Cobra Starship lit up the stage in Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday night in an effort to discourage UT students from lighting up.
The band's stop in Knoxville was its fourth visit to a college campus in four days on the inaugural "Truth Live" tour, a campaign devoted to raising awareness about "the truth" of what tobacco can do.
Patricia McLaughlin is an Assistant Vice President for Legacy, the foundation which funds and directs Truth, an initiative born out of a 1990s lawsuit settlement with tobacco companies.
"People who come to the concert are going to see tobacco-related facts," McLaughlin said. "They'll see the installations of artwork that illustrate tobacco, and (they) could potentially win a T-shirt. So we think it's a really fun way to get our message out, not in a preachy way."
The message got out before the concert with an event in Presidential Courtyard featuring giveaways and activities.
Russel Sliwinski is a tour rider with Truth. He was among those facilitating awareness of the concert and the meaning behind it through interaction with UT students.
"Everybody had a lot of fun today," Sliwinski said. "I'm sure there were a lot of people in the dorms who didn't really come out today because they were partying last night or whatever, but everybody that was outside had a really good time. And everybody was really stoked that Cobra Starship was here for free. It was probably one of our better responses just because everybody was like, 'Free concert? That's awesome.'"
The decision to have Cobra Starship as the headline band on the first ever "Truth Live" tour stemmed from a relationship that Truth formed with the group through its role in previous "Vans Warped Tours."
"It's really rad," Sliwinski said. "They just got off a tour with Justin Bieber, I think, so it's pretty big. A lot of people know who they are. It's really awesome to get a band like Cobra Starship to support this, because a lot of bands have mixed feelings about tobacco and the message and stuff like that. But to have somebody come on board and be like, 'Yeah that's an awesome thing what you guys are doing and we're all about it' is really awesome."
Truth's target age group is people between the ages of 12 and 24. McLaughlin said that the objective is to try and reach that demographic through things the generation already cares about.
"What we try and do is never preachy," McLaughlin said. "It's never talking down to people, because they're going to go do that then. We try and make it about connecting with people through what they're already passionate about."
According to Legacy, about 1,100 young people every day become cigarette smokers.
When deciding where to stop on the "Truth Live" tour, McLaughlin said a combination of things were looked at, including smoking rates, the diversity of students who could be impacted by the tour and logistical aspects.
"This is something we'd like to do again," Sliwinski said. "We've gotten a really positive response. This is definitely a tour that people have responded well to and (that) I can see us doing again in the future."