues. These commercials are bad to the point of being satire-proof: The Foo Fighters attempted a spoof with the video for their single "Big Me," but it just turned out like another Mentos spot, even if they were called "Footos." You just don't mess with the three Ms: Microsoft, Mickey (Mouse) and Mentos.

Flip those Ms 180 degrees and what do you have? WWW, as in World Wide Web — none dare call it conspiracy, but there you have it. This leads us back to the original point: The Mentos Freshmaker Tour and it's accompanying website at www.mentos.com.

Now, corporate sponsorship of musical act tours is nothing new, but Mentos? Beer, cigarettes, cars (can you think of country-twanger Alan Jackson anymore without singing "Crazy 'bout a Ford truck"?), tampons, Doritos — these are acceptable tour sponsors. Mentos are not. But, to their credit, they've managed to lure some decent-but-low-profile indie bands into the tour: Liquid Soul, MU330, Probe, Wheelo, Mount Pilot, Boris the Sprinkler, United States Three and an old favorite of mine, House of Large Sizes. Personally, I'd love to see House of Large Sizes. Their songs are tightly-wound balls of Iowa-rock sarcasm and their live shows are legendary. Maybe this tour is worthwhile, after all.

Wrong. The Freshmaker Tour only lasts for six dates: Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Boston, Atlanta and — the big finale — Amsterdam. So why send an urgent press release to a newspaper in Salt Lake City? Because of that overrated global conference room known as the Net.

Last week, Mentos hosted the "Media Kickoff Cybercast" of the tour live from from New York City. So, instead of working on an article about another of those local bands that I'm so supportive of, I was logging on and wasting time along with probably 10 percent of the media-types contacted for this mega-event nationwide. There were Q&A chat room sessions, contests and a "cyberconcert" from a band called Oral Groove. Up to that point, I had thought that Oral Groove was a dental procedure that was performed after too many years of chomping on Mentos. Live and learn.

Also, in case this week's paranoia piece on Internet security hasn't convinced you that your computer is watching you while you sleep, you can still visit the site and fill out the Mentos survey. If you're still reading, you're a person who's got time to spare, so let's fill it out:

Sex: Male? Female? (I've checked "undecided"). Do you buy Mentos? Yes? No? (a "no" answer automatically crashes your hard drive and wipes out your credit). Are you (check more than one if necessary): Bold? Confident? A Dance Machine? Hip? Off-beat? Down? Shy? Fresh? Tragically unhip? (I've checked "very sleepy"). If you went to the store to buy Mentos and, tragically, they were out of both Mint and Mixed Fruit, would you reach for: Gum? Other mint? Chocolate bar? (I've checked "Starbucks Nacho-Mocha taffy").

After that, sign up for the sweepstakes to win a trip to Amsterdam for the final stop on the Freshmaker Tour. There's a great idea. Send a of group of fun lovin' teen-agers hopped up on Mentos to Amsterdam. They'll be coming back in minty-fresh body bags.

There's more, but I think you get the point: Never, never, accept your rock & roll from candy makers — get it from the manufacturers of dangerous, mind-altering products, the way it was meant to be.


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