Category Archives: Music

The 9:30 Club and the National Symphony Orchestra are on our list.

Cowboy Mouth brings Mardi Gras to D.C.

By Charlie Carroll
ArtsPost staff writer

Image of Cowboy Mouth by Guy Aceto, Cowboy Mouth Official Site.

“At Mardi Gras, everyone loses their minds to find their souls!” yelled Fred LeBlanc as he stirred the enraptured crowd into a fervor that threatened to tear down the roof of the 9:30 Club.  Masks, colorful beads and classic Mardi Gras flags were strewn across the stage, covering amplifiers and instruments alike.  Hundreds of rowdy 30-somethings ardently cheered the singer/drummer of Cowboy Mouth on as he looked over the audience from the throne of his red Slingerland drum set.

With eyes closed and hands in the air, Fred LeBlanc humbly requested that everyone hug and get to know the person next to him or her.  With all the passion of a Louisiana minister preaching to the congregation, he declared the crowd a community with the sole purpose of celebrating life.  He followed with a countdown from four that culminated in an explosion of energy from the crowd, hands in the air, screaming away their troubles.  Welcome to a Cowboy Mouth show.

After more than 15 years, 2,000 live shows and at least seven lineup adjustments, Cowboy Mouth still has all the raw energy of any younger, up-and-coming band.  The four-piece hails from New Orleans and represents their hometown with all the pride in their hearts.  If LeBlanc were to somehow cut his arm on a splinter from one of the hundred drumsticks he tosses around throughout the performance, it would surely bleed Mardi Gras yellow, purple and green.

The band got its start in the early ’90s, releasing its first album, “Mouthing Off,” on Viceroy Records in 1993.  They hit it big with their 1996 release of “Are You With Me?”, the group’s first major label release on MCA Records.  Since then, Cowboy Mouth has moved from label to label due to some albums’ low record sales.  Despite this, the band has steadily persevered because of the passion of its members and a thriving, dedicated fan base that make album sales insignificant.  Having sold more than 8 million tickets over the course of their careers, they show no signs of stopping.

Their Friday night show at the 9:30 Club opened with a set by country singer Junior Wilson, strutting with his white cowboy hat and double-neck guitar, and singing his brand of good ol’ country blues.  Supported by his clean-cut, gray-suited bassist and drummer, Junior Wilson mumbled out his rolling, bass vocals about troubles with the law, women and the Lone Star state.  Wilson seamlessly mixed his Johnny Cash voice with the intricate guitar work of Stevie Ray Vaughn, whose “Pride and Joy” he covered at the end of his set.

Although Wilson’s performance was appreciated (even with the sometimes ear-splitting high guitar notes and simple, repeated bass line), the crowd only really came alive once the lights went out and Cowboy Mouth took the stage.  LeBlanc’s drum set sat front and center, clearly positioning him as king for the night.  To the left stood lead guitarist John Thomas Griffith in a brown fedora, and to the right rhythm guitarist Jonathan Pretus and bassist Regina Zernay, whose pigtails playfully bounced side-to-side throughout the night.

The group opened with a Fats Domino cover, then into “This Much Fun,” during which LeBlanc stirred the crowd into a frenzy.  Throughout the entire night, his dominance over the audience was unwavering, constantly working the crowd up with hand clapping and screams of “I can’t hear you!” followed by deafening shouts from the audience.   One fan captured the mood perfectly.

“He’s got so much charisma he can command the whole f****** crowd,” he panted after the crowd favorite “Belly.”  “Obama thinks he’s got charisma, but it’s nothing compared to this guy.”

The president could only dream of having the support that Cowboy Mouth had that night. The group’s brand of poppy, alt punk party rock kept everyone on their feet, jumping and dancing for the entire set, begging for more.  With his tongue lapping more furiously than Gene Simmons, LeBlanc beat away at the drums, belting out the lyrics to classic, energetic anthems of “I Know it Shows,” “Joe Strummer” and “Jenny Says.”  During “Everybody Loves Jill,” the crowd ceremoniously threw a barrage of plastic red spoons on stage at the end of the last verse.

