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.