The Joy of Mouthing Off

On a freezing and rainy night last Saturday, something vaguely religious was going down at a sold-out Axis Club. New Orleans quartet Cowboy Mouth, under the cover of playing a rock show, was in town to reinforce the creed of the band: life is to be enjoyed. The prominence of this theme in their shows is rather remarkable and it is best explained through a legend popular with Mouth fans.

As the story goes, lead singer and drummer Fred LeBlanc was 18 years old when he was approached in the French Quarter by a Gypsy fortuneteller. The woman accurately described several dreams that LeBlanc had had and, her abilities proven, declared that he had a purpose in life: to remind people of the joy of living.

LeBlanc has been fulfilling this mission pretty much ever since. He leads his quartet in shows whose ambience spans over the course of the evening from religious revival to group therapy session to old-fashioned southern rock and roll party. LeBlanc, wearing a tight black t-shirt and remarkably short shorts, took control of the club from the outset.

Perched above his drums at the front of the stage, he welcomed the crowd loudly and vigorously. Included in the several-minute introduction were orders for people in the crowd to introduce themselves to their neighbors and give them a hug.

Few singers talk to the audience as much as they sing, but LeBlanc comes close. Whether it by demanding that a grouchy old bouncer clap along, or by instructing the crowd to crouch silently on the ground (a remarkable sight) before jumping up to shout the chorus to their hit “Jenny Says,” LeBlanc was a tornado of energy and enthusiasm. Indeed, he was sufficiently gregarious that at times other members of the band could be seen laughing at his intensity.

LeBlanc, in addition to being a spectacular showman, is a talented musician, as are the other members of the band. While LeBlanc’s drum set is prominent at the front and center of the stage, the microphones on either side of it help demonstrate that it’s not a one-man band. Indeed, the Mouths’ two guitarists, John Thomas Griffith and Paul Sanchez, and bassist Rob Savoy all write songs and take turns singing lead.

While the group’s infectious and catchy choruses sometimes seem tiringly similar to one another, the crowd at Axis certainly didn’t seem to mind. The 20-somethings that dominated the audience bounced and danced, responding enthusiastically to LeBlanc’s every demand. LeBlanc at several points yelled gleefully to the crowd that there was no better place to be than a Cowboy Mouth concert after a hard week of work; the crowd roared their assent.

After two hours of pouring out his heart and soul, LeBlanc and his boys apologetically brought the night to a close, though not before LeBlanc spent several minutes bidding everyone in the darkened club a fond farewell and ordering them to call their friends the next day to report how kick-ass the show had been.

As the crowd reluctantly shuffled out onto a wet and windy Landsdowne, it became quickly apparent that the Mouth had achieved their goal: the weather might have still been as unpleasant as it was when the show began but it no longer seemed so formidable. It was good just to be alive.

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