The night’s festivities could be summed up as an intimate tribute to the city of New Orleans and the turbulent, carpe diem spirit of Mardi Gras.  In between the tumult of their faster-paced songs, Cowboy Mouth fit in the hometown anthems of “New Orleans” and “I Believe,” the band’s faith-inspiring dedication to the New Orleans Saints, who LeBlanc confidently proclaimed the soon-to-be champions of the 2010 Super Bowl.  He also told the audience why their beloved hometown deserved Mardi Gras with a spot-on cover of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.”

By the end of the night, despite all the sweat and hoarse voices that were sure to come, fans demanded an encore, unwilling to call it a night.  LeBlanc capped the show with “Follow Me” and “Disconnected.”  For the audience, the performance amounted to nothing less than a cathartic, religious experience.  In the span of only an hour and a half, the raucous Cowboy Mouth chewed up everyone’s troubles and spit out a masterful live performance, reinventing Washington as the nation’s party capital for the night.

Mardis Gras hits DC

By Rebecca Campbell
ArtsPost staff writer

Mardis Gras is more than just a single day of gluttony. To the residents of New Orleans, it is a multi-week carnival that infects the entire culture of the city, year-round. On a recent Friday night the 9:30 Club reminded Washingtonians that this is a season of festivities and revelry with a lively performance by New Orleans band Cowboy Mouth.
Even before they set foot on the stage, Cowboy Mouth had their audience rocking—and they didn’t stop until well after the final encore.
This Southern Rock band has made its rounds for the past 15 years or so, resulting in an intense fan base. As the club filled, loyal listeners decked in New Orleans Saints jerseys or purple, gold and green — the colors of Mardis Gras — mingled with other fans wearing colorful beads and red spoons. (Red spoons are the latest fashion trend you ask? Only at a Cowboy Mouth concert. Just wait a few songs, and it all makes sense.)
“Loose your mind and find your soul,” lead singer Fred LeBlanc challenges. “For the rest of the night there is nothing you can’t do — clap, sing, dance — celebrate being alive.” And that is exactly what the band does.
Four distinct personalities form the band, visual evidence of the many genres that come together to form the music of Cowboy Mouth.
Regina Zernay, the bassist, jumped around in white go-go boots and shook her dyed-red dog ears nonstop. While she didn’t add much vocally, her bass skills set a standard for the other musicians. On rhythm guitar, Jonathan Pretus brings the dude jamming in his garage down the street feel to the group. John Thomas Griffith, or JT, adds the country flair. The lead guitar, he also takes lead vocal on several songs and charms the crowd.
And then there’s LeBlanc. This lead singer/drummer is the star of the show. His larger-than-life personality dominates, challenging anyone to try to sit still throughout the show. His drumming is energetic and rambunctious. For nearly two hours he sang, yelled, cheered and taunted, his voice never wavering. His energy is contagious, and you can’t help but want to be a part of the show.
Cowboy Mouth’s songs are witty, original, quirky and catchy. Songs like “Voodoo Shop” and “Louisiana Lowdown” focus on the band’s origins in New Orleans, while other songs, such as “I Believe,” carry sounds that remind you of the classic songs from the region. You know you know no matter where the band is playing, “New Orleans is always gonna be my home.”
Then the band takes you down another road. The audience can’t help but laugh to songs like “Everybody Loves Jill” and “Belly” whose campy lyrics are well-written and entertaining. What other band could make an audience go crazy with a song about a total fascination with a belly or encourage a rainfall of plastic spoons?
If you need one word to sum up Cowboy Mouth, it’s energy. Energy oozes from the words, the sounds and the stage, daring listeners to not “loose their mind and find their soul.” I know mine was rejuvenated—laissez les bons temps rouler.

What is a Cowboy Mouth, anyway?

By David Lewis
ArtsPost staff writer

Image of Cowboy Mouth by Guy Aceto, Cowboy Mouth Official Site.

