After yesterday’s maudlin New Orleans post, it is fortunate that we got to see one our favorite Big Easy bands last night. Before I start the review, let me make one thing perfectly clear. Go see Cowboy Mouth as soon as you can! If for no other reason than the fact that their lead singer is liable to drop dead of a myocardial infarct at any point during any show and you’d hate to say you passed up the opportunity. I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan play about 8-9 times, but passed up the chance to see him at Starwood a few months before he died. I figured, “Stevie’s been through rehab and is off the heroin now. He’ll live forever.” Consider that a cautionary tale.
Cowboy Mouth is near and dear to RUABelle and my hearts. It’s the only band she’ll travel and stay up late for. A Mouth performance is a cathartic experience which will clear your mind of worries and return you to the primal joy of childhood. Do not go expecting to stand in the back with your arms crossed nodding your head to the beat. Do not go without expecting to leave the show hoarse and deaf. Do not go if you have to be at work early the next morning. (I unfortunately violated that last dictum this morning. Ugh.)
How to describe this band? The best summary I’ve heard is if The Neville Brothers and The Clash had a baby, it would be Cowboy Mouth. Their only semi-large radio hit was “Jenny Says” from 1996. They have lived off that song for a long time now. But don’t buy their studio cd’s first. It’s all about the live show. It speaks volumes that more than half the albums in their catalog are live performances. I still recommend saving your money for tickets and gas and going to see them instead.
Their lead drummer/singer is Fred LeBlanc, a portly maniac who positions himself on a barstool/drum throne behind his kit and the very front of the stage and proceeds to beat his skins into absolute submission during a 2 hour set. He screams and exhorts the crowd to “scream and shout like you were five.” And he sweats. God, does he sweat. Fred sweats so much, he makes Bruce Pearl look like Martha Stewart. I have seen him crawl down from the stage on a light tower to walk into a festival crowd and sit in the lap of a woman who wouldn’t get up and dance, straddling her body while dripping sweat on her chest. Apparently, she was just there to see Big and Rich who weren’t due to play for a couple more hours. She didn’t expect that she would have “Little and Poor” calling her out.
It was at this show in Chattanooga that I had my most meaningful Mouth experience. My father was in the final days of a long, sad struggle with Parkinson’s. We knew the end was near, but we didn’t know whether it would be days or weeks. So we loaded up the car and made the 2 hour drive to Chattanooga so I could throw back my head and howl my pain, sadness, fear and frustrations at the moon from the front row. I think I might have even frightened Fred a little bit. But the release was absolutely necessary to get my center back. We drove home the next morning and my dad passed away with the whole family gathered that afternoon. I wouldn’t have been at his house the night before anyway, and my head was in a much better place after the show.
Last night provided a similar release. One of our favorite Cowboy Mouth songs is “Hurricane Party.” Most of the band and their crew lost their houses in Katrina. All their merchandise, cd’s and their recording studio were also destroyed. But they told the assembled crowd not to worry for them. Katrina was in the past and they were going forward. Then they played the song with their normal reckless abandon. If they’re not going to feel sorry for themselves, then I guess the rest of us shouldn’t either.