Written and photographed by Gene Lazo
“Are you with me here? …. Are you WITH me here?” This is not a rhetorical question when it comes from Cowboy Mouth’s Fred LeBlanc. As a matter of fact, it’s not even really a question because at a Cowboy Mouth show you have no choice but to be with Fred.
It only took a couple of minutes into the hit-the-ground-running first song “Belly” before Fred cajoled the audience to step it up. When cajoling reached its limit, Fred took matters into his own hands and headed into the crowd; shaming, persuading, and motivating the audience face-to-face. There were to be no seated people as he headed to the back of the room and started overturning chairs, pulling people down to the front. When the Neighborhood Theater’s staff tried to bring order to the scattered chairs, he yelled at them to stop because, “I’ll just turn them over again.” There was no reason to doubt him. They removed all but a few, left for the handful of people who really needed to sit for physical reasons.
But it did not end there. At a Cowboy Mouth show, there are no VIPs. Fred climbed the side rails and dismantled the VIP area, tearing up Reserved Table signs and all decorum, leading those folks onto the floor as well, much like a fire and brimstone preacher leading the converts to an amplified baptism of sweat and spit and rock and roll.
Within the first 10 minutes or so, within that very first song, both chaos and a new order were established. The crowd was no longer in NoDa’s Neighborhood Theater but rather in a revival tent, and the mood and energy were set for the rest of the evening. By the second song, “Love of my Life,” Fred had his way with the crowd and the celebration began.
Cowboy Mouth is one of those bands that tour constantly. They played two shows the previous two nights in Isle of Palm, South Carolina. Charlotte was apparently a last minute addition to the tour, which next heads to New York City for a Booze Cruise show. Their most recent CD release was last year’s greatest hits compilation, The Name of the Band is Cowboy Mouth, so without new material to promote, the audience was treated to favorites like “I Believe,” “Disconnected,” “Take Me Back to New Orleans,” “Tell the Girl,” and of course, “Jenny Said.”
Cowboy Mouth has been at this for a very long time. Neither years nor miles have worn away at one of the most energetic and entertaining shows on the road. The message is always the same: whatever is bothering you, whatever was pissing you off, whatever is bringing you down, at this show you will find the joy and passion of being alive.
In fact that is the essence of what Cowboy Mouth is all about: living life as a celebration of being alive. In all the times that I’ve seen them I have never walked away without appreciating that.
See the rest of the gallery here.