Image of Cowboy Mouth by Guy Aceto, Cowboy Mouth Official Site.

So what exactly is a Cowboy Mouth? The average patron of the 9:30 Club might have asked that question on a recent Friday night. The New Orleans band, taking its name from the 1971 play by Patti Smith and Sam Shepard of the same moniker, managed to gain some media attention with their single “Jenny Says” in the early ’90s, but haven’t been able to achieve the same success since. In their 15 plus years of performing, Cowboy Mouth released 11 albums — their most current dropped on 2008, entitled “Fearless” — yet sold a little more than 450,000 domestically. But Cowboy Mouth is not known for its high record sales, but rather for high-energy live shows.

The band’s mission has always been clear: to bring the playful spirit of New Orleans to the world, and that spirit is transmitted mostly through their live performances. So when they performed at the 9:30 Club on a recent Friday night, they pulled out all the stops to recreate an authentic New Orleans experience in nation’s capital. Green, purple and yellow — the traditional colors of Mardi Gras — stretched across the stage. Loyal fans come out with the black and gold of the Super Bowl-bound Saints and decked themselves with Mardi Gras beads. The 9:30 Club filled patrons of all ages, from high school kids to baby boomers, showing the wide demographics of Cowboy Mouth.

Those who weren’t familiar with the band that night quickly realized they were in for a unique and more physical experience than a typical live performance. Cowboy Mouth demanded crowd participation, evident in the throwing of red plastic spoons by the audience while the band played the song “Everybody Loves Jill.”

Rarely do you see a band led by a drummer — in this case, the robust Fred LeBlanc — but more rarely do you see the lead singer of a rock band grasp an audience with such power that they become their plaything. LeBlanc’s enthusiasm was matched only in his ability to multitask — singing while picking an acoustic guitar while stomping his bare foot on the paddle of his bass drum — and his lively spirit seeped its way to the audience.

LeBlanc commanded the crowd with all the bravado of a Southern Baptist preacher, though with more vulgarity, but given the venue, his shout-outs worked. He was non-stop energy, and when not playing heart-shuddering drums, he waved his arms to order the audience to jump and scream. Even through inaction LeBlanc managed to get the crowd involved, placing his hands by his sides and refusing to play the drums until the audience screamed louder

Cowboy Mouth provided a good balance of new and old, playing some of the bands old hits along with songs from their latest album. The lyrics of each song produced a positive mood in the 9:30 Club that lasted to the very end of the performance.

Though they add nothing new to the music scene, Cowboy Mouth embodies the initial spirit of rock ‘n’ roll: unbridled fun and rampant enthusiasm.

“The Name of the Band is: Cowboy Mouth!”

By Elise Lundstrom
ArtsPost staff writer

Image of Cowboy Mouth by Guy Aceto, Cowboy Mouth Official Site.

Cowboy Mouth, a band renowned for its live performances, performed Friday at the 9:30 Club and from the moment the band members took the stage, they electrified the crowd with their presence.

Cowboy Mouth began the show with the fury and rowdiness of a true rock band.   Fred LeBlanc, lead vocalist and drummer, dressed in a black Dickies shirt, athletic shorts and no shoes, started out not with music but a back-and-forth chant: “The name of the band is?!” “Cowboy Mouth!” the packed house responded. “The name of the band IS?!” “COWBOY MOUTH!”

The crowd, made up mostly of fans who knew the lyrics and sang along with gusto, was at LeBlanc’s command.  If he asked them to sing, they sang. If he asked them to scream, jump or “go crazy,” they did, and happily, because as you find out: you get what you give at a Cowboy Mouth show.  Rewards came in tossed Mardi Gras beads, picks from the guitarists, thrown drumsticks and, most importantly, great music.

Along with LeBlanc, lead guitarist John Thomas Griffith sang lead on a few songs, the  most memorable being “Everybody Loves Jill.” The song is a list of red things that Jill likes, and during a cult line, “Fred eats with a red spoon!” the audience throws red plastic spoons at LeBlanc onstage.

