By David Lewis
ArtsPost staff writer
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.