24th Street Stage
Virginia Beach, VA
September 4th, 2009
Cowboy Mouth are one of those rarest of breeds in rock music, the kind who's singer just so happens to also be the band's drummer. You can imagine how difficult it must be to simultaneouly sing, lay down the beats and fills associated with energetic rock music and maintain the kind of stage presence required of a rock n roll frontman. Well let me tell you, if you want to see it done to perfection, then do yourself a favor and go see Cowboy Mouth.
The New Orleans band was in Virginia Beach on Friday night as part of the annual American Music Festival and they provided the laid back beach crowd with a much needed kick in the ass. The aforementioned vocalist/drummer, Fred LeBlanc set the tone early in the set when he left the stage, marched into the crowd, who he was clearly not happy with due to that laid back demeanor, and literally forced them to move closer to the stage. LeBlanc even went so far as to single out one unfortunate attendee who looked a little too comfortable standing in the middle of the crowd smoking a cigar, and dragged him to the front of the stage. He informed us all that "rock n roll is not a spectator sport, it's a participatory event". Preach it brother...I agree whole heartedly!
The band clearly has a personal relationship with their core fans as was evident when those in the know threw red spoons at the band during the song "Everybody Loves Jill". Racing through fun songs like "Joe Strummer" (sample lyric: "why would I wanna be with someone who doesn't know the Clash saved my life...she had to go cause...she didn't know who...Joe Strummer was...Hey!") and the hit "Jenny Says", the band had the crowd jumping, dancing and singing for the entire hour and a half set.
Let me be clear though, Cowboy Mouth is indeed a band and not just an individual. Reginia Zernay did her part on the bass to make that very well understood as she danced around the stage in her white boots, mini-skirt and fishnet stockings, banging her pig-tailed head like a mad woman. Meanwhile, axemen John Thomas Griffith and Jonathan Pretus anchored down the sides of the stage while laying down some serious guitar licks. At times, the band seemed as amused by their singer's antics as the crowd did, laughing along as LeBlanc licked his drumsticks and made comments to the crowd like "I won't bite, but if I do, you'll like it".
By the end of the show, I was left feeling sorry for headliners Sister Hazel. To take nothing away from that band, I would absolutely hate to have to follow a band like Cowboy Mouth, who are clearly at their best in a live setting. As if to express how much they love playing live, Fred explained to the crowd that they would be jumping back in their van at the end of their set to drive to a show in Indianapolis the very next afternoon. Insisting that the crowd live for the moment and put all of their energy into the show, he preached that it isn't about the past because that's over, and it isn't about the future, because that isn't here yet...all you have is right now! As if to drive that point home, LeBlanc explained that he and the rest of Cowboy Mouth would "worry about Indiana when we get to Indiana". How can you not give your all to a band that will be exerting this same amount of energy on a stage 12 hours away in less than 24 hours?
This is my third time witnessing the Cowboy Mouth experience live and each time I've come away with the same mix of feelings and emotions. They truly make you leave your problems at the door and make you simply happy to be alive. At the same time, they make you feel exhausted by watching the sheer exertion that they display onstage. I only wish I could bottle that energy and drink it on Monday morning! If I haven't convinced you to check these guys out yet, then you may not have a pulse. To quote Fred LeBlanc one more time, "the name of the band is...Cowboy Mouth"!