On bass, Regina Zernay twirled around the stage in her white go-go boots and red pigtails, and  back-up guitarist Jonathon “JP” Pretus played quietly and skillfully on the side, and added a softer back-up voice to many of the songs.

Throughout the performance, LeBlanc stressed the importance of a Mardi Gras mentality intertwined with strikingly insightful messages about life and love.  “Belly” is a song about loving a woman with curves while “all the skinny girls are standin’ in the back of the line,” and “I Believe” has a message about “the power of love” and believing that life can be all that you want it to be.

Cowboy Mouth has a devotion to New Orleans and consequently the Super Bowl- bound Saints.  They sang a version of “I Believe” that is a tribute to the NFL team.  The singers interjected the Saints and their quarterback Drew Brees into many of the songs, which had the audience laughing and cheering all night.  Peyton Manning of the opposing Indianapolis Colts, and originally from New Orleans, got due attention with LeBlanc stating “he better remember where he f***ing came from!”

The pounding and upbeat music kept everyone on their feet, singing, dancing and chanting along, giving LeBlanc the “energy” and “rhythm” that he regularly demanded.  The audience took many of the band’s messages to heart, letting everything go and embracing Mardi Gras in January.  As LeBlanc observed, “You come to a Cowboy Mouth show to cut loose, don’t cha?!”

Junior Brown, renowned for his invention of the “guilt-steel,” a double-necked instrument, half steel guitar, half traditional guitar, opened for Cowboy Mouth.  His husky baritone voice, which at times dipped into bass, was secondary to his masterful guitar work.  Junior switched seamlessly from strumming the top half of the instrument to playing the bottom steel strings. At one point the notes were so high that dogs must have been howling somewhere.

His music was lively, with lyrics mostly about romance. “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead” and “Long Walk Back to San Antone” warn about dangerous love and lament love lost.  However, “Highway Patrol” kept the audience amused with its unapologetic words about the duties of a patrol officer.  His mastery of the instrument he invented was apparent and the audience was appreciative.  Every particularly complex set was applauded and cheered and people seemed genuinely awed by his finger work.

Though the pairing of the suit-and-tie wearing, traditional Southern drawl of Junior Brown and the more contemporary rock star qualities of Cowboy Mouth seem odd at first, they complemented each other.  Junior Brown symbolized the traditional Southern music that Cowboy Mouth took inspiration from.  They shared a sense of humor and playfulness in their music that made Junior a great opener for the headliner.

The show was a rousing success, with the audience demanding extra songs from Cowboy Mouth and then an encore following the last number, their best known song, “Jenny Says.”  Cowboy Mouth brought the care-free attitude of Mardi Gras to the audience, while encouraging them not to “sweat the small stuff,” “let go of the things that bring you down,” and to “tilt your head back and scream!”

Cowboy Mouth’s next show is in Newport, Ky., at the Southgate House on Feb. 3. The band continues their tour with Junior Brown until Feb. 10. Fearless, Cowboy Mouth’s most recent album, was released in September of last year.

Cowboy Mouth brings the Big Easy to D.C.

By Kristen Becker
ArtsPost staff writer

Image of Cowboy Mouth by Guy Aceto, Cowboy Mouth Official Site.

Cowboy Mouth brought the spirit of its native city of New Orleans and the excitement of Mardi Gras to the nation’s capital during their stop in the city Friday night.

As the house lights dimmed, the excitement in D.C.’s 9:30 Club was palpable. As the band members came out on stage to a deafening roar from the crowd and launched directly into the show, it was obvious that the audience’s experience was of the utmost importance to the band.

The band members set the example for how their shows should be enjoyed. From the moment they emerged onstage, Regina Zernay, the band’s bassist, rarely took a break from dancing around as she played; Fred LeBlanc, the band’s frontman and drummer, embodied the idea that the show was all about, as he told the audience, “celebrating the fact that we’re all alive.”

Despite the fact that he was confined to his drum set, LeBlanc, through his over-the-top facial expressions and interactions with the audience, made it clear that he expected the audience to have as much fun as he was.

Cowboy Mouth’s dedicated and energetic fans came ready to comply. Many in the audience carted in their own Mardi Gras beads (those who didn’t could catch the beads thrown out by the band throughout the show). Some fans even came decked out in green, yellow and purple, a tribute to the colors associated with the holiday and the city.

For those who were not familiar with Cowboy Mouth, some of the fan traditions may have been a bit mystifying, such as the presence of concertgoers who were waving plastic red spoons in their hands — it is apparently a tradition to throw the spoons onstage when the band performs the song, “Everybody loves Jill.”

While the band may not be well-known, they perform more than 2,000 concerts per year and claim to have been seen live by 8 million people. Cowboy Mouth has released 11 albums and sold 450,000 records.

Cowboy Mouth’s sound mixes musical genres traditionally associated with New Orleans and more mainstream rock. Rolling Stone magazine described the band’s style as a mix of rock, punk, zydeco, country and folk music. LeBlanc has described the band’s music, saying, “If the Neville Brothers and The Clash had a baby, it would be Cowboy Mouth.”

The music was catchy, if not quite something I would listen to at home. While the band’s energetic performance gave everything they sang a joyous quality, the lyrics also seemed meant to uplift, particularly the song ‘Glad to be Alive,’ which LeBlanc labeled as an “anthem for living.” The sense of joy in both the band and its audience is impossible to miss. As Cowboy Mouth took the stage, LeBlanc reminded his band’s fans that the music was all about “energy, passion, joy and soul.”

The band’s liveliness was contagious. During show opener Junior Brown’s performance, there was not much moving around to the music. In fact, most of the people in the club’s balconies were sitting down – once Cowboy Mouth came out onstage, the atmosphere in the club changed completely. Everyone was on their feet, many dancing around and singing along with the band.

Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and the audience sing-along that accompanied it set the stage for the New Orleans band better than opening -act Junior Brown did. While there is no denying that Brown is adept at playing his guit-steel (a combination of the neck of a standard guitar on top of a modified steel guitar), the audience simply did not seem interested. The sounds of numerous conversations could be easily heard above the music.

But Cowboy Mouth’s live performance is worth the price of admission. LeBlanc succeeds at his mission of spreading the love for life his native city is known for to his audience.

The name of the band is… COWBOY MOUTH!

By Elizabeth Ward
ArtsPost staff writer

Image of Cowboy Mouth by Guy Aceto, Cowboy Mouth Official Site.

Image of Cowboy Mouth by Guy Aceto, Cowboy Mouth Official Site.

“This is no wine tasting. This is kick-ass southern Louisiana rock ‘n’ roll!” exclaims Cowboy Mouth’s front man, Fred LeBlanc.

If the audience wasn’t clued in to the impending pandemonium by the Mardi Gras-inspired set covered in yellow, purple and green paraphernalia, they were reassured of it as soon as Cowboy Mouth stormed onto the stage yelling, “Happy Mardi Gras, DC!”

With a New Orleans craze, a life-possessed front man, almost a dozen album releases, a grueling tour schedule, and a life-changing live concert that has gone unchanged for more than a decade, Cowboy Mouth still continues to electrify its audiences across the country.

The band ransacked the 9:30 Club on a recent Friday with yet another cultish crowd-raising clang. Opened by the laudable but shrilly uninspiring Cash-like Junior Brown, Cowboy Mouth proved anything but lackluster. Their goal of the night (as it is at every concert): Make you live in the moment.

Founded in the early 1990s, Cowboy Mouth entered the music scene back when M.C. Hammer and Sinead O’Connor were the hottest commodities on the charts and alternative rock was just breaking onto the scene. Playing around 200 concerts per year to audiences that rarely reach more than a thousand, Cowboy Mouth continues to wear its New Orleans heart on its sleeve, winning audiences over not by its disappointing albums, but by its live Mardi Gras energy.

Cowboy Mouth is an ever-changing physical conglomeration of characters. Lead vocalist, drummer and psychotic front man, Fred LeBlanc, is a shoeless Jack Black meets Meatloaf meets Yogi Bear persona. He is the justification for Cowboy Mouth’s existence, as he goofily takes front stage at his drumming throne. Lead guitarist and the only other founding member, John Thomas Griffith, is a Mraz vest and fedora hat exterior with a Jimmy Ray Vaughn talent – almost the yen to LeBlanc’s unedited yang.

Bassist of three years, Regina Zernay, is the band’s token anime character. She wildly shakes her red-colored hair in pigtails and rocks a black mini skirt with white patent leather boots, all while keeping the solid bass groove. Finally, rhythm guitarist Jonathan Pretus is the quiet sideliner in his unassuming jeans and characteristic New Orleans Saints “Who D@t” t-shirt. Different from the rest, Pretus seems to defer the spotlight to his alpha band mate characters as they “rip the living hell out of” classic Mardi Gras songs and Cowboy Mouth originals.

Yet somehow this improbable equation works – and rocks.

LeBlanc is the hamster keeping the wheels spinning as he literally feeds off the crowd’s enthusiasm and frenetic energy to make it through the show. Between almost every song, he chants, “Give me rhythm, give me rhythm, give me energy, give me rhythm,” for fear of an idle crowd.

Above all, he reminds us to continuously “scream out all the stuff that’s weighing us down” and to “jump up and down” like there’s no tomorrow. Songs like Glad to Be Alive and New Orleans are feel-good cues for our weary consciousness, while Voodoo Shoppe, Drummer Man and Joe Strummer keep us in a moshpit-like frenzy.

Yet while it is nearly impossible not to drink the juice of this participatory concert revolution, the blueprint of Cowboy Mouth’s music remains astonishingly derived and unoriginal. Even the songs that inspire movement, howls and Bourbon Street bead throwing necessitate New Orleans contexts to keep them cool.

The Hurricane Katrina response, “I Believe”, is a Billy Joel “River of Dreams” song with New Orleans reference. Crowd-favorite “Belly” is a long-lost ’80s anthem, and the only slow song of the night, “How Do You Tell Someone,” is Vertical Horizon mainstream drab. Cowboy Mouth is Barenaked Ladies with stage presence and New Orleans fervor.

Yet for some reason, I don’t really care – and neither do they.

Cowboy Mouth is already aware of its cliché. For the past 15 years, Cowboy Mouth has imparted an unusual survival system: put out albums people won’t buy, and put on concerts that people won’t deny. Essentially, create music that can’t survive — that has absolutely no character — without a Cowboy Mouth-sized live performance.

This explains why their music is so straightforward and their commentary is so desperately optimistic: crowds cannot help but sing and dance along and have an undeniably fun time. Every concert is uniquely the best night of their lives.

They are the spokespeople of what it means to be alive in happiness. Truly, there is something wrong with you if you can stand still during a Cowboy Mouth concert.

As a believer of good music — of unique voices, harmonic textures and profound lyrics, I can honestly say that I would unabashedly go back to a Cowboy Mouth concert in an instant.

Next time, though, I would bring a red spoon to throw on the stage during “Everybody Loves Jill,” practice my hairography to get it just like Regina’s, stand in front so I could hopefully catch one of LeBlanc’s flying drumsticks, and scream along to the much-anticipated 1997 headliner, “Jenny Says.” I would go for no other reason but to experience their life-giving fun.

At the very least, Cowboy Mouth made me a believer of the New Orleans’ Saints imminent Super Bowl victory. More important, they convinced me that a good band doesn’t necessarily need spectacular music — an unparalleled live set and an enraptured crowd can keep you around for decades.

I left that concert proud that I might have contributed to LeBlanc’s black apparel drenched in sweat, and too musically wired to call it a night.

Image of Cowboy Mouth by Guy Aceto, Cowboy Mouth Official Site.

Louisiana rockers bring Mardi Gras to 9:30 Club

By Ashley Kemper
ArtsPost staff writer

Image of Cowboy Mouth by Guy Aceto, Cowboy Mouth Official Site.

When New Orleans’s country-rock group Cowboy Mouth took to the stage in Northwest D.C.’s 9:30 Club on a recent Friday night, the only thing louder than the roar of the crowd was the first pulsing beat from Fred LeBlanc’s drum kit, with bassist Regina Zernay’s fire engine-red pigtails ranking a close second. While Cowboy Mouth hails from Low Country, the band checked their chaps and 10-gallon hats at the door in favor of rock ‘n’ roll T-shirts and, in LeBlanc’s case, bare feet.

Though the band’s name, inspired by a 1971 Patti Smith/Sam Shepard play, evokes a twang the likes of Garth Brooks or Johnny Cash, this quartet was channeling more Green Day than Rascal Flatts. With more than a dozen records under their collective belt, Cowboy Mouth has finally escaped from serving as opening act for the likes Hootie and the Blowfish, Barenaked Ladies, Sister Hazel and Better Then Ezra, and earned their own headlining tour.

In just the third stop on their two-month-long journey, the band was well-received by a diverse, yet expectant crowd. Following a misplaced performance by opening act Junior Brown, whose greatest entertainment value was their drummer’s 1970s chevron mustache a lá Tom Selleck, Cowboy Mouth turned the atmosphere around quickly with several upbeat dance tunes. The four-person ensemble, rounded out by lead vocal and guitarist John Thomas Griffith and rhythm guitarist Jonathan “JP” Pretus, opened its performance with a raucous version of their “Glad to Be Alive,” which, while falling flat on their 2006 album Voodoo Shoppe, exuded a vibrant energy on stage, setting the tone for the rest of the night.

In their two decades as a band, Cowboy Mouth has sold nearly half a million records in the U.S.; their bread and butter, however, comes from the concerts that have entertained more than 8 million people, and for good reason. Sitting in the center of a set decked with purple, green and gold Mardi Gras flags, drummer/songwriter/lead singer LeBlanc controlled the audience like a well-practiced puppeteer, tossing drumsticks and flailing his tongue with each beat, holding the pulse of the crowd in his hands.

Although the group hasn’t produced an album since their 2008 Fearless, Cowboy Mouth performed a sample from their repertoire in addition to a few covers. The set list included fan favorites, “Belly,” “Kelly Ripa,” and “Everybody Loves Jill,” during which the lyrics “She eats her red cake/ with my favorite red spoon” set off a storm of plastic red spoons raining from the hands of the audience onto the stage. In response, band members flung Mardi Gras beads back at their supporters as LeBlanc invited the crowd to stay at his home during the upcoming festivities. He also repeatedly cheered on the New Orleans Saints, who are set to make their first ever Super Bowl appearance this year.

Despite their solid performance at the 9:30 Club, Cowboy Mouth has had its fair share of roadblocks along their road to success. When Hurricane Katrina demolished the group’s hometown in 2006, Paul Sanchez, Cowboy Mouth’s rhythm guitarist of 16 years, walked away from the band after their manager suggested a temporary pay cut to cover post-Katrina expenses. Many fans feared the band’s demise after Sanchez’s departure, saying the guitarist and band co-founder provided a sense of warmth and soul behind the music.

Zernay, also a recent addition to the band, joined forces with LeBlanc in 2007. She stepped in to replace Sonia Tetlow, who had herself replaced Mary LaSang. In all, Cowboy Mouth has seen nearly a half-dozen bassists come and go during their time, though Zernay looked like she was having fun and may stick around for a while.

After leaving the nation’s capital, Cowboy Mouth heads to Newport, Ky., Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago before wrapping up back down South in Atlanta in late March.

Image of Cowboy Mouth by Guy Aceto, Cowboy Mouth Official